F-1 Travel Information
Travel Outside the United States
If you are traveling outside the US, you will need the following documents in order to re-enter. Check each item in the list below for more detailed information.
- Valid Passport
- Valid F-1 Entry Visa
- Valid I-20 document
- Valid re-entry signature on page 3 of I-20
- Documentary evidence of funding
- Evidence of full-time enrollment at the University (transcripts and Reduced Course Load forms)
- EAD card and employment letter (for F-1s on post-completion OPT only)
If your passport is expired or close to expiring, you should renew it before you travel. Passport should be valid for at least six months into the future. Contact your home country’s embassy in the U.S. Click here to find embassy information.
Valid F-1 Entry Visa
If your F-1 entry visa has expired or if you do not have an F-1 entry visa, you must apply for a new visa at a U.S. consulate abroad before you return (except Canadian citizens). It is not possible to renew your visa from within the United States.
To obtain a new F-1 Entry Visa
- Contact the U.S. Consulate and inquire about their visa application procedures. You may need to schedule an appointment and your visa may take more than a few weeks to process. Visit the U.S, State Department website for links to U.S. Consulates around the world. If possible, schedule an appointment before you depart the U.S.
- Ensure that you have proper documents. Present to the U.S. consulate: valid passport, valid SEVIS I-20 with travel signature, evidence of funding, Reduced Course Load forms for any semester that you were not enrolled full-time, and transcript. Check the Embassy or consulate website to determine whether on official or unofficial transcript is required.
- Be Aware of Security Clearance Checks. You may be subject to a security clearance check when you apply for a visa. These checks can significantly delay visa processing time. Read the information provided on the Security Clearance Check page for detailed information.
It is rare for returning students to be denied a new entry visa. However, there are no guarantees, and there is always some risk of a visa denial. This risk increases under the following situations:
- You are applying for a visa in a country other than your home country (Third Country National Visa Applications.) You have the right to apply for a visa in any country, but it’s less risky to apply in your home country if possible. If you must apply in a third country, be prepared to present additional evidence that documents your need to get a visa in that country.
- You are pursuing OPT. Students on OPT are eligible for an F-1 visa, but your risk of denial is increased, especially if you don’t have a job. If you must apply for a visa during your OPT period, be prepared to present evidence of employment (a letter from your employer is best) to the U.S. consulate.
- You have close family members (spouse, parents, siblings) who are citizens or permanent residents of the U.S. If you have close family members in the U.S., a consular official may question your ties to your home country.
Valid I-20 Document
Come during walk-ins to request a new document if the information on your I-20 is no longer correct or your I-20 has expired.
Valid Re-Entry Signature
For re-entry to the U.S., your I-20 must a have a valid re-entry (or "travel") signature on page 3. Your re-entry signature is valid if:
- You are not pursuing post-completion OPT and the signature is less than 12 months old
- You are pursuing post-completion OPT and the signature is less than 6 months old
If your signature is no longer valid, you must request a new signature from ISSS before you travel. Visit ISSS during walk-ins. Signatures take just a few minutes to process.
Documentary Evidence of Funding
You should be able to provide documents that verify the funding information as listed on your I-20. If your current funding does not match the funding listed on your I-20, then you’ll need to get a new I-20 with updated funding information. Examples of funding documents are:
- Assistantship verification letter (if you have an assistantship)
- Bank statement (if your I-20 indicates Personal or Family Funds)
- Scholarship or sponsoring agency letter
Evidence of Full-Time Enrollment
You must be able to provide evidence that you have enrolled full-time during the entirety of your career as an F-1 student. An unofficial transcript from the University is the best way to verify enrollment. You can download a transcript from One Stop. If you have ever submitted a Reduced Course Load form to cover part-time enrollment, you should carry a copy of those forms as well, as that information does not appear on your University transcript.
EAD card and employment letter
F-1 travel during Post-Completion OPT only
Under normal circumstances, a student who has
(1) an EAD for post-completion OPT or I-765 receipt notice and
(2) a job or job offer letter should not experience difficulty reentering the United States. If either of these two conditions is missing, the student is assuming additional risk.
The following two questions should help clarify further queries you might have regarding travel during post-completion OPT.
- Can I reenter the U.S. if my request for OPT is pending?
Yes, you may reenter to search for or begin your employment. When you go through U.S. immigration, be prepared to show the immigration inspector your I-765 receipt notice (Form I-797), as proof of eligibility for reentry. Additionally, if you have been offered a job, carry a copy of the job offer letter.
Note: If you depart the U.S. without a job offer before the EAD was issued, but attempt to reenter the U.S. after the EAD was issued, you might experience difficulty reentering the U.S. if you cannot document that you have a job offer. You are allowed a maximum of 90 days of unemployment (120 on STEM OPT extension), including time outside the U.S.
- Can I reenter the U.S. if I left while on OPT?
If your OPT has been approved and you depart before you have a job or job offer, or no longer have a job, you might experience difficulty reentering the U.S. If you have a job or job offer, you may travel and reenter to resume work at the job.