If you are traveling outside the U.S., you will need the following documents in order to re-enter. Check each item in the list below for more detailed information. If you left the U.S. without getting your I-20 signed or you forgot the document, you will receive a Form I-515A and need to contact ISSS to get a new or signed I-20.
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.
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.
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:
Come during Walk In Hours to request a new document if the information on your I-20 is no longer correct or your I-20 has expired.
For re-entry to the U.S., your I-20 must a have a valid re-entry (or "travel") signature on page 2 or 3. Your re-entry signature is valid if:
If your signature is no longer valid, you must request a new signature from ISSS before you travel. Visit ISSS during Walk In Hours. Signatures take just a few minutes to process.
It is important you obtain a re-entry signature from ISSS before leaving the U.S. If you did not (or you forgot your I-20) and your visa is still active, you will be issued a Form I-515A by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer at your arrival port of entry (airport, land border, seaport). With this document, you will be admitted into the U.S. for 30 days.
You must report to or contact ISSS immediately to get a newly signed I-20, and you will mail this I-2) and your I-515A to the SEVP Office in Washington, D.C. These documents must reach the office before the 30-day expiration date on your Form I-515A. Before mailing, see the instructions and address printed on your I-515A.
Note: If you realize you forgot your I-20 or it is missing a re-entry signature and you have sufficient time remaining before your return to the U.S., you can request a replacement form by emailing ISSS.
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:
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.
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.
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) or USCIS email receipt, 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.
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.