Basic requirements for an F-1 to reenter the United States after travel
- A current SEVIS Form I-20 endorsed for travel by your DSO
- You have been out of the United States for less than five months
- A current passport valid for at least six months beyond the date of your reentry to the U.S.
- A valid, current visa or you traveled to a contiguous country or adjacent island for less than thirty days
- Financial information showing proof of necessary funds to cover tuition and living expenses
Bringing your most recent I-94, Departure Card, will facilitate your reentry, if reentering through a land POE. If you are flying, the airline will collect your I-94 prior to departure and you will complete a new one upon reentry.
If you are from a visa exempt country (Canada), you do not need a passport or visa to reenter the United States from the western hemisphere.
Traveling outside the U.S. for 5 months or less
Students should consult their Designated School Official (DSO) prior to traveling. At the University of St. Thomas, all the advisors working at International Student Services are DSO. You must have a current SEVIS Form I-20 endorsed for travel and your DSO needs to be able to verify that your SEVIS record is accurate and up-to-date.
Traveling to Canada, Mexico or Adjacent Islands for less than 30 days
You can usually revalidate an expired visa automatically when returning from a visit of not exceeding thirty days to Canada, Mexico, or one of the islands adjacent to the United States (other than Cuba) provided that you have a valid SEVIS Form I-20 and a valid unexpired Form I-94. This process is known as automatic visa revalidation.
However, if you meet any one of following criteria, you will not be able to automatically revalidate your visa.
- You applied for a new visa and it has not been issued
- You applied for a new visa and were denied
- You have a terminated SEVIS record indicating that you are out of status
- You have been out of the United States for more than thirty days
- You are a citizen from one of the following countries:
The adjacent islands are:
- Saint Pierre
- The Dominican Republic
- Trinidad - Bermuda
- The Bahamas
- The Windward and Leeward Islands
- Other British, French, and Netherlands territory or possessions in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea
Traveling while on OPT
- F-1 students can leave and re-enter the U.S. if their OPT application is pending, provided that you have the OPT receipt notice mailed to you. You can check if your OPT has been approved HERE.
- F-1 students with an approved OPT but without a job, are allowed to travel but should document your job search process. If you have a job, you may travel and re-enter to resume work at the same job.
- F-1 students who plan to travel and re-enter the U.S. after traveling abroad for pleasure or personal business should hand-carry the following documents:
- A current I-20 endorsed for travel on page 3 by a DSO (ISS advisor)
- A current passport valid for at least six months after the date of your re-entry
- A valid, current U.S. visa or you traveled to a contiguous country or adjacent island for less than thirty days (see the ISS website for a list of these countries/islands)
- A job offer letter and OPT EAD card
Renewing passport or visa
You must renew your passport before reentering the United States.
In most cases, to enter the United States, you must have a passport that is valid for at least six months beyond the date you enter or reenter the U.S.
Try to keep your passport current at all times. You need to determine your country’s requirements for renewing passports as well as the time it will take. Many countries will allow you to renew your passport while in the United States. The other alternative is to renew your passport when you return home for a visit.
You may want to delay leaving the United States until you have renewed your passport. You will not be able to reenter the United States without a valid passport.
If your expired passport has a valid visa, you can still use it if you kept the old passport. Present the old passport, along with the new passport when you reenter the country.
You can stay in the United States on an expired F-1 visa as long as you maintain your student status. However, if you are returning home or traveling to a country where automatic revalidation does not apply, you must have a valid visa to return to the United States.
Ensure that you have all the documentation you need for your visa application and allow sufficient time for processing a new visa. The documentation you may need for a new visa includes, but is not limited to the following:
- A SEVIS Form I-20, endorsed for travel and signed by your DSO and your original Form I-20 (see your DSO before you travel)
- Original evidence showing proof of necessary funds to cover tuition and living expenses
- Evidence showing your intention to return to your home country upon program completion, including evidence of compelling social and economic ties to your home country
- If you have applied for or had optional practical training (OPT) approved, bring a copy of your Form I-20 endorsed for OPT and your Employment Authorization Document (EAD), if one has been issued
The Department of State recommends that you apply for a visa in your home country. For more information about visa applications visit the Department of State website.
You can apply in a third country for a visa, but you will not be able to return to the United States until your visa has been issued. In some cases, this could take several weeks if a background check is required. If your visa is denied, you will not be able to return to the United States. Be sure to check the Department of State website for specific information pertaining to each consulate.
If you have an expired visa and a terminated record, we strongly advise that you do not travel outside the United States until your SEVIS record shows that you are in active status. If you do travel, you may not be able to renew your visa or return to the United States.