The ability to re-enter the U.S. following travel abroad is a benefit of F-1 students. It is important that you comply with all immigration regulations and requirements. Failure to comply may lead to a loss of travel benefits. US-VISIT, a new program to monitor the entry and exit of all nonimmigrants to the U.S. was introduced January 5, 2004 . At the port of entry, in addition to the regular interview by a Department of Homeland Security Official (DHS) you will be fingerprinted and photographed. Upon exiting the U.S., you will be directed to a self-service kiosk to scan your travel documents and fingerprints. Expect delays when traveling.
When it is Important to Meet with an International Student Advisor
Be sure to meet with an international student advisor if:
- You need a new visa. F visas may only be obtained outside the U.S. Due to security concerns, all nonimmigrants (including F) are required to have an in-person interview in order to apply for a visa. Please see below on how to apply for a new visa.
- Your SEVIS I-20 has or is about to expire, or if any information on the form has changed (such as your major, source of funding, or degree level).
- Your passport is about to or has expired (passports must always be valid at least six months into the future).
- You plan to travel and are a citizen of a country for which the U.S. requires additional security clearance.
- You are subject to special registration.
Documents Needed for Re-entering the United States
- An unexpired passport valid at least six months into the future.
- An unexpired SEVIS I-20 with a travel signature less than one year old.
- An unexpired F-1 visa stamp valid for further entries into the United States .
- Proof of full-time enrollment in the form of a transcript or registration record.
- Proof of financial ability, i.e., documentation verifying your funding source, this may include personal or family bank statements, affidavits of support.
- The travel signature on your Form I-20 is valid for a maximum of one year.
- You may use your I-20 to enter the U.S. as long as you are a continuing, full-time student and all the information on it remains the same. If you are unable to maintain full-time enrollment, or if the information on your I-20 changes, contact an International Student Advisor.
- If you are returning to the U.S. after a leave of absence and/or an absence of more than 5 months, you must obtain a new I-20 prior to re-entry. Contact an International Student Advisor if this applies to you.
- Upon entry to the U.S., a custom officer at the port-of–entry will issue an I-94 card to you that will indicate the date of entry and grant you F-1 status for duration of status (F-1 D/S). If your I-94 card indicates anything other than F-1 D/S, contact an International Student Advisor immediately upon return.
You should make photocopies of your travel documents (I-20 and I-94 card) for safekeeping.
If you are on post-completion optional practical training , see the section below for students on practical training.
If Your Visa Has Expired
Your F-1 visa does not determine how long you may stay in the United States. However, to re-enter the U.S. under F-1 status, you must have a valid F-1 visa. You can obtain an F-1 visa only from a U.S. consulate outside the U.S.
If you need to travel but your entry visa has expired, you must apply for a new visa from a U.S. Consulate/Embassy. It is best to apply for a student visa in your home country. If you apply at a third country, expect processing delays. At the consulate / embassy, you should provide:
- An unexpired passport.
- A valid I-20 AB or DS-2019, which has been signed for travel.
- Proof of financial support as reflected on the I-20.
- Students must show proof of enrollment at PCC in the form of a transcript or registration record.
- To better prepare, you may want to read the Department of State brochure on visa denials, and tips on how to apply for a visa.
Travel To Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean Countries
If you are traveling to a contiguous territory (Canada or Mexico) or the adjacent islands of the Caribbean (see below), you do not need to obtain a new visa stamp to re-enter the U.S. To qualify for this privilege, you must:
- Presently be in valid F-1 status.
- Have a valid SEVIS I-20 with travel signature from an international student advisor.
- Have an unexpired I-94 card with you (do not surrender it when you leave the U.S.).
- Have an unexpired passport.
- Be in one of the contiguous territories or adjacent islands for less than thirty (30) days.
The adjacent islands are: the Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, St. Pierre & Miquelon, Trinidad & Tobago, the Leeward Islands (Anguilla, Antigua, Guadeloupe, Montserrat, Nevis, St. Kitts, and the British Virgin Islands), the Windward Islands (Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent), and other British, French, or Dutch territories or possessions in, or bordering on, the Caribbean Sea.
If you are a Canadian citizen, you do not need a passport or an entry visa to enter the U.S. However, please note the following;
- You do need a valid SEVIS I-20 with a valid travel signature in order to re-enter the U.S. as an F-1 student.
- While you do not need an entry visa to enter the U.S. in F-1 status, you must present your SEVIS I-20 and make a request upon entering the U.S. to be granted F-1 status. This means that you must receive or retain in your possession an I-94 card indicating that you were admitted for either F-1 status for duration of status ("F-1 D/S").
F-1 Students on Post-Completion Optional Practical Training
To re-enter the U.S. while on post-completion Optional Practical Training, you will need the following documents:
- An unexpired passport.
- A valid F-1 visa stamp.
- An I-20 that has been signed for travel by an international student advisor.
- An Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card issued by the USCIS for F-1 students on practical training.
- Obtain a letter from your employer stating your job title, job description, begin and end dates (must fall within the practical training period), and verifying that your employer knows you are traveling and expects you to return to complete your job. If you do not have a job, you are advised not to travel as you may not be permitted to re-enter the U.S.