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F-1 Travel Information
TRAVEL INSIDE THE U.S.
Travel within the United States and to U.S. territories is not restricted and no special documents are required. However, it is extremely important that you and your dependents carry your passport, I-20, and visa documents with you when traveling in the U.S. in the event you need to present them to law enforcement officials.
TRAVEL OUTSIDE THE U.S.
Students may leave the U.S. and be readmitted after an absence of 5 months or less. 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.
**Please Note: You will be responsible for paying for any express mailing needed to get you a replacement I-20 or a travel signature for re-entry. The average charge for sending overseas by Federal Express is $20-$60.
Documents Needed for Re-Entry to U.S.
If your passport is expired or will be expiring within 6 months of when you are planning to travel, you should renew it BEFORE traveling.
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 get a new visa from within the United States. For information on applying for your visa, click here (note that steps 1 and 2 do not apply to returning students unless you have been out of the country for more than 5 months).
Note: 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
Make sure all the information on your I-20 is current
Valid re-entry signature on page 2 of I-20
I-20 signatures are valid for 1 year from the date signed. Please visit ISS for a new travel signature if you need it.
If you are currently on OPT, your travel signature is only valid for 6 months.
Documentary evidence of funding
A bank statement (if your I-20 indicates Personal or Family Funds), letter from a sponsor, scholarship letter, or assistantship offer letter.
Evidence of full-time enrollment at the University
EAD card and employment letter (for F-1s on 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 reenter the U.S. If either of these two conditions is missing, the student is assuming additional risk.
The following 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 (150 on STEM OPT extension), including time outside the U.S.
Can I reenter the U.S. if I left while on OPT?
- Under normal circumstances, a student who has both (1) a current EAD for post-completion OPT or a receipt notice [Form I-797] and (2) a job or job offer should not experience difficulty reentering the U.S. If either of these two conditions is missing, then the student is assuming risk.