F-1 students should keep important documents such as a valid passport, I-94 and I-20 with them while they are traveling in the United States. Given the current nature of ongoing travel restrictions, you should be prepared to prove that you are here legally in the United States at airports, train stations and other transportation hubs or immigration checkpoints.
F-1 students currently in status may be eligible to travel out of and re-enter the United States. In order to return after a temporary absence, F-1 students must present specific original documents to the immigration inspector at the port of entry:
- A valid passport
- A valid F-1 visa
- A valid and signed Form I-20 endorsed for travel on the second page by a DSO in the Office of International Programs
- The travel signature is valid for 1 year for most students, and 6 months for students on OPT
In addition, students on Optional Practical Training (OPT) should also carry:
- Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card
- Job offer or proof of employment
The Office of International Programs (OIP) requires all F-1 students to submit a complete the online Travel Request Form and upload a copy of their flight itinerary for each international trip regardless of current travel signature validity. This is to ensure that a student is currently in status before traveling and has the necessary information for re-entry into the United States.
While not required, F-1 students traveling international are recommended to take the following documentation:
- The name and phone number of the DSO who signed your I-20
- Verification of enrollment (such as a transcript, or a letter)
- Proof of financial support less than six (6) months old to support the "Financials" section of your I-20
F-1 Students who no longer hold a valid F-1 visa will be required to renew their visa outside the United States before they will be allowed re-entry. Depending on your country of origin, the documents required and the processing time will vary. Our office recommends that students requiring to renew or acquire a visa for the first time (such as F-1 students who pursued a change of status) do so during long breaks such as summer vacation or winter vacation. The visa renewal process can take up to 6-8 weeks depending on country, so students should be prepared and plan accordingly.
Some documentation that you should prepare for your visa renewal include but are not limited to:
- Verification of enrollment letter from our office
- A copy of your transcript
- An updated Educational Plan from an academic counselor
- Updated financial documentation to support the "Financials" section of your I-20
Students on OPT should also bring the following:
- EAD card
- Job offer letter or proof of employment