Travel and Re-entry
Before leaving the United States to travel abroad, you must check your immigration documents and prepare documentation showing that you maintained valid status while in the U.S. (letter from ISSS, proof of full-time enrollment, academic transcript, etc.).
To reenter the U.S., you will need the following documents to present at Port of Entry (POE):
Passport - should be valid six months into the future, and must be valid past your reentry date.
F-1 visa stamp - must be valid beyond your reentry date (except for travel to certain contiguous countries and adjacent islands under "Automatic Visa Revalidation.
SEVIS I-20 - must have a valid ISSS Advisor signature on page 3.
Reminders: Signatures are valid for a period of one year, provided you maintain legal F-1 status through that one year period. If you are on OPT, signatures must be obtained every 6 months.
Make sure that your I-20 reflects the academic plan (major/program of study) that you are pursuing. If you officially change your academic plan, you will need to be issued a new I-20 stating the new academic plan.
Always check the program completion date on your I-20 (under item #5). If the completion date is coming up and you will not be completing your program by that date, visit ISSS for information on Program Extension.
If your F-1 visa stamp has expired, you will have to apply for a visa renewal at a U.S. consular post in your home country. Visa application information can be found at http://travel.state.gov/visa/forms/forms_4401.html. For specific application procedures, visit the website of the consular post where you plan to renew your visa.
*On Wednesday Jan 18, 2006, Department of State released a cable to all diplomatic and consular posts entitled "Validity of Student Visas subsequent to a break in studies". A F1 student who has been out of the US in excess of 5 months or has been out of status for more than 5 months and reinstatement has not been granted must apply for a new visa, with a new Initial I-20 and pay the I-901 fee in accordance with INA 222§(g)*.
Students traveling abroad to Restart F-1 status:
If you are currently out-of-status and plan to travel abroad, you are strongly urged to meet with an ISSS Advisor for appropriate immigration advising.
You must obtain a new I-20 issued for "Initial Attendance" under a new SEVIS number (record) even if you may have a valid F-1 visa stamp in your passport. Follow the appropriate procedures detailed earlier in this section to request your new I-20. You will also be subject to payment of the SEVIS (I-901) fee.
For students restarting on a Summer semester (I-20 issued with a Summer term entry date), you are required to enroll full-time for the Summer term. For undergraduate students, this mean enrollment for at least 12 credit hours and for graduate students, this means enrollment for at least 6 graduate-level credit hours.
Upon reentry, you must report to ISSS with your passport, new I-94, and I-20 in order for ISSS to document and confirm restart of your F-1 status.