To avoid unnecessary inconvenience for your reentry, we strongly recommend you to talk to an international student advisor and obtain a travel signature prior to your travel. All the international student advisors at Augsburg College are Designated School Official (DSO).

What documents does an F-1 student need to reenter the U.S.?

According to U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE), the basic documents for an F-1 student’s reentry to the U.S. after traveling abroad for less than 5 months are listed below:

  • A current Form I-20, endorsed for travel and signed by a DSO.
  • A current passport valid for at least six months after the date of the reentry or, if you are from a country on this list, a passport that is current through the date of entry.
  • A valid, current visa or you traveled to contiguous country or adjacent island for less than thirty days.
  • Financial information showing proof of necessary funds to cover tuition and living expenses.

Besides, bringing your most recent I-94 will facilitate your reentry, if reentering through a land port of entry (POE). If you are flying, the airline will collect your I-94 prior to departure and you will complete a new one upon reentry. In addition, students are recommended to present evidence of student status (recent tuition receipts, transcripts), and name and contact information of a school’s DSO as needed. Please note: If the student is from a visa exempt country (e.g. Canada), the student does not need a passport or visa to reenter the United States from the western hemisphere.

If an F-1 student who is not from a visa exempt country travels abroad more than 5 months, it means that the student will have to enter in an initial status, which requires a new SEVIS record, a new I-20, a new payment of the SEVIS I-901 fee, and a new F-1 visa.

Travel and reentry while on OPT

An F-1 student engaged in pre-completion OPT should follow the same procedure to travel abroad and re-enter as all F-1 students. At the port of entry, be prepared to present your EAD card upon the request by U.S. boarder officials.

If you have OPT after completion of studies, and wish to travel outside the U.S., upon reentering you must present to the U.S. border officials an unexpired EAD, and a valid Form I-20 endorsed by the DSO within 6 months of the reentry date. We also recommend that you have a job offer (as the evidence of returning to resume employment) and a valid, unexpired F-1 visa in your passport. Please note: if your F-1 visa expires upon the time you plan to reentry, you will have to apply for a new F-1 visa. However, there is a risk that consulates may be unwilling to issue new F-1 visas to students who have completed their studies and are simply reentering the United States.

Students who are approved for post-completion OPT continue to be in F-1 status. They are therefore subject not only to the requirements that they have an I-20 endorsed for travel and an EAD, but to the requirement that they have a valid F-1 visa to re-enter the United States, unless they are exempt from the visa requirement. In other words, these students will have to present a Form I-20 endorsed by the DSO within the preceding 6 months, an unexpired EAD, and evidence of returning to resume employment.

Travel to Canada and Mexico

Although Canada and Mexico share the boarder with the United States, an international student will still need to apply for a visa to enter each of the country unless the student is from a visa exempt country to Canada or Mexico. In fact, Mexico and Canada have distinct entry requirements. For more details, please visit the Canadian Embassy home page and the Mexican Embassy home page.

If F-1 students and their dependents travel for less than 30 days solely to Canada, Mexico, or adjacent islands in the Caribbean (except Cuba),  their expired F visas are considered to be “extended” to the date of re-entry, eliminating the need to obtain a new visa at a U.S. consulate before that particular reentry. This is known as automatic visa revalidation. However,  the automatic revalidation is available only when the following conditions are met:

  • The F nonimmigrant is not a national of one of the countries Iran, Syria, Sudan, and Cuba.
  • The F nonimmigrant satisfies each of these conditions:
    • Is applying for readmission to the United States after an absence not exceeding 30 days solely in contiguous territory (Canada or Mexico) or adjacent islands in the Caribbean (other than Cuba).
    • Has maintained and intends to resume his or her F status and is reentering the United States prior to the expiration of the previously authorized stay;.
    • Presents a currently valid Form I-20 issued by the school he or she is authorized to attend and endorsed by the DSO for travel.
    • Is in possession of a valid passport.
    • Presents an unexpired Form I-94.
    • Does not require the authorization of temporary admission to the United States under a provision for waiver of inadmissibility.
    • Has not applied for a visa while abroad.