If leaving the U.S. temporarily and returning to continue studies, students must have the required documentation:

  • Entry visa to the destination country, if required (whenever going to a country that is not the traveler’s native country)
  • Entry visa to the United States

The basic requirements for an F-1 to re-enter the United States after traveling abroad are below. Please remember that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the Port of Entry (POE) ultimately decides to grant or deny entry into the United States. The decision is based upon the facts and circumstances presented at the time of entering. We cannot guarantee admission or re-admission to the United States.

Required Documents for F-1 Re-Entry

  • A current I-20, signed for travel by an International Student Advisor (ISA).  The travel signature must be less than one year old at the time of re-entry.
    Note: Granting a travel signature for the I-20 is contingent on having valid F-1 status. UFIC will conduct a review of the student’s record and any problems found will delay our ability to grant a travel signature. For this reason, we require that students request signatures in a timely manner, allowing at least 5-7 business days for processing the request.
  • A current passport valid for at least six months after the date of re-entry.
  • A current valid F-1 visa; if the visa has already expired or was issued only for a single entry, the traveler will need to renew it prior to re-entry. Please make an appointment to renew it, before leaving the country, by contacting the U.S. Embassy in the destination country.
  • If traveling to a US contiguous country or adjacent island for less than thirty days, re-entry on an expired F-1 visa is allowed.
  • If the student is from a visa exempt country, then a visa is not needed for re-entry. However, this currently applies only to Canadian citizens.  Currently citizens of all other countries that will pursue study in the U.S. under the F-1 status, require an F-1 visa for entry into the U.S.

The following documents may requested of the traveler at the Port of Entry:

  • I-901 Fee Payment Receipt. Click here to print the receipt.
  • Financial information showing proof of necessary funds to cover tuition and living expenses.

After a successful re-entry, we advise that the traveler checks the passport to ensure the Customs Official properly stamped the passport with the correct date entry and visa status.  The traveler should also review the new I-94 record to ensure the most recent entry was properly recorded. Remember the I-94 number changes upon each subsequent entry into the U.S.!

Required Documents for Dependents of F-1's (F-2's) Re-Entry

  • Valid passport for at least 6 months from the date of re-entry.
  • Valid F-2 visa (unless exempt from having a visa such Canadian citizens); if the visa is expired, please make an appointment to renew it by contacting the U.S. Embassy in the destination country.
  • Current I-20, signed for travel by an ISA; the travel signature must be less than one year old at the time of re-entry.
  • Dependent may be required to show proof of funds

Re-Entry on Optional Practical Training (OPT) or STEM OPT Extension

To travel outside of the U.S. and re-enter while on OPT or STEM OPT, the traveler must have:

  • Valid F1 visa (unless exempt from having a visa such Canadian citizens); if the visa is expired, please make an appointment to renew it by contacting the U.S. Embassy in the destination country.
  • Valid passport for at least 6 months from the date of re-entry
  • Current I-20 that reflects the OPT request or authorization on the second page and is signed by an ISA; the travel signature must be less than 6 months old at the time of re-entry.
  • The unexpired OPT card (also called EAD card)
  • The job offer letter on the employer’s business letterhead stating the employee’s name, a general idea of the expected start date, and a brief description of the work duties

Notes:

  • If the EAD card has not been received, we recommend avoiding international travel until the EAD card is received; international travel without the EAD is risky
  • If traveling internationally with a valid EAD card but lacking a job offer, we recommend postponing travel if possible; re-entry may be denied for a traveler lacking a job offer during OPT or STEM OPT.

FAQ for F-Nonimmigrants: Entry and Exit