Whenever F-1 students wish to leave the United States temporarily and return to continue studies at the institutions in which they are enrolled, they must secure the necessary documents to permit entry to another country, and permit re-entry to the United States.
Travel During Your Stay in the United States
Before traveling outside the US follow these procedures.
- Check to make sure your passport is valid.
- Check to make sure your F-1 visa is valid.
- Visit the International Affairs Office and obtain the signature on your I-20 prior to leaving the US.
- If you will be out of the US for more than five consecutive months, you will lose your F-1 status and be unable to re-enter the US. This is true for a student or an OPT participant.
- You may apply for a visa only in your country of citizenship. If you apply at another embassy during your travels and are refused, you may not be able to re-enter the US.
- If you are participating in Optional Practical Training you will be able to depart/return to the US as long as you have the following.
- A valid passport and valid F-1 visa
- Valid Employment Authorization Documentation EAD Card
- Your I-20 with OPT noted
- You have not been out of the US for 5 or more months
- Possess a travel letter from your employer, indicating they are aware of your absence and return (This letter is not mandatory but recommended)
Departure from the US
After completion of your program, you have a 60 day grace period during which you may remain in the US. This 60 day grace period begins on the day following the program end date on your I-20. Do not leave the US and then try to re-enter the US during the 60 day grace period. Check your passport to make sure it is valid.
If an exchange visitor wishes to travel to his/her country of citizenship or permanent residence, a valid passport or travel document should ensure entry. Visas may be necessary for travel to a third country. Those wishing to visit a third country should contact the consulate or embassy of the country to be visited to determine what documents are necessary for entry.
Return to the United States
The following documents are necessary to reenter the United States in exchange visitor status.
- A valid passport
- A valid visa (unless exempt from the visa requirement or eligible for automatic revalidation of the visa after a trip of 30 days or less to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean).
- Your electronic copy of the I-94
If the exchange visitor's visa in the passport is no longer valid, he/she must apply to a US consulate or embassy outside the United States for a new visa. An exchange visitor with a travel-endorsed DS-2019 can apply for a new J-1 visa provided that the status of the exchange visitor's record reflected in SEVIS is active.
Generally a J-1 exchange visitor must present a valid, unexpired J-1 visa each time he/she reenters the US. If an exchange visitor's visa expires while he/she is in the US, or if the exchange visitor has changed to J-1 status from some other nonimmigrant status, the next time they travel abroad they must obtain a new J-1 visa in order to be readmitted to the US in J-1 status.
Travel Safety Tips
In any new environment it is important to remember the following points:
- Familiarize yourself with the streets and neighborhoods you will be visiting.
- Avoid walking alone in unfamiliar areas especially at night, and never accept rides from strangers.
- Walk in well-lit areas that are populated and avoid walking in parks at night.
- Travel with a friend if possible.
- Be careful about divulging information about yourself, especially to strangers.
- Be careful with money in public; a money belt worn under your shirt or pants will allow you to keep your passport, money and credit cards on your person at all times.
- Never leave your luggage unattended and never transport a package or suitcase for anyone.
- Avoid political demonstrations, and be aware of people and circumstances around you. Pay attention to your instincts.