Below indicates the procedures for entry guidance of F-1 students.

Travel During Studies

An F-1 student returning to the United States from a temporary absence of five months or less may be readmitted for attendance to the SEVP approved school indicated on the form I-20 if the student presents all required documents as indicated at the U.S. Port of Entry. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has the authority and responsibility over the admission of travelers to the United States.

Required Documents at the U.S. Ports of Entry Travel:

  • A Valid Form I-20, endorsed for travel and signed by your DSO.
  • A current passport valid for at least six months after the date of your reentry.
  • A valid current F-1 visa, if required

Travel While OPT has been Requested with USCIS and is Pending

Students are eligible to travel during this time as long as the student re-enters the U.S. prior to the program completion date indicated on the Form I-20.

Travel is not advised during this time by International Services.

Required Documents for Travel During this Time:

  • Valid Passport
  • Valid OPT Endorsed I-20 with travel signature valid within 6 months of reentry
  • Valid Visa
  • Valid EAD Document once authorized
  • Proof of employment once OPT is authorized

Travel While Engaged in Active OPT

Students are eligible to travel during this time, if the student has valid OPT approval through USCIS, maintaining active status, and within the limits of unemployment; the student is eligible to travel and must have the following travel documents at the U.S. Port of Entry.

Required Documents for Travel During this Time:

  • Valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD Card)
  • Employer Letter indicating employment status
  • Valid Passport for at least six months after the date of reentry
  • Valid F-1 Visa
  • Properly endorsed Form I-20 Dated within 6 months

Travel During the 60 Day Grace Period Following OPT

Students are not eligible to travel and reenter the United States during this period.

Expired Visa

A valid F-1 visa is only required for entry purposes to the U.S. and is not required to maintain status. A student who is in valid F-1 nonimmigrant status, is eligible to remain in the U.S. as long as they are continuing to pursue a full course of study and is maintaining valid status.

  • If a student departs the U.S., they will be required to have a valid visa to return to the United States.
  • A student is eligible to apply in a third country for a visa, but the student will not be able to return to the United States until the Department of State issues the F-1 visa, which in some cases, could take several weeks.
  • In addition, if the Department of States denies the F-1 visa, the student will not be able to return to the United States.

Learn more information on how to file for an F-1 visa.

Travel Endorsement Signature

For reentry after a temporary absence abroad, a student must have a valid Form I-20 endorsed for travel by the DSO in the travel endorsement part of the form. Students who need to request a Travel Endorsement Signature from the Designated School Official, located in International Services should complete the “Request Travel Signature” student request located in the International Services portal.

To access the portal and get started, click on the Login button International Services Portal. To check the start a new request, edit a Pending Request or check the status of a submitted request, please log into your account and navigate to the “Requests” tab. This Portal is not compatible with mobile devices. Please plan in advance for your request as the process can take up to 5 business days to complete.

There are two categories of travel for F-1 students and the signature is valid for different periods of time:

Category Signature Validity
Students Resuming Studies 12-month travel signature validity for students resuming studies
Students Engaged in Active OPT 6-month travel signature validity for students on OPT

Because of the changing array of travel restrictions, students should refer to their local embassy’s website through the U.S. Department of State for any updates about visa issuance. Also, DHS and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) websites provide information about current travel restrictions to the United States.

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