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Visa Compliance

Traveling as an F-1 Student

Below is the list of items to carry when you travel. To avoid any last-minute problems, plan to review and gather the necessary materials at least two weeks before you leave the U.S.

Each time you travel outside of the United States you will need the following documents to re-enter:

  • Your I-20 with a travel signature less than six months old
    • Travel Signatures can be found on page two of your I-20.
  • Valid F-1 Visa
    • If your visa is expired, you will need to apply to renew it at a U.S. embassy or consulate in your country. You should contact your local embassy or consulate immediately to learn how long the process may take, and plan your travel dates accordingly.
  • Passport 
    • Valid at least six months into the future
  • Recommended Documents:
    • Financial Documents indicating your available funds (recommended)
    • Current Transcript or letter confirming continued enrollment (recommended)
    • All previous I-20s (recommended)
    • Photocopies of documents: Be sure to make at least two copies of all of your important documents (I-20s, visa, I-94 card and the main page of your passport) so that you can replace them more easily if they are lost or stolen. We recommend that you keep one set of copies in your carry-on luggage and another set at home with someone who can send them to you if needed.

Students on Optional Practical Training (OPT.): If you are currently on OPT, you should travel with the items above plus your valid EAD card and a letter from your employer, on company letterhead, stating that you have been employed and will return on a specific date to resume employment. (If your employer authorizes your leave, the travel time will not count toward your days of unemployment.) Note that it may be somewhat riskier to travel (particularly if you need to renew your visa) in the last six months, and especially the last three months, of OPT.

What about after Graduation?

Students on an F-1 visa are permitted to remain in the U.S. up to sixty days after the end of their academic program (or, in the case of students on O.P.T., up to sixty days after their O.P.T. end date). This is called the F-1 "grace period."

In planning your flight home, consider that you will be able to remain within the U.S. and travel during these sixty days, but if you leave the U.S. during this period you will not be able to re-enter in F-1 status.

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