For F-1 Students
Travel and Re-Entry
If you are thinking of leaving the U.S., even for a few hours, there are some things you should know.
F-1 students and F-2 dependents are generally given visas that have either multiple entries, or a limited number of entries (usually 1 or 2, in this case). The visas also have a specific period of validity, often (but not always) four years. The difference between these can be confusing, especially to the visa holders. The number of entries refers to how often the visa may be used to enter the U.S. The period of validity refers to the length of time the visa is usable for entry to the U.S.
When an F visa holder is admitted to the U.S., it is almost always as D/S (duration of status), which can be seen on the I-94 and I-20, when they are stamped. Visa holders with D/S are allowed to use their F-1 visa even after it has expired, to re-enter the U.S., under very specific conditions. This provision is known as automatic visa revalidation, and it has no official limit of duration.
- The travel may take place only to Mexico, Canada and the neighboring Caribbean islands (except Cuba)
- The passport must still be valid (in some cases, for at least 6 months after your date of reentry)
- The I-20 and status must still be valid
- The visa holder must retain the I-94 card upon departure, so it can be presented upon return
- The time spent outside the U.S. must not exceed 30 days
In the El Paso / Mexico border region where there is a high population of students that cross into the U.S. on a daily basis, Mexican students are normally able to reenter the U.S. by automatic revalidation for several years after the visa expires. However, some students must eventually obtain a new student visa.
Currently, citizens of Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria are not eligible for automatic visa revalidation.
REMEMBER: The automatic revalidation does NOT work for travel to countries other than the ones mentioned above. If you have an expired student visa and attempt to board a flight to the U.S. from a country other than those mentioned above, you will not be allowed to board the flight & therefore be put in a difficult situation.
There are only a few solutions to this:
- Apply for a new student visa in the country where you tried to board the plane. This is challenging, since students usually don’t have the necessary documents with them.
- Book another flight that does not pass through the U.S.
- Enter the U.S. as a tourist, if possible, then apply for a new student visa in Mexico or another convenient U.S. consulate. You may not attend classes during this time, since study is not permitted as a tourist. You may only return to attending classes when you have re-entered the U.S. as a student again (been granted a new I-94 for F status).
Before travelling, we recommend you check your I-20, and see when the last signature for travel was. If it’s been more than six months, we recommend a new signature before you go, to confirm to port of entry / customs officials that you are still in status. This also gives us a chance to review your situation, and if there are any problems, work with you to resolve them before you go. However, if you don’t have time to meet with us first, your I-20 must have been signed within a year of your return date to be considered valid for reentry.
Office of International Programs
203 Union East Bldg * (915) 747-5664 * firstname.lastname@example.org * Hours: Monday-Tuesday 8-6 Wednesday-Friday 8-5
Monday-Friday 8-5 when classes are not in session.