Travel and Re-Entry to the U.S. on an F-1 Visa

This page has general information about travel outside the U.S. See Travel to Canada for additional information specific to travel to Canada. Remember that entry into the U.S. is never guaranteed, and even if you have been here before, the Customs and Border Patrol officer will inspect your situation again. It is advised to visit the OIE before any travel outside of the U.S.

Documents Needed for Entry

All students who plan to re-enter the U.S. require:

Frequently Asked Questions About Travel

What if my passport will expire less than 6 months after I re-enter the U.S.?  In many cases, you can renew your passport before you leave while you are in the U.S.  Contact your embassy or consulate for details.

What is a valid travel signature? A travel signature is an international student advisor’s signature on page 2 of your I-20 or DS-2019 (or page 3 if your I-20 was printed before June 27, 2015).  When you re-enter the U.S., the signature must be less than 12 months old.  If you need a new travel signature, stop by the OIE’s walk-in hours before you leave the U.S. J-1 students not sponsored by UVM must obtain the travel signature from the J-1 visa sponsor.

Do I need a valid visa to re-enter the U.S.?  A valid visa stamp in your passport is required for re-entry to the U.S., unless you are a citizen of Canada or Bermuda. There is an exception if you traveled to Canada, Mexico or an island adjacent to the US.  This exception is called “automatic visa revalidation.”  See below for more information.  If your visa stamp has expired, you will need to go to a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad to apply for the new visa stamp. You cannot apply for a new visa from within the United States.  See [hyperlink] for more information about applying for a new visa.

What if my visa valid but it is in an expired passport? You can continue to use your valid visa until it expires.  If your valid visa is in an expired passport, be sure to carry both passports when you travel.

Are there special considerations for travel during OPT for F-1 Students?  If you have graduated and are on post-completion practical training, you are also required to show your EAD (employment authorization document) and proof that you have employment related to your field of study.  Also, your I-20 must have a travel signature that is less than 6 months old when you re-enter the U.S.  While you are on OPT, your travel signature is only valid for 6 months, not 12 like while you were a student. Do not leave the U.S. if your OPT application has not yet been receipted and you are after your program (I-20) end date.  Do not leave the country if you do not have a job once your period of OPT work authorization has begun. You will likely not be able to re-enter the U.S. unless you are returning for employment.  If you must travel while unemployed on OPT, talk to an OIE advisor before you leave.

Automatic Revalidation

Automatic visa revalidation is when you re-enter the U.S. with an expired visa after short trip to Canada, Mexico or an adjacent island.  To re-enter the U.S. on automatic visa revalidation, all of the following must be true:

You do not need to apply for automatic visa revalidation.  That is why it is called “automatic.”  However, it is a good idea to know the phrase “automatic visa revalidation.”  You might need to tell the Customs and Border Patrol officer that you are re-entering the U.S. on automatic visa revalidation.
Students traveling on a passport from a country listed as a State Sponsor of Terrorism are not eligible for automatic visa revalidation.  See the Department of State’s website for a current list of State Sponsors of Terrorism.