Travel and Re-entry in F-1 Status

While you are in F-1 status, you are permitted to leave the U.S. and re-enter in F-1 status provided you present the required documentation. If you intend to re-enter the U.S. and continue your full-time course of study, you must always be admitted to the U.S. in F-1 status. This section provides detailed information on the requirements for traveling outside the United States and re-entering in F-1 status.

Documents Required for Re-entry in F-1 Status

You are required to carry the following documents with you to re-enter the U.S. as an F-1 student. We encourage you to use this section as a checklist to ensure that you have everything you need to successfully re-enter the U.S. in F-1 status.

I-20 with valid travel signature:
Your I-20 must be signed by a DSO in International Student Services before you leave the U.S. All students are required to have a travel signature in order to re-enter the U.S. To obtain a travel signature, bring your I-20 to Welch Hall and request to see a DSO. All travel signatures are valid for one year. However, ISS recommends to obtain a new travel signature every time you travel outside of the U.S.

Valid Passport:
Your passport must be valid for at least six months when seeking admission or readmission to the United States, unless your country has an agreement with the United States. For a list of countries under this agreement, see the list on the Immigration Customs Enforcement website. Your passport must remain valid throughout your stay in the U.S.

Valid U.S. Visa:
You must present a valid, unexpired visa in the category for which admission is being sought each time you enter the U.S. (Canadian citizens are exempt from the visa requirement; however, landed immigrants of Canada are generally required to obtain a visa.)

What if my visa has expired?
If your visa expires while you are in the U.S., the next time you travel abroad you must obtain a new visa in the proper category in order to be readmitted to the United States. Apply for the visa in your home country, unless circumstances or travel plans make this impossible. If you apply for a visa at a U.S. consulate in another country, your application may be reviewed more critically than if you applied at home. In-person interviews are required for most visa applicants. You are encouraged to contact the U.S. consulate as early as possible to schedule the visa interview appointment. Anticipate delays in visa issuance due to enhanced security reviews.

Recommended additional documents:
In addition to your I-20, passport, and visa, we recommend that you carry the following documents as well:
  • Receipt of SEVIS I-901 Fee (if applicable). For information on who is required to pay this fee, click here.
  • Current financial documentation issued within the last 3 months.
  • Proof of full-time enrollment. You can ask for this letter using the Verification of Enrollment Form online or print your class schedule from MyBlue.

Travel to Canada or Mexico

Travel to Canada and Mexico is common from the U.S.

Canadian visas - Persons from many countries are required to obtain a Canadian entry visa when entering Canada from the U.S. Consult the Canadian Consulate General for visa regulations concerning your country before making travel arrangements.

Mexican visas - Tourist cards or visas may be required for travel to Mexico. Information is available from any Mexican Consulate in the U.S.

Travel for Canadian Students

All Canadian students will be required to show a passport to enter the United States. Those entering the U.S. to study should request F-1 status at the border and must always show the Form I-20 and supporting financial documentation to the immigration inspector at the port of entry. Upon arriving in the U.S. be sure to check your electronic I-94 to ensure that the I-94 card was properly notated with F-1, D/S. If you do not see this notation, please check with a DSO in Welch Hall.

Travel within the U.S.

Special permission is not required for an F-1 student to travel within the U.S. However, we recommend that you carry your passport, I-94, and I-20 with you whenever you travel outside of Kearney.

Travel for Dependents

When traveling, each dependent must carry his/her original I-20. If traveling separately from the principal visa holder, dependents should also carry a photocopy of the F-1's visa, I-94 card, and I-20. Note that if F-2 status was obtained through a change of status application, the F-2 will not be issued an F-2 entry visa unless the student has already obtained an F-1 entry visa.

Entry document checklist for dependents:

  • Passport valid for at least 6 months into the future
  • Valid F-2 entry visa
  • I-20 signed on page 3 within the last 12 months
  • Photocopies of the principal visa holder's passport, I-94 card, and I-20

Travel While on Post-completion OPT

All individuals who have applied for post-completion OPT must carry the following documents:

  • Passport valid for 6 months into the future
  • Valid F-1 entry visa, unless using visa revalidation
  • I-20 recertified within the past 6 months. Please note that this is a change in the length of validity of travel signatures. Travel signatures are generally valid for one year, but once you are on OPT, they are valid for only 6 months.
  • You must also carry the original receipt notice issued by the Service Center.

After graduation, if your post-completion OPT has been approved and your EAD issued, you should carry the following documents with you:

  • I-20 signed for travel by an international student adviser within the last 6 months
  • EAD card
  • Valid passport
  • Unexpired F-1 visa (unless returning from a short trip to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean)
  • Evidence of employment in your field of study (letter of employment, written job offer)

Extended Stays Outside of the U.S.

If you will be outside of the U.S. for an extended period of time that is not during a regular break from class schedules, you will need to visit with a DSO prior to your departure from UNK.

This type of travel and re-entry requires additional paperwork and may even require a new I-20 to be issued. For more information see Leave of Absence.

FAQ's concerning travel from U.S. I.C.E

Use the link below for more detailed information from Immigration and Customs Enforcement on travel and re-entry regulations.