In order to re-enter the U.S. after a temporary absence (not exceeding 5 months) you must carry the following documents:
- Valid Passport for at least six months after the date of re-entry
- Valid F-1/J-1 visa stamp (except for a short trip, 30 days or less, to Canada, Mexico and Adjacent Islands)
- Valid I-20/DS-2019 with travel endorsement from OIS. An F-1 student who is out of status must have a new “initial attendance” I-20.
Additional Travel Document Recommendations
While not specifically required by regulations, the following additional documents are very strongly recommended when traveling abroad:
- Evidence of adequate finances
- Copy of Rutgers University transcript and your current course schedule
- All previously-issued I-20 forms
- OPT authorization and a letter from your employer confirming the dates and terms of your employment
- If needing to apply for a new F-1 before returning to the U.S., a recently-updated I-20 issued to you within the 6 months prior to your application for a new visa
To travel outside of the country and re-enter the U.S. as an F-1 student, you must have a valid I-20 which has been signed by an International Student Advisor. F-1 students may need a new I-20 if they have failed to maintain status.
F-1 students must obtain the travel endorsement at the OIS. Bring your current, original I-20 to request a signature. A travel signature is valid for one year from the date of issuance. Students engaged in Post-Completion OPT/STEM Extension must have a new travel signature every six months.
F-2 Dependent Travel
Dependents in F-2 generally need the same documents to re-enter the U.S. as the primary F-1 student. Be sure to obtain an endorsement on the dependent I-20 in order to re-enter the U.S.
Dependents are not required to travel with the primary F-1 student. In addition, dependents may remain in the U.S. without the primary as long as the F-1 maintains their current status and will return after a temporary absence (generally 30 days or less) using the same SEVIS ID number.
Validity of Visa
A visa does not determine how long you may remain in the United States; it only determines when you may enter or re-enter the U.S. To enter or re-enter the U.S. in F-1 status, you must have a valid visa (unless you are a citizen of Canada). For information on the one exception to this requirement, see “Automatic Visa Revalidation” below. Because U.S visas are needed only to enter the U.S., it is not possible to apply for a new visa from inside the U.S. You may remain in the U.S. until your I-94 expires and as long as you are complying with regulations that apply to your specific non-immigrant status. However, if you leave the U.S. for a short trip abroad and your visa has already expired or will expire while you are outside the U.S., you will need to apply for a new visa at a U.S. abroad in order to be able to return to the U.S. in your previous non-immigrant status.
Travel to Canada, Mexico and Certain Adjacent Caribbean Islands
F-1/J-1 students or their dependents who are planning a trip to Canada or Mexico should contact the respective consulate offices to determine whether a visitor’s visa to the country is needed prior to your trip.
Automatic Visa Revalidation
Under certain limited circumstances, visitors with expired U.S. visas who travel solely to Canada, Mexico or adjacent islands in the Caribbean (excluding Cuba) for less than 30 days may be allowed to return to the U.S. via “automatic visa revalidation” in the same non-immigrant status in which they departed, and may resume their previously-approved activities without having to apply for a new visa. Automatic revalidation is unavailable to citizens of Cuba, Sudan, Iran, & Syria, however.
Note: If a visitor chooses to apply for a visa while visiting Canada or Mexico and is denied the visa, he/she will not be eligible for the automatic visa revalidation benefit and will need to return directly to his/her home country in order to apply for a visa.
More Information about Automatic Revalidation
For more information about automatic revalidation provisions and reentry to the United States, visit the International Visitors webpage on the CBP website. Students and Exchange Visitors should review important additional information about travel outside the United States and reentry procedures on the DHS Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) website.
Who Must Reapply for and Be Reissued a Visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate?
Many nonimmigrants will need to reapply and be reissued visas to reenter the U.S. when their existing visas have expired, even if they are in possession of valid admission stamp or paper Form I-94, because automatic revalidation applies to limited categories of travelers. Refer to the Automatic Revalidation Fact Sheet on the CBP website. The following temporary visitors whose nonimmigrant visas have expired, but who have a valid admission stamp or paper Form I-94, must reapply for and be issued nonimmigrant visas prior to their reentry to the United States, if one or more of the following situations exists (this is not a complete listing):
- Applied for a new visa which has not yet been issued;
- Applied for a new visa and was denied;
- Has been outside of the United States for more than thirty days;
- Has traveled to a country other than Canada, Mexico, or an adjacent island which is not included in the automatic revalidation provisions;
- Is a national of a State Sponsor of Terrorism designated country, including Iran, Syria, and Sudan. Review more about State Sponsors of Terrorism and FAQs on this website;
- Is in possession of an F student visa or J exchange visitor visa and has traveled to Cuba;
- Is in possession of an M student visa and has traveled to a location outside the United States, other than Canada and Mexico.
Additional Resources – Laws
The automatic revalidation provision of U.S. immigration law is described in both 8 CFR 214.1(b) and 22 CFR 112(d).