International travel by students and scholars in non-immigrant status requires advance planning and careful attention to details. The most important thing is to make certain you have the required documents with your passport (not packed in your suitcase) when you arrive back in the U.S. Check your immigration status for a list of required travel documents. Check with ISSS before you leave if you have any questions, particularly if you need to apply for a new visa.
Upon admission (initial and re-entry) into the U.S., you will be given an automated arrival form call I-94, which shows proof of legal visitor status. You can retrieve your I-94 admission number/record online. If you have difficulty, visit this link for for tips on how to retrieve your I-94 card.
We would encourage you to review your I-94 information online to make sure your record is marked correctly. Your I-94 information should indicate visa classification and the length of time you are allowed to stay in the U.S. For F or J visa classifications, the duration should be noted as "D/S" meaning duration of status. For all other non-immigrant visa classifications, it will be date specific according to your immigration document.
If you are one of the few students who still posseses a paper I-94 card, the airline will usually take your I-94 card when you depart the U.S.. However, students who are citizens of Canada in F-1 or J-1 status or scholars in TN status may be allowed to retain their I-94 card and use it multiple times. Those entering Canada, Mexico or a contiguous island using automatic revalidation should not relinquish their paper I-94 card (if you have one) upon U.S. department.
The following information assumes that you:
If you do not meet these conditions, you should check with an adviser in the Office of International Student and Scholar Services before traveling to determine if you are eligible for re-entry to the United States and/or if you need a new I-20 for a legal admission.
While in the United States, students in F-1 non-immigrant status must be continuously enrolled full time during the academic year until the completion of their programs of study. If you are required to take a non-medical leave of absence, dismissed or required to withdraw from the University, be sure to set up an appointment with an international student advisor to discuss your situation, as well as refer to ISSS's Leave of Absence page for important information.
You do not need immigration documents or permission of any kind from anyone to travel anywhere within the United States. Travel between the 48 contiguous states is totally unrestricted. However, new regulations require you to carry a state issued picture ID with your date of birth “plus” your passport (at least a photocopy of it, if you are not carrying the original. In case you carry the original passport be very careful not to lose it).
For details concerning travel to Alaska or Hawaii, please consult with the Office of International Students and Scholar Services. To be prepared for the unusual possibility of an immigration check by U.S. officials, we recommend that you always carry photocopies of your passport (photo, signature and expiration date pages), your visa, and I-20.
If you or your dependents need to renew your visa stamps in order to re-enter the U.S., you must apply in person to a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. In most countries, you must make an appointment with your nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Before you apply for the visa, it is important you understand the process and rules governing the renewal. Full details can be found on the Department of State website.
If you are interested in renewing your current visa without returning to your home country, you may renew in Canada or Mexico. Change of status from one visa category to another is not recommended. Your must be a current F/J visa holder, maintaining your immigration status, have a valid passport and its advisable that your visa is current for 60 days. Renew your passport if it will expire within 6 months. For more information on obtaining a visa as a third country national present in the U.S. visit the Department of State U.S. Visas website.