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Currently studying F-1 students should carry the following to enter the U.S.:

  • current I-20 with travel signature dated in the past year
  • valid F-1 visa (or make plans to renew visa)
  • passport valid more than six months into the future

This page is for currently registered students who are still studying. Alumni should review the OPT/STEM OPT travel guidelines as they are different.


Current students need a travel signature on I-20 page 2 from an OIA Designated School Official (DSO) dated the last twelve months of your re-entry to the US. The signature is valid for the full calendar year for multiple entries. Travel signatures are not needed to leave the U.S.

You do not need any proof of travel to request a Travel Signature I-20 in your TDS Student Portal. As with all I-20s, once you receive it you should print it, sign page 1 bottom, and carry the paper I-20 with you when you travel.

Please note that on many updated I-20s, such as CPT, Extension, or FTE, we issue travel signatures automatically. Check your most recent I-20 for validity; we recommend you keep the signature up-to-date in case of emergency travel. We accept updated Travel Signature I-20 requests in the 90 day window before any existing signature expires.


If your entry visa has expired, you must renew it in order to re-enter the U.S. You are not able to renew your entry visa inside the U.S. Visas are only issued at U.S. consulates, which are only outside the country. We do not recommend leaving specifically to renew your visa, unless you have another reason to travel, as you may remain legally in F-1 status with an expired visa.

When you travel outside the U.S with an expired visa, you need to make plans and allow time for visa application and approval before your planned re-entry date. We generally recommend that you apply for your visa at the consulate nearest to your home residence, even for renewal. It may be possible to apply at a consulate in a different country, such as Canada or Mexico, but there are some risks with this. You need to prove ties to your home country during your visa application, and it is easier to do so when you apply at your local consulate. In addition, if your visa is denied, you must return to your local consulate to reapply again

Review our F-1 Visa Application resources before re-applying. Remember that F-1 is a non-immigrant, temporary status. As with the first visa application, students should demonstrate non-immigrant, temporary intent, and show ties to their home country. If your visa is denied, you should request the denial reason in writing from the consulate and consult


The requirement to have a valid visa to re-enter the U.S. has one exception. F-1 status holders with expired visas may be eligible to travel for short trips to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. The benefit is called Automatic Revalidation of visa and allows return to the U.S. despite the visa being expired. The following requirements must be met:

  • you are currently in F-1 status
  • the trip is 30 days or less
  • you only travel to Canada, Mexico, and/or Caribbean adjacent islands 
  • you are not applying for a new F-1 entry visa during the trip

If you are going to use Automatic Revalidation, we recommend bringing with you: