The U.S. government uses the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) to manage information relating to international students in the U.S. All international students and scholars must have a SEVIS-generated, valid I-20 or DS-2019 form in order, to apply for an F or J visa, to enter the U.S. to attend school or participate in an exchange visitor program, or to remain in the U.S. as an F-1 student or J-1 student or scholar.
If you travel out of the U.S. while you are in F-1 or J-1 status, your I-20 or DS-2019 form must have a travel validation signature by one of the designated school officials at the Office of Visa and Immigration Services, and you must have a valid F-1 or J-1 visa, as appropriate, in order for you to be permitted to re-enter the U.S (see “Contiguous Territory & Adjacent Islands” below for a discussion of re-entry from Canada or Mexico without a valid visa). If you are in F-1 status and applying for a visa, we recommend a travel signature on your I-20 dated within the last 9 months. If you are in J status, the travel signature on the DS-2019 form is valid for up to one year. To request this signature, bring your I-20 or DS-2019 form to the Office of Visa and Immigration Services along with your Dartmouth ID card. Please allow at least three days for processing. A valid visa stamp in your passport is also required for re-entry to the U.S., unless you are a Canadian citizen. If your visa stamp has expired, you will need to go to the U.S. consulate (outside of the U.S.) to apply for the new visa stamp. If you have graduated and are on post-completion practical training, you are also required to show your EAD card when re-entering the U.S., and proof that you have a temporary job in the U.S. related to your field of study. Please note that it can be difficult to re-enter the U.S. even if you have the EAD and a job offer.
In all cases, F and J visa applicants must be able to prove non-immigrant intent to the U.S. consular officer. This means that you need to be able to convince the consular officer that you will be returning to your home country at the end of your F or J academic program. You can do this by showing evidence of strong family and economic ties to your home country. This is even more important if you are applying for a visa after you have graduated, and are working in the U.S. on post-graduation optional or academic practical training.
U.S. law requires you to carry your photo ID (passport) and your alien registration information (I-94 card if you entered the U.S. by land, or Form I-94 electronic print-out if you entered the U.S. by air or sea) on your person at all times. The electronic Form I-94 can be accessed here.
Whenever you apply to a U.S. consulate for a new non-immigrant entry visa stamp, you always run the risk that your application may be denied. While it is allowed, the U.S. Department of State does not recommend that you apply for a visa stamp at a U.S. consulate in a country of which you are not a citizen. If you are denied in a “third country”, you will be required to travel home from that country to apply for the visa. You will not be allowed to come back to the U.S. first, even if you have applied in Canada.
Non-immigrant visa applicants are normally required to submit the following documentation to the U.S. consulate abroad:
It is sometimes also advisable for continuing students to submit copies of transcripts or an advisor's letter stating that the student is making good progress toward the degree.
Please double check with the Consulate where you will be applying to verify the required application documents and procedures. You may find a list of all U.S. embassies and Consulates here: http://usembassy.state.gov/.
All travelers who plan to re-enter the U.S. require:
We recommend, in addition:
F-1 / F-2 or J-1 / J-2 status individuals
After initial entry to the U.S., persons in F-1 or J-1 status who have an expired non-immigrant visa in their passport may re-enter the U.S. without obtaining a new U.S. visa if their travel was solely to a contiguous territory (Canada or Mexico) or adjacent islands (excluding Cuba) and their travel is for a period not exceeding 30 days. This procedure is known as "automatic revalidation" of the U.S. visa. The visa is automatically presumed to be valid for entry to the U.S. on the date the non-immigrant presents him- or herself at the U.S. border.
To take advantage of automatic re-validation of an expired visa after travel to a contiguous territory or islands adjacent to the U.S., travelers must have, in addition to their passport and I-20 or DS-2019 with a travel signature no older than 9 months (F-1 and F-2) or 12 months (J-1 and J-2), I-797 approval notice (H-1B or H-4, or people with an approved change of immigration status), a valid passport, a valid Form I-94 or admission stamp and Form I-94 electronic print-out (can be accessed here), and, if on post-completion OPT, a valid EAD work card and evidence of employment in their field of study.
If you are planning to take advantage of it please see the copy of the regulation that allows this, here (22 CFR C. 1, part 41.112(d)).
Last Updated: 5/1/13