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F-1 Travel

Travel and Re-Entry to the U.S. on F or J Visas

Required SEVIS Forms

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.

Non-Immigrant Intent

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.

Required Documents in the U.S.

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.

Visa Delays

  • Change to interview requirement: There have been recent changes to the interview requirement for certain U.S. visa applicants. Many more people will now be required to have a personal interview before a visa can be issued. Please allow at least one to two months for the visa application and for scheduling the interview at the appropriate consulate, if required.
  • Security clearance delays: Current security clearance checks by the U.S. State Department can delay the visa application process for one to three weeks, or longer. You are less likely to be subject to a visa security check delay if you have received a U.S. visa in the last 12 months, and were previously subject to a security check.

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.

Documents for Visa Application

Non-immigrant visa applicants are normally required to submit the following documentation to the U.S. consulate abroad:

  • Valid passport.
  • Current passport-size photographs.
  • Valid SEVIS Form I-20 for F-1 visa applicants or valid SEVIS Form DS-2019 for J-1 visa applicants.
  • Proof of Payment of SEVIS fee - F-1 visa renewal applications do not require repayment of the SEVIS fee.  SEVIS fee payment is required if first time F-1 visa application, or F-1 visa application based on new Form I-20 following termination of visa and SEVIS record.
  • Proof of financial support.
  • Proof of admission to program of study or appointment to program of research.
  • Proof of non-immigrant intent (evidenced by strong ties to home country).
  • Non-immigrant visa application forms, available from the U.S. consulate abroad, or online at:http://travel.state.gov/visa/forms/forms_1342.html. In addition, if you are a male applicant you will also need to complete and submit the DS-157 form, available at the U.S. consulate or online:http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/126741.pdf.

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/.

For Visa Appointments at the U.S. Consulate in Canada

Documents to Re-enter the U.S.

All travelers who plan to re-enter the U.S. require:

  • A valid passport.
  • A valid SEVIS I-20 (for F-1 visa holders) or DS-2019 (for J-1 visa holders) with a valid travel signature on page 3 of the I-20 form, or the bottom right-hand corner of the DS-2019 form.  The I-20 signature should be no older than nine months at the time you re-enter the U.S. and the DS-2019 travel signature should be no older than one year. (Please allow three to five business days for office processing if you need a new signature from your advisor prior to traveling.)
  • A valid F-1 or J-1 visa stamp (unless re-entering from Canada or Mexico or the adjacent islands after a trip of less than 30 days).
  • A valid Form I-94
    • If you travel by land: I-94 card -- white card usually stapled to the passport, known as the "arrival/departure record". You will complete this form on the plane coming into the country, or at the land border post when you apply for entry to the country).
    • If you travel by air or sea: Admission stamp and Form I-94 electronic print-out -- passport stamp you receive when you enter the country.  The electronic Form I-94 contains important Admission information, including the admission record number.  You can access and print your electronic Form I-94 here
  • Proof of financial support.

We recommend, in addition:

  • Copies of academic transcripts to verify enrollment and academic progress for students.
  • Paycheck stubs to verify employment for employees in J-1 status.

Automatic Revalidation: Travel to Contiguous Territory & Adjacent Islands

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)).

Important Notes

  • If you are a citizen of Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Somalia, Syria or Libya you are not eligible for automatic revalidation of your expired non-immigrant visa.
  • If you have applied for a new visa while out of the country, you may not re-enter the U.S. until the new visa is issued even if your old visa is still valid.
  • You may be required to have a visa from either Canada or Mexico to enter those countries. The visa you have for the United States does not automatically grant entry into these countries. If you are in doubt, go to the Canadian and Mexican consulate web sites listed below.

Canadian Consulate in New York

Mexican Consulate in New York

Last Updated: 4/22/14