Travel in F-1 Status
Travel Within the United States
During your F-1 program, you must submit the In Country Travel Form through your Terra Dotta portal each time that you plan to travel within the United States. The in-country travel form must be submitted prior to your departure.
Once you have been admitted into the US and are maintaining valid F-1 status, travel within the US is not restricted (as long as it does not interfere with your program of study), and no special documents are required. However, you and any dependents must carry your passport and visa documents (including your Form I-20 and I-94 information) with you when traveling within the US in the event you need to present them to law enforcement officials.
Travel Outside the United States
As a nonimmigrant student, any time that you travel outside of the United States, you do so at your own risk. You are not guaranteed re-entry into the US, and many factors or situations may prevent you from re-entering the US as planned. You should take into consideration all factors before deciding to travel.
If you are planning on traveling outside of the US, you must submit the Out of Country Travel Request through your Terra Dotta portal. The out of country travel form must be submitted at least 3 weeks prior to your anticipated departure date. Do not wait until the last minute to complete this form. We recommend that you submit the out of country travel form as early as possible to avoid any issues with your travel approval or obtaining an I-20 travel signature. You must submit this form each time you plan to travel outside of the US (even if you do not need a travel signature on your Form I-20). You will be required to receive approval from someone in your college/degree program (such as an academic advisor or college administrator) as part of this application.
In addition, you must have a valid Form I-20 with a valid travel endorsement signature on page 2 before you can travel abroad. The I-20 travel endorsement signature can only be provided by the PDSO or DSO in the MUSC Center for Global Health. The travel signature is valid for one year (except during post-completion OPT, when the travel signature is valid for only 6 months). If you have dependents that will also be traveling, they must also have valid travel signatures on each of their I-20 forms.
Click here to schedule an appointment to obtain a travel signature on your I-20 form. Travel signatures cannot be provided to students who do not make an appointment. Also, you must submit the out of country travel request form first before you request an appointment to get a travel signature.
You must have the following documents on you (not in your luggage) when you request re-entry into the US:
- I-20 form with valid travel signature
- Valid passport
- Valid F-1 visa
- Financial documents
Your passport should be valid for at least 6 months beyond your intended period of stay in the United States. If your passport is expired or close to expiring, you must make arrangements to renew your passport either prior to traveling or in your home country during your trip. You will not be permitted to re-enter the US if you do not have a valid passport. Contact your home country’s consulate or embassy in the US to find out how to extend or replace your current passport.
If your F-1 passport visa has expired (or if you do not have an F-1 visa in your passport), you must apply for a new visa at a US consulate before you can request re-entry into the US. Passport visas are only issued outside of the United States. In other words, it is not possible to renew your visa from within the US. You must take into consideration the time associated with applying for a visa when making your travel plans. There is no expedited process for “renewing” a visa. Each time you apply for a visa at a US embassy or consulate, you need to go through the same process. However, you do not need to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee each time. You may need to provide proof that you previously paid the I-901 fee with any subsequent visa applications.
It is important for you to understand that CGH or MUSC cannot intervene on your behalf if you are denied a visa or if you experience significant delays in the processing of your visa application. However, you must notify CGH if your visa is denied or your application is significantly delayed so that we are aware of your situation and can update your records accordingly.
If you have applied for post-completion OPT or are currently in an authorized period of OPT, refer to the OPT Guide for more information on travel and OPT.
Automatic Visa Revalidation
F-1 students and F-2 dependents with expired visas can travel to Canada, Mexico or the adjacent Caribbean islands for 30 days or less and still re-enter the US as long as they have a valid I-94 card and are otherwise maintaining valid status. If you plan to travel under the automatic visa revalidation rule, you must still all of your documents in order as if you were traveling with a valid visa, including an I-20 with a valid travel signature. You must also submit the out of country travel request.
Visit the websites below for more information on automatic visa revalidation:
- Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Reentry for F-1 Nonimmigrants Traveling Outside the United States
- US Department of State – Automatic Visa Revalidation
- US Customs and Border Protection – Automatic Revalidation for Certain Temporary Visitors