Travel in F-1 Status

Travel Within the U.S.

Once you have been admitted into the US and are maintaining valid F-1 status, travel within the US is not restricted and no special documents are required. However, it is extremely important that you and your dependents carry your passport and visa documents (including I-20, I-94 information) with you when traveling within the US in the event you need to present them to law enforcement officials.

Each time that you travel within the US, you are required to fill out the F-1 In-Country Travel Form (PDF) and submit it to CGH.

Travel Outside the U.S.

Before being permitted to travel outside of the US, you must complete the F-1 Out-of-Country Travel Form (PDF) and submit it to CGH. You must also make an appointment with a DSO to have your I-20 form authorized for travel (also known as a travel signature). Travel authorization signatures are good for one year. If you have dependents that will also be traveling, they will require travel authorization signatures on their I-20s as well. Even if you already have a valid travel signature on your Form I-20, you must submit the Out of Country travel form each time that you travel.

Before you can travel outside of the US, you must also have a passport that is valid for at least six months into the future. If your passport is expired or close to expiring, you should renew it before you travel.

Contact your home country’s consulate or embassy in the US to find out how to extend or replace your current passport.

  • You must have the following documents on you (not in your luggage) when you reenter the US:
  • Valid passport
  • I-20 with valid travel signature
  • Valid F-1 visa
  • Financial documents

If your F-1 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 outside the US before you return. It is not possible to renew your visa from within the US. Please 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 stamp at a US embassy or consulate, you will need to go through the same process.

Any time that you travel outside of the US, 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. 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 should stay in touch with CGH if your visa is denied or your application is significantly delayed so that we are aware of your situation.

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 visa revalidation, you will still need to have all of your documents in order as if you were traveling with a valid visa, including an I-20 with a valid travel signature. Visit the websites below for more information on automatic visa revalidation.