Temporary absence and reentry into the USA
Absences longer than five months require a new “initial attendance” I-20 and payment of SEVIS I-901 fee. This constitutes beginning a new F-1 program. Students become ineligible for any off-campus employment (such as OPT or CPT) until they enroll full-time for one academic year.
Documents required for reentry
In order to reenter the U.S. after a temporary absence (not exceeding five months) you must carry the following documents:
- Valid Passport.
- Valid F-1 visa stamp. This is not required for trips to Canada, Mexico, or adjacent islands that last less than 30 days.
- Valid I-20, with a travel endorsement from your international student advisor. An F-1 student who is out of status must have a new “initial attendance” I-20.
- Evidence of adequate finances.
- A copy of your WSU transcript and current course schedule (optional).
To travel outside of the country and reenter the U.S. as an F-1 student, you must have a valid I-20 endorsed by an international student advisor. F-1 students may need a new I-20 if they have failed to maintain status.
F-1 students must obtain the travel endorsement from the international student advisor in the Student Affairs office (SAC 130). Bring the following documents to request an endorsement:
- Completed endorsement request form (PDF)
- Your current, original I-20/DS-2019
Allow one week for processing. A travel signature remains valid for one year from its issue date. However, you are advised to obtain a new endorsement if the previous one is more than six months old.
F-2 dependent travel
Dependents with F-2 status generally need the same documents to reenter the U.S. as the primary F-1 student. Be sure to obtain an endorsement on the dependent I-20 in order to reenter the U.S.
Dependents are not required to travel with the primary F-1 student. Additionally, dependents may remain in the U.S. without the primary F-1 student as long as the F-1 student maintains his or her current status and will return after a temporary absence (generally 30 days or less) using the same SEVIS identification number.
Trips to Mexico, Canada, and adjacent islands*
To facilitate entry into Canada or Mexico as a visitor, you must carry all the documents listed above except for a valid F-1 visa stamps (for some students). Additionally, a visitor's visa may be required, depending on your country of citizenship.
*Caribbean islands, with the exception of Cuba.
Visitor's visa to Canada and Mexico
F-1 students or their dependents who plan to travel to Canada or Mexico should contact the appropriate consulate offices to determine whether a visitor's visa is needed prior to traveling.
Reentering the United States from Canada on an expired F-1 visa
If their trips do not exceed 30 days, many students may travel to Canada, Mexico, and adjacent islands and reenter the U.S. on an expired F-1 visa (referred to as automatic revalidation). Citizens of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, North Korea, and Cuba are not eligible for this benefit and must possess a valid F-1 visa to enter or reenter the U.S. at all times.
Automatic revalidation—or entry on expired visa—does not apply when a student applies for a new F-1 visa and is denied in Canada or Mexico.
Applying for a new F-1 visa
To request permission to reenter the U.S. from outside of North America, you must have a valid F-1 visa in your passport. A U.S. visa can only be obtained outside the United States at a U.S. embassy or consulate, preferably in your home country.
Effective September 1, 2004: Unless exempted, potential non-immigrants who are initially issued an I-20 to begin a new program (on or after September 1, 2004) must pay the SEVIS fee prior to obtaining their visa (if a visa is required) for entering the United States.
Generally this fee does not apply to students who have maintained their current F-1 immigration status and are continuing their program of study.
Government information about the SEVIS I-901 fee.
The US-VISIT program operates at most U.S. airports and seaports. Foreign visitors to the United States are tracked through the use of biometrics (measurable, physical characteristics that facilitate recognition).
When F-status students and the dependents enter the U.S., immigration officers continue to review travel documents such as passports, SEVIS I-20, or visas. Additionally, officials take both the non-immigrants' fingerprints (with an ink-free fingerprint scanner) and a digital photograph of their face.
When non-immigrants depart the United States, they must "check out" at an exit kiosk at the port of departure. The exit procedures have not been fully implemented. Kiosks and attendants are available at some major U.S. ports; at these ports, non-immigrants are expected to complete the exit procedures.
Special registration (NSEERS)
Nonimmigrant aliens previously required by NSEERS to submit to special registration procedures and depart from specified ports are relieved of these obligations.
Effective April 28, 2011, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), through a notice in the Federal Register, eliminated the requirement that nationals from the following countries register in the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS): Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
Notice in the Federal Registrar: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-04-28/pdf/2011-10305.pdf
Academic Center 130