Travel Outside the U.S.

Travel before Completing Your Studies

Are you eligible to travel and return to the U.S.?

  • You must be in valid F-1 status. If you depart during the fall or spring semester, you must be registered for a full-time course load and speak with your professors if your travel will cause you to miss class(es).
  • You must have a valid F-1 visa to return to the U.S. If you changed your status to F-1 while inside the U.S., you will need to apply for an F-1 visa in your home country the first time you depart the U.S.
  • You must travel outside the U.S. for less than five months. If you are planning to take an academic leave of absence for one or more semesters, please contact an International Services (I.S.) advisor for assistance.

You will need the following:

  • 2nd page of your I-20 signed for travel by a Designated School Official (DSO) in the I.S. office within the last year
  • Valid F-1 visa, which must also be valid beyond the date you plan to return to the U.S.
  • Passport valid for at least 6 months into the future from the date you will return to the U.S. (unless the country from which your passport was issued is listed here, in which case the country extends passport validity for an additional six months after the passport's expiration date, so you may use your passport to enter the U.S. as long as it is unexpired)
  • I-94 card or Print-Out of Electronic I-94. You can get the print-out of your electronic I-94 here: www.cbp.gov/i94. If you have a paper card, it must be turned in at the airport as you leave the U.S. and are going through Customs unless you are traveling to Canada, Mexico, or the contiguous territories; if this is the case, please see the below section entitled, "Reentering the U.S. with Automatic Visa Revalidation."
  • Academic transcripts and documentation of your financial support are also highly recommended, though not required.

If You Need to Renew Your F-1 Student Visa:

Information about getting the F-1 visa is located here, and visa wait times are listed here.

In addition to preparing the documents listed in the below checklist, please review the I.S. guidance entitled Guidelines for Applying for a Non-immigrant Visa.

For current students, here is a list of the documents you will need for the F-1 visa renewal:

  • I-20 signed for travel (travel signatures are valid for one year from the date your I-20 is signed)
  • Official transcript from Montclair State University
  • Class schedule (you can get this from the Registrar’s Office) for the current semester or if you are applying over a break (summer or winter), your class schedule for the following semester
  • Documentation of financial support for your first year of study and proof of renewable funds for the following years.
  • Affidavit of support from each of your financial sponsors. If you are being supported by the government of your home country, you do not need an affidavit. If your support comes entirely from Montclair State (graduate assistantship, stipend, etc.), you do not need an affidavit.
  • Bills from the last year showing that you've paid your tuition
  • Proof of permanent residence in your home country
  • SEVIS fee receipt (if you can’t find your original one, you will need to reprint your SEVIS fee receipt here using the button “Check I?901 Status / Print Payment Confirmation”)
  • Passport valid for six months into the future from the date you will return to the U.S. (unless the country from which your passport was issued is listed here, in which case the country extends passport validity for an additional six months after the passport's expiration date, so you may use your passport to enter the U.S. as long as it is unexpired)

Travel on Post-Completion/STEM OPT

According to the Code of Federal Regulations [8 C.F.R. § 214.2(f)(13)(ii)], "An F-1 student who has an unexpired EAD issued for post-completion practical training and who is otherwise admissible may return to the United States to resume employment after a period of temporary absence. The EAD must be used in combination with an I-20 ID endorsed for reentry by the DSO within the last six months." Guidance on OPT travel from Immigration and Customs Enforcement is located here.

Are you eligible to travel and return to the U.S.?

  • You must be in valid F-1 status.
  • You must have a valid F-1 visa to return to the U.S. If you changed your status to F-1 while inside the U.S., you will need to apply for an F-1 visa in your home country the first time you depart the U.S.
  • You must travel outside the U.S. for less than five months. If you are planning to engage in extended business travel overseas, please contact an International Services (I.S.) advisor for assistance.
  • You must have a valid OPT job or have been unemployed for less than the unemployment limit (90 days for post-completion OPT, with an additional 60 days for STEM OPT). It is highly recommended that you do not seek to reenter the U.S. unless you are employed or have a job offer in hand.

In addition to the documents listed under “Travel before Completing Your Studies,” you will need the following:

  • Your I-20 endorsed (signed) for travel by a Designated School Official (DSO) – The DSO signature must be less than six months old.
  • Offer letter/employment letter (this should be on letterhead with your employer's signature) and other proof of employment, if available (like pay stubs). Information regarding travel on OPT without employment is located on the ICE website here.
  • EAD card – It is advisable not to leave the U.S. until your OPT is approved and you receive the EAD card (unless you are traveling and returning before your I-20’s program end date). If you are applying for post-completion OPT, please contact I.S. if you plan to travel during your grace period (after your program of study ends and before post-completion OPT begins). If you are applying for the STEM extension, it is not possible to travel after your post-completion OPT end date with a pending STEM extension application; you must wait until you receive the EAD.

If You Need to Renew Your F-1 Student Visa While on OPT:

Information about getting the F-1 visa is located here, and visa wait times are listed here.

In addition to preparing the documents listed in the below checklist, please review the I.S. guidance entitled Guidelines for Applying for a Non-immigrant Visa.

For students on post-completion or STEM OPT, here is a list of the documents you will need for the F-1 visa renewal:

  • I-20- Please make sure that your latest I-20 has your current employer’s name and address and has been has a travel signature that will unexpired (less than six months old) when you return to the U.S.
  • Official transcript and copy of your diploma (certifies that you graduated; this document is recommended if you have received the diploma) from Montclair State
  • Documentation of whatever financial support (for instance, from your parents) you have outside your job and proof of renewable funds for the following years. You may subtract the “Tuition and fees” line on the first page of your I-20 since you are on OPT.
  • Affidavit of support from each of your financial sponsors. If you are being supported by the government of your home country, you do not need an affidavit.
  • Your Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
  • Proof of employment in the form of both an offer letter/employment verification letter (on company letterhead, signed by your supervisor or HR) and last two pay stubs from your company (if you have a paid position)
  • Proof of permanent residence in your home country
  • SEVIS fee receipt (if you can’t find your old one, you will need to reprint your SEVIS fee receipt here)
  • Passport valid for six months into the future from the date you will return to the U.S. (unless the country from which your passport was issued is listed here, in which case the country extends passport validity for an additional six months after the passport's expiration date, so you may use your passport to enter the U.S. as long as it is unexpired)

When Travel outside the U.S. Is Not Advisable

  • If you are in the process of applying to USCIS for reinstatement to F-1 status
  • If you have a pending Change of Status application
  • If you plan to be absent for five months or longer; F-1 students are not able to maintain F-1 status if they are outside the U.S. for a period of five months or more.
  • If you have a pending post-completion or STEM OPT application and the program end date on your I-20 (for post-completion) or your post-completion OPT end date (for STEM OPT) has passed
  • If your employer has filed an H-1B petition or petition for Lawful Permanent Residence with USCIS on your behalf. Please consult your company’s immigration attorney about travel in this situation.

Reentering the U.S. with Automatic Visa Revalidation

Automatic Revalidation allows certain F, J, and H status holders to depart the U.S. and reenter with an expired nonimmigrant visa stamp in their valid passport after visiting Canada, Mexico or the “adjacent islands” for less than 30 days. The policies and regulations regarding Automatic Visa Revalidation are located on the Department of State’s website here and should be reviewed carefully before you travel; it is also highly recommended that you print out a copy of the Department of State's guidance to carry with you when you travel.

According to the Department of State, a nonimmigrant who otherwise meets the requirements is NOT eligible for Automatic Visa Revalidation is if s/he:

  • Applied for a new visa which has not yet been issued;
  • Applied for a new visa and was denied;
  • Has been outside of the United States for more than thirty days;
  • Has traveled to a country other than Canada, Mexico, or an adjacent island which is not included in the automatic revalidation provisions;
  • Is a national of a State Sponsor of Terrorism designated country, including Iran, Syria, and Sudan. Review more about State Sponsors of Terrorism and FAQs on this website;
  • Is in possession of an F student visa or J exchange visitor visa and has traveled to Cuba;
  • Is in possession of an M student visa and has traveled to a location outside the United States, other than Canada and Mexico.

 You must have the following documents to reenter the U.S. using Automatic Visa Revalidation:

  • Form I-94 or Print-Out of Electronic I-94. You can get the printout of your electronic I-94 here. If you have a paper I-94 card (the white card in your passport), you must be sure that the Customs officer/airline attendant does not take your I-94 upon your departure from the U.S. If you have an electronic I-94 and plan to depart the U.S. by plane but reenter by land, you should be sure that the Customs officer gives you a new I-94 number when reenter the U.S.
  • Immigration Documents/Other Documentation: You will need all of the documents listed above under “Travel before Completing Your Studies” or “Travel on Post-Completion/STEM OPT”except the valid visa; however, if you have renewed your passport and the expired visa is in your old passport, you must carry the passport that contains your expired visa.

Travel to Canada

Citizens of certain countries must have a visa to enter Canada. To find out if you need a visa and to obtain visa application instructions, please refer to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC). You may also visit the page for the Canadian Consulate in NYC.

Travel to Mexico

Anyone who visits Mexico must have a tourist card or visa; these may be obtained at the Mexican Consulate. For a list of required documents, please refer to the Mexican Consulate in NYC.