Office of Global Engagement
Please note: In order to best serve our students and scholars during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Immigration Services will continue to mail documents through fall semester to reduce in-person office visits. See here for more information.
Students planning to travel outside the United States and return using their F-1 or J-1 documents should plan carefully before traveling.
A student returning to enroll in classes needs the following documents to re-enter the U.S.:
A valid passport should expire no less than 6 months in the future. A student needing to renew a passport should contact the Embassy or Consulate of their country of citizenship. Renewal procedures and processing times are different for every country.
Some students who renew passports during their stay in the U.S. will have 2 passports, the old passport containing the valid F-1 visa and the new valid passport which does not contain a visa sticker. USCIS will honor the unexpired F-1 visa sticker in the old passport if both passports are presented at the same time.
Before traveling outside of the U.S., students should ensure that the F-1 visa stamp in the passport is still valid at the time of re-entry to the United States. If the expiration date has passed, a new visa must be obtained at a U.S. consulate or embassy while out of the U.S. It is not possible to obtain F visas while in the United States. Information about U.S. Embassies is available at: https://www.usembassy.gov/ .
It is best to apply for a new F-1 visa in the student's home country. Obtaining a new visa in a third country can be difficult, because the U.S. embassy performs a series of background checks on all visa applicants.
All F or J students must have a signature from one of the Immigration Services Advisors on their I-20/DS-2019 before they leave the U.S. To obtain the required signature on your I-20 or DS-2019, a student has two options.
Students may to bring their I-20 or DS-2019 documents to the Office of Global Engagement: 1324 South Lumpkin Street, Athens, GA, about 2 weeks before the planned departure from the U.S. Most signatures can be obtained during walk in hours (Tuesdays 2-4pm, Wednesdays 2-4pm, Thursdays 9-11am) but be sure to allow ample time to secure the signature!
Travel signatures are valid for re-entry for one year. Students are encouraged to request an Enrollment Verification from the Registrar's Office.
Immigration Services advisors dedicate a day for signing documents before travel. Travel Signature Day is scheduled each semester on "Reading Day" (the day after classes and before final exams each semester). Students can come to Travel Signature Day with their immigration documents to get an instant travel signature, have the opportunity to speak with an advisor if they have questions and enjoy snacks in a relaxing studying break environment.
U.S. regulations require international students to be enrolled full-time, or for full-time thesis research for two semesters (9 months) each year. If you are not enrolling for full time classes during a term you would otherwise be expected to enroll, it is likely that you will not be able to remain in the U.S. in legal student status. When you plan to depart the U.S. you will need to work with our office to get new paperwork BEFORE you make plans to return to the U.S.
Please contact your immigration advisor as soon as you know you will not be enrolling for a term during which you would otherwise normally be required to enroll.
If you have completed all degree requirements and / or you have graduated, travel outside the U.S. with the intent to re-enter in F-1 or J-1 student status can be problematic.
If you have applied for post-completion F-1 OPT (Optional Practical Training) or J-1 AT (Academic Training), you will need:
In a few cases, you may be able to re-enter the U.S. without applying for and receiving a new student visa. This is called "Automatic Revalidation" of your expired student visa, and it is only possible if:
For more information on Automatic Revalidation, please visit the U.S. Department of State website