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Travel and Re-Entry

Guidelines for Re-Entry to the United States for F-1 Students

The ability to re-enter the U.S. following travel abroad is considered a benefit of F-1 status. It is important that you comply with all immigration regulations and requirements. Failure to comply may lead to a loss of travel benefits.

Be sure to meet with an Advisor if:

  1. You need a new visa. F and J visas may only be obtained outside the U.S. Due to security concerns, all non-immigrants (including F and J applicants) are required to have an in-person interview in order to apply for a visa. Further, additional forms may be required of some applicants. Do not finalize travel plans until you have met with an International Student advisor. Confirm if you are subject to the SEVIS fee with an International Student advisor.
  2. Your I-20 or DS-2019 has or is about to expire or if any information on the form has changed (such as your major, source of funding, or degree level).
  3. Your passport has or is about to expire (passports must always be valid at least six months into the future).
  4. You are a citizen of a country for which the U.S. requires additional security clearance, including NSEERS.
  5. Normally, a continuing student is not subject to the SEVIS fee, but there are exceptions. If there is any confusion when you apply for a visa, refer the consulate officer to DOS Cable 187635 from August 2004.

Specifics for F-1 Students:

  • The travel signature on your Form I-20 is valid for a maximum of one year.
  • You may use your I-20 to enter the U.S. as long as you are a continuing, full-time student and all the information on it remains the same. If you are unable to maintain full-time matriculation, or if the information on your I-20 changes, contact an International Student advisor.
  • If you are returning to the U.S. after a leave of absence and/or an absence of more than 5 months, you must obtain a new I-20 prior to re-entry. Contact an International Student advisor if this applies to you.
  • Upon entry to the U.S., a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officer will issue an I-94 card to you that will indicate the date of entry and grant you F-1 status for duration of status (F-1 D/S). If your I-94 card indicates anything other than F-1 D/S, contact an International Student advisor immediately upon return.
  • The International Student recommends that you make photocopies of your travel documents (I-20 and I-94 card) for safekeeping.

Necessary Documents for Re-Entry to the United States for F-1 Students:

It is also recommended that you carry these items whenever traveling within the U.S. outside of the immediate New York City area.

  • An unexpired passport valid at least six months into the future
  • An unexpired I-20 with a travel signature less than one year old (signed by the DSO)
    – the Form I-20 maybe used to enter the U.S. as long as the student is a continuing, full-time student and all the information on the I-20 remains true
    – The DSO signature on the Form I-20 has a usual validity period of one year but for students on OPT the validity period is 6 months. However, immigration officials at ports of entry often require that the Form I-20 bear a DSO certification for re-entry executed in the current term (if a student is re-entering during the academic year) or, if the student is returning from his/her annual vacation, executed in the term preceding the vacation
  • An unexpired F-1 visa stamp valid for further entries into the United States
  • Proof of full-time enrollment in the form of a Certificate of Enrollment or TCNJ transcript from the TCNJ Records and Registration Office at Green Hall 112 (or the registrar’s office for your school)
  • Proof of financial ability, i.e., documentation verifying your funding source as indicated in Section 8 of your I-20; this may include personal or family bank statements, affidavits of support, or copies of your fellowship or scholarship letter

“Temporary Absence” from the United States for F-1 Students:

A “temporary absence” for the purpose of readmission with an endorsed Form I-20 is defined as an absence of 5 months or less. An F-1 student returning to the United States from a temporary absence of 5 months or less may be readmitted for attendance at a Service-approved educational institution if the student presents:

  • A current SEVIS Form I-20 properly endorsed by the DSO (Designated School Official) for reentry if there has been no substantive change to the more recent Form I-20 information

A new SEVIS Form I-20 if there has been a substantive change in the formation on the student’s most recent Form I-20 information, such as in case of a student who has changed the major area of study or who has advanced to a higher level of study

For more information about traveling and re-entering the United States, please see Traveling to the United States.