Frequently Asked Questions


What do I need for re-entry to the US after a temporary absence?

Checklist of documents for reentry

In order to reenter the United States after a temporary absence of 5 months or less, an F-1 student should have the following documents:

  • A valid passport or travel document, unless exempt from the passport requirement.
  • A valid F-1 visa (unless exempt from visa requirements)
  • A Form I-20 properly endorsed for travel by the DSO

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) also recommends that students have with them:

  • Evidence of financial resources
  • Evidence of student status (recent tuition receipts, transcripts);
  • Name and contact information for the school's Designated School Official (DSO)

Travel and reentry while engaging in OPT

An F-1 student engaged in pre-completion OPT follows the same procedure for visits abroad and re-entry as all F-1 students.

An F-1 student who is engaged in post-completion OPT who travels outside the United States temporarily (i.e., less than 5 months) can be readmitted to resume employment for the remainder of the period authorized on his or her EAD card, provided:

  • The student presents a Form I-20 endorsed by the DSO within the preceding 6 months
  • The student presents an unexpired EAD, and
  • The student is returning to resume employment

Students approved for post-completion OPT continue to be in F-1 status. They are therefore subject not only to the requirements that they have an I-20 endorsed for travel and an EAD, but to the requirement that they have a valid F-1 visa to re-enter the United States, unless they are exempt from the visa requirement.

What documents are required to be valid at all times?

Passport AND I-20 or DS-2019

A valid passport is required at all times. Check the expiration date and make plans to apply for a renewal at least 6 months in advance.

Do not let your I-20/DS-2019 expire prior to completing your program. If necessary, you can apply for a program extension.

Your visa does not have to remain valid while you are in the United States. You only need a valid visa when you enter the country.

How can I extend my program?

If you will not complete your program by the end date on your I-20/DS-2019, you must apply for a program extension at least 1 month prior to the expiration. Extensions can not be granted once the end date has passed.

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