Travel outside the U.S. while enrolled at UGA
In order to leave the U.S. and re-enter in valid student status, you will need to plan carefully, and have all your papers in order.
A student who is returning to enroll in classes needs the following documents to re-enter the U.S.:
- valid passport
- valid F-1 visa sticker in the passport
- unexpired Form I-20 ID signed recently on page 3 by DSO for re-entry
A valid passport means that the passport has an expiration date of no less than 6 months in the future. A student who needs to renew a passport should contact the embassy of the home country located in Washington, DC. Renewal procedures and processing times are different for every country. Information about foreign embassies located in Washington, DC can be found at https://www.state.gov/s/cpr/rls/c23721.htm.
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 you make plans to travel outside of the U.S., you should check to see if the F-1 visa stamp in the passport is still valid for re-entering 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 sticker 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. Student visas are issued in Canada and Mexico by appointment only. Appointments can be made with the U.S. embassies in Canada and Mexico by visiting the following internet site: http://www.nvars.com.
Form I-20 or DS-2019 with travel authorization (travel signature)
All F/J students must have a signature from one of the OIE 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.
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 and door prizes in a relaxing studying break environment.
Allows students to bring their documents to our offices: 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 travel for re-entry for one year. Students are encouraged to request a history of enrollment from the Registrar's Office. While this history is not necessary for travel, it can be useful for obtaining a new student visa.
Travel outside the U.S. if taking a leave of absence from UGA (that is-- NOT enrolled in classes).
U.S. regulations require international students to enroll in full -time classes, 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 notbe 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 advisr as soon as you know you will not be enrolling for a term during which you would otherwise normally be required to enroll.
Travel Outside the U.S. after completion of degree and / or Graduation
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:
- I-20 form with OPT recommendation on page 3 OR DS-2019 form extended for Academic Training
- Valid F-1 visa or J-1 visa
- For F-1 students only:
- Receipt notice for pending OPT application OR approved OPT work card
- If you have received the work card, you will also need proof of your employment under OPT, in the form of a letter for your employer confirming the terms and dates of your employment.
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:
- You are traveling to and returning from Mexico or Canada, or one of the islands adjacent to the contiguous United States
- You are out of the U.S. less than 30 days
- You are not applying for a new visa while you are out of the U.S.
- You can present to the U.S. immigration officers, upon return to the U.S., your original I-94 card showing F-1 or J-1 status, or F-2 or J-2 status for your dependents
For more information on Automatic Revalidation, please visit the U.S. Department of State website.