Travel and Re-entry to the United States

For F-1 Students

In order to return to the United States after a temporary absence, F-1 students must present specific documents to the immigration inspector at the port of entry:

  • an I-20 Form with a travel signature on page 2 within the last year (for continuing students) or within six months (during Post-Completion Optional Practical Training [OPT]);
  • a valid passport (valid six months into the future);
  • a valid F-1 visa stamp (certain exceptions apply);
  • original financial documentation;
  • a copy of the academic transcript;
  • a copy of SEVIS Fee Payment (; and
  • an EAD and letter from the current employer (during post-completion OPT only).

What Happens at the Port of Entry? 

  • The immigration officer should inspect the I-20 Form and return it to the student.
  • The immigration officer should inspect the passport with the F-1 visa (if applicable), issue an admission stamp, write "F-1/DS", and return the passport to the student.
  • The immigration officer may or may not request to see the other documents listed above.  


After entry, the student should verify that the entry was properly recorded electronically at A copy of this electronic entry record should be printed for the student's personal records after each entry to the United States.


To obtain a travel signature, bring the original I-20 Form to OGS during Walk-in Hours or make an appointment with your dedicated IS Advisor.


Some students will need to renew their passports during the course of their studies or post-completion training period. If the visa is still valid at this time, there is no need to apply for a visa renewal. Students in this situation should travel with both passports: the expired passport containing the valid U.S. visa, and the valid passport, which does not contain a visa stamp.

If the F-1 entry visa stamp in your passport has expired and you plan to travel outside the United States, you must go to a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad to obtain a new F-1 visa. F-1 visas may never be renewed inside the United States. Students should generally allow 2-8 weeks for processing. Students engaged in post-completion OPT should be aware that it can be more difficult to renew an F-1 visa during OPT. Contact the consulate for an appointment prior to finalizing travel plans.

Some students will also be subject to Security Advisory Opinions because of their countries of national origin, citizenship, fields of study, or at the discretion of the Consular Officer. Security Advisory Opinions commonly take one month but may require as long as 4-6 months in rare cases.


During entry procedures, students should answer all questions clearly. Omission or misrepresentation of information can result in denial of entry.  If you encounter any serious difficulty, please call OGS at (202) 687-5867 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday - Friday, or the Georgetown University Police Department (GUPD) at (202) 687-4343 after hours or on weekends. GUPD will contact an OGS staff member to assist you.


The Department of  Homeland Security's Office of Biometric Identity Management provides biometric identification services that help federal, state and local government officials accurately identify the people they encounter and determine whether those people pose a risk to the United States. Upon entry to the United States, all visitors are subject to biometric identification through digital photographs and fingerprinting.

The data collected from F and J visa holders will be forwarded to SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System), confirming that the person has entered or exited the United States. For more information, please see the OBIM website.


The automatic visa revalidation provision allows those whose U.S. entry visa has expired to briefly visit Canada, Mexico, Saint Pierre, Miquelon, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, the Windward and Leeward Islands, Trinidad, Martinique, and other British, French and Netherlands territories or possessions in or bordering the Caribbean Sea (except Cuba) and return to the United States without applying for a new visa at a U.S. consulate. The following rules apply to automatic visa revalidation:

  • The visit must not exceed 30 days and may be spent only in Canada and Mexico (for F, J, H or O) or adjacent islands (for F and J only) - except Cuba.
  • You must not be a citizen of a country that the Department of State has determined to be a sponsor of terrorism.
  • You must have a valid Form I-20, Form DS-2019, or I-797 approval notice (for H and O visa holders). Those in F-1 and J-1 status must have a valid travel signature on the I-20 or DS-2019 Form.
  • You must have a valid passport (valid six months into the future).
  • You must have maintained status while in the United States and intend to resume that status when you return to the United States.
  • You must present the most recent I-94 record of entry (available at upon re-entry to the United States.

Many students and scholars* will need tourist visas to enter Canada, Mexico, and neighboring islands. Contact the embassy of the country which you intend to visitl and check entry visa requirements before making travel arrangements. If you are an F-1 or J-1 visa holder, you will need a valid travel signature from your IS Advisor before applying for a visa to enter these countries. 

*When traveling to Mexico for stays of less than 30 days on an expired F visa, automatic revalidation still applies for re-entry to the United States. However, all students (including OPT/STEM OPT) with an expired F-1 visa (no matter their country of origin) now require a Mexican visa to enter Mexico. For more information, click here.

NOTE: Federal regulations prohibit those who have been denied a visa at one of the U.S. consulates in Canada, Mexico or adjacent islands from returning to the United States. Those whose visa applications are denied must return to their home country and apply for a new visa at the U.S. consulate in the home country prior to returning to the United States. For information on how to make an appointment for a visa interview in Canada or Mexico, click here.