In addition to the information on this page, review this handout on F1 Travel.

Travel within the United States

Travel within the 48 contiguous states does not require any special permit or documentation. You should, however, take your original travel documents (passport, visa, I-94, and I-20) and a separate photocopy (in case the originals are lost). You should also make sure that someone has access to another photocopy of those documents. Lost or damaged documents can be difficult and costly to replace.

If you travel to Hawaii, Alaska, or any of the U. S. territories, and pass through any other countries en route, you will need to comply with the requirements for travel abroad (see below). Direct flights to and from these states and territories should not require anything other than your regular travel documents.

Travel Abroad and Re-entry to the U. S.

Whenever you wish to leave the United States temporarily and return to continue studies you must secure:

  1. A permit to enter another country
  2. A permit to re-enter the United States

All countries have rules and restrictions on who can enter. Students who wish to visit their own country of citizenship or permanent residence will be allowed to do so if they hold a valid passport or other travel document issued by that country. For travel to any country (including Canada and Mexico) other than their own home country, students should check with the Embassy of the country that they would like to visit to inquire about specific entry procedures.

Contact information for these embassies can be found at:

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

  1. A valid passport or travel document (from his own country)
  2. A valid F-1 visa. This handout has information regarding Visa Renewal (pdf).
  3. Either a properly endorsed Form I-20, if there has been no substantive change in the information on the form) other than the date the student is expected to report to the school) OR a new Form I-20, if there has been such a change.
  4. If on OPT, a student who has both an EAD for post-completion OPT and a job should not experience difficulty reentering the United States. If either of these two conditions is missing, then the student is assuming risk. This does not apply to pre-completion OPT. There are no restrictions upon travel while on pre-completion OPT other than those applicable to all F-1 students.Students participating in the “cap-gap” extension may not travel and re-enter, since their EAD cards will have necessarily expired. Students participating in the STEM extension may travel even if they have not yet received their new EAD cards, but they must carry the receipt notice.

Temporary Absence of Longer than Five Months

Students who wish to return to UIS to resume their studies following an absence of more than five months will need a new initial-status I-20, even if they still have a valid visa. The only exception to this is for students who have been participating in a pre-approved and official study abroad program and have been duly registered in the SEVIS system every semester that they have been absent. These students will need a DSO signature on page 2 of the Form I-20 within 12 months of the date that they will re-enter the U. S.

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