Traveling within the United States
You can travel within the U.S. while having a valid student F-1 visa; please follow these rules during travel:
- Carry a government-issued photo-ID. If you travel by air, you will have to pass extensive security checks. If you don’t have a California Driver License or ID, take your passport and I-20 with you to prove that you are in the U.S. in lawful visa status.
- Examine travel guides and other common resources to plan your trip.
- Check with your own nation’s department of foreign affairs or Foreign Ministry regarding travel tips within the United States.
- Obtain a travel signature from an ISO counselor every time you leave the United States.
- Come to the ISO for your travel signature at least one week before you plan to travel. Bring your passport, I-20 and I-94 with you to your appointment.
- Know the date you plan to re-enter the U.S.
- Make sure your passport is valid for 6 months beyond your re-entry date, your F-1 student visa is valid and current, and your I-20 is current with a program end-date beyond the date of re-entry.
The ISO will authorize travel if you are in good academic standing, have not yet completed your program, and your health insurance coverage is current.
- If you visit Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean Islands other than Cuba for less than 30 days, you must:
- Check to see if you need a visa issued by Canada or Mexico to travel. Examine the websites of the local Mexican Consulate or Canadian Consulate.
- Have a valid passport.
- Fill out an I-94, Arrival-Departure Record, but keep it in your possession. Do not give it to authorities when you leave the U.S.
- Check if your F-1 student visa has expired. Traveling to these nearby places on an expired visa is generally OK, except for Mexico (See below).
- Have an I-20 with a travel signature. Warning: If you travel to Mexico and your I-20 is not signed but your visa is valid, you may be required to go through Secondary Inspection, which can delay your return to the U.S. up to several hours. If your I-20 is not signed and your visa has expired, you may be required to apply for a new visa in Mexico before you are allowed to re-enter the U.S. This may take several days, or even weeks.
Renewing Your F-1 Student Visa
If your F-1 student visa has expired or if you were granted only one entry on your visa and you elect to travel, before returning to the U.S. you will have to go to a U.S. consulate or embassy, preferably in your home country, and apply for a new visa.
You cannot renew your visa in the United States. Although you can apply for a new visa in a third country, if the visa is denied you will not be allowed to re-enter the U.S. You will have to return to your home country from the third country. Applying for an F-1 student visa.