Travel for F-1 Students

Travel Outside the U.S.

If you are traveling from the U.S. to another country, you must meet the immigration requirements of the country you plan to visit, as well as the U.S. requirements to reenter the United States. This includes short trips to Mexico and Canada for which special rules may apply as noted below.

Travel Home or Abroad

To re-enter the U.S., you will need to present the following documents to the immigration service officer:

  • Valid passport
  • Valid visa stamp (unless exempt)
  • I-20 ( F-1 students) You must have a valid travel signature on page 2 of your I-20.  Travel signatures are only given to continuing students or students on approved Optional Practical Training (OPT).  Please provide your I-20 to OISS no later than 2 days before departing Santa Barbara.

How Travel Validation Works

At least 2 business days before you plan to depart UCSB, drop off your I-20 to the OISS office (3rd floor of the Student Resource Building). OISS staff will check your immigration record and confirm that you are still eligible to enter the U.S. You will be able to pick up your signed and validated document at the front desk after 2 business days.

Expired Visa

If your F-1 visa stamp has expired, you will need to obtain a new visa to reenter the US. You can apply for a visa stamp at an American Embassy/Consulate when you are abroad. A U.S. visa stamp cannot be obtained inside the U.S. To apply for a visa stamp you will need to present:

  • Valid Passport
  • Valid I-20 with current signature on page 2
  • Documentation of sufficient financial support - for at least one year
  • Copy of current transcripts - an unofficial copy is sufficient and can either be requested from the Registrar's office or you can print your unofficial transcript from GOLD
  • Letter from academic department regarding your status or progress in the program - primarily for graduate students.

The visa renewal process will be the same procedure that you followed the first time you applied for the visa. Each time you apply for a visa you must prove to the consular officer you have enough funds to continue studying, you have been a full time student, and that you plan to return to your home country after completion of your degree.

Please be aware of visa appointment wait times and processing times by the Embassy/Consulate when booking your travel.  Also you may be selected for Administrative Processing which can delay your visa renewal by several months.  It is important to consider the validity of your immigration documents before scheduling any travel.

Information on U.S. Embassies and Consulates can be found at the State Department website.

Travel to Mexico and Canada

Before traveling to Canada or Mexico you should find out if you require a visa to enter those countries. See the Mexican Consulate for information on travel to Mexico and the Canadian Consulate for information on travel to Canada.

Automatic Visa Revalidation

Generally, it is not necessary to have a valid US visa for re-entry to the US if your stay in Mexico or Canada is 30 days or less. The visa is considered automatically revalidated, as long as you have a valid passport, I-20 form with recent signature, the I-94 form and a visa stamp in your passport. It is absolutely essential that you have the I-94 form. Without it, you are not eligible for the automatic visa revalidation.

There are circumstances when the automatic revalidation will not apply:

  1. If you apply for a new visa while in Mexico or Canada, you may not re-enter the U.S. on an expired visa.  You will need to remain in Mexico or Canada until your new visa is issued.  If a new visa is not issued to you in Mexico or Canada, then you will have to travel to your home country and apply for a new visa there.
  2. If you are a citizen of Iran, North Korea, Syria or Sudan, you may not re-enter the U.S. from Mexico or Canada on an expired U.S. visa. Generally the U.S. consulates in Mexico and Canada will not permit you to apply for a visa. Rather you may need to apply for a new visa in your home country.

Automatic Visa Revalidation is also available for travel for short tips to certain islands adjacent to the U.S. (e.g., Bermuda, The Bahamas, Jamaica). If you plan to visit one of these islands and use the automatic visa revalidation, please check first with an advisor in OISS.

If you are not sure your documents are current or have questions about traveling and reentering the U.S. please make an appointment at OISS well before you plan to leave.

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/visa-expiration-date/auto-revalidate.html

Traveling to a Third Country

If you plan to travel outside of the United States, but not to your home country, please:

  • Contact the country you plan to visit to see if a visa is required for your visit.  You can find foreign consulates located in the United States here. Otherwise, you can search the internet for information (examples: “how to visit Canada”, or “Mexican consulate”, or “visa for France”).
  • Note that processing time for these travel visas can take several weeks.
  • Come to OISS if you have any travel questions.