When F-1 students wish to leave the U.S. temporarily and return to continue studies, they must secure the necessary documents to 1) permit entry to another country and 2) permit re-entry to the United States.

To enter another country, it is the student’s responsibility to investigate that country’s entry requirements well in advance of traveling; students can access information from foreign embassies at www.embassy.org.

A “Travel Letter” is not necessary and does not generally help. In order to re-enter the U.S. in F-1 status, a Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officer wants the student to present the following below:


  • I-20 signed by DSO within past six months
  • Passport valid for at least six months
  • Financial documentation
  • Valid F-1 visa (Canadian citizens exempt)
  • Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and letter from current employer (during post-completion OPT only)


  • SEVIS fee receipt
  • Enrollment verification
  • Transcript
  • Acceptance letter
  • Health Insurance (for injury or illness)

Where to find copies of the above-mentioned recommended forms

I-20 Shipping Information

To request express mailing of your documents, go to the following secure website: https://study.eshipglobal.com.

If Your F-1 or J-1 Visa Stamp Will Expire

You will need to apply for a new visa from a US Consulate/Embassy. It is not possible to get a new visa in the U.S. It is best to apply in your home country and NOT another “third” country.

Reminder to Register Full-time

Before you travel, make sure you are registered full-time or approved to register part-time for the current semester. If traveling between semesters, or are on a semester break, you will need to register for the next semester before you go or come back. If registration is not yet open, please ensure that you register for courses prior to re-entering the U.S.

Five-Month Rule

An F-1 student who remains outside the U.S. for five or more consecutive months, even with a valid travel signature, needs new initial attendance I-20 for re-entry. The previous I-20 is no longer valid for re-entry. Payment of SEVIS fee is required for new initial attendance I-20.

**Special Notes on OPT and Travel**
Students on post-completion OPT must have a travel signature revalidated every 6 months. In addition to a valid passport, current I-20 with OPT noted, and visa stamp, OPT students must present at the border a valid EAD card AND proof of OPT employment OR job offer letter. If applied for OPT but don’t have an EAD card, DO NOT travel outside the U.S. Also, if you have EAD but not proof of a job to return to, DO NOT travel.

What Happens at the Port of Entry?

  • An immigration officer will inspect your I-20 document, passport, and visa and issue an admission stamp and then return your passport to you.
  • The immigration officer may or may not ask to see additional documents, as mentioned above.

Entry/Exit Border Procedures

  • During the entry process, students should answer all questions clearly and honestly. Omission or misrepresentation of information can result in denial of entry or detainment.

You may be deported/detained if you have…

  • No papers, overstayed your visa, came on a false passport, or are applying for status (even if you have a work permit)
  • Undocumented employment
  • Any criminal conviction, even if the conviction is old, minor, you never went to jail, or you have a green card.
  • Old order of deportation

Know the details of your program and tuition fees

  • You can find information about your program and related fees on here.

If you are traveling to a city where the University is not located, immigration officers may ask you why you are heading to a new destination instead of the University location.

Executive programs at Alderson Broaddus University require student attendance on pre-scheduled residency days, thus allowing students the option to live and work anywhere in the U.S. For additional information regarding the residency format, please ask your designated school official. You may also present a copy of your course schedule and syllabus as documentation of your scheduled residency dates.

Be prepared to answer the following questions. There is no guarantee that these questions will or will not be asked as they are suggestions only.

  • What is the purpose of your visit to the U.S.?
  • How long do you plan to visit?
  • Where will you be staying?
  • How do you support yourself and your education while in the U.S.?
  • How much money are you carrying?

Students on active CPT employment

There are no regulations limiting travel for students on CPT; however, your reason for travel must not be work-related. Prior to traveling, please be sure to gather any required documentation listed in the travel information guide referenced above. You will also need a letter from your employer with approval to travel, dates of travel, and anticipated date of return to work. It is a good idea for you to carry with you proof of employment, such as a paycheck receipt and any other important documentation that you think necessary.

Should you choose to remove CPT from your SEVIS record while traveling, you cannot remain on payroll until CPT authorization is added back to your SEVIS record.

Additional resources:


Bobbi Davis

Recruiting & Admissions Coordinator for the College of Adult & Distance Education
Bobbi Davis

Recruiting & Admissions Coordinator for the College of Adult & Distance Education


Derek A. Holbert

Associate Professor of Computer Science, Dean, College of Adult and Distance Education
Derek A. Holbert

Associate Professor of Computer Science, Dean, College of Adult and Distance Education