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Traveling Abroad for 5 Months or More (F1)

  • If you are a WSU student who held F-1 visa status in the U.S. and currently you are studying abroad or on a leave of absence, THIS NOTICE APPLIES TO YOU. You need to know your absence from the U.S. affects your visa status and future employment opportunities in the U.S. An F-1 student who has been absent from the U.S. for more than five consecutive months is considered by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) to have abandoned his/her F-1 status. Reentry into the U.S. as an F-1 student after a five-month or longer absence is considered an initial, completely new, admission and requires the issuance of a new I-20 Form. DO NOT, repeat do not, attempt to use the I-20 form already in your possession. Use only the new I-20 form we will send you t your request.

    When you return to WSU, you must bring your passport and visa documents to our office for us to check. We will review your documentation for any errors that the immigration officials may have made when processing your entry. In addition, please be advised that students who have abandoned their F-1 status postpone their eligibility for any benefits (such as practical training employment) which require an individual to be a full-time student in valid nonimmigrant status for nine months. These benefits are unavailable to students who have abandoned their F-1 status until they have completed a new nine-month course of study.

Things to do Before You Leave (Checklist)

  • This list is a collection of some (but certainly not all) of the things that international visitors should plan on taking care of before leaving for their home countries permanently or for an extended visit.

        • Fill out forwarding address forms at the US Post Office as soon as you have an address.

        • Request change of address cards from the US post office and the WSU Registrar. Keep UCIE (E 190 Student Union) informed of any US address. Also, inform your department and place of residence of your forwarding address. (Not all US mail will be forwarded!)

        • Have your phone disconnected and pay all your phone charges.

        • Call your long distance phone company to be sure all of your long distance calls have been paid for.

        • Clear all your other expense accounts or have a trusted friend take care of them. Remember, you are the one responsible for monies owed on these accounts.

        • Close your bank accounts. With checking accounts, make sure that all checks have been cashed with sufficient funds before closing the account and that savings accounts are taken care of.

        • File any health and accident or auto insurance claims that are still outstanding.

        • Sell your car if you have one, and take care of the title. Remember to remove your parking sticker. If you have a bicycle you wish to sell, sell it before leaving.

        • Clear up any unpaid WSU bills so your diploma and/or transcripts can be released. Check with the Registrar for forwarding addresses. Also, inform your department of changes.

        • Order transcripts if you will need them. If you are returning home, order and pay for extras if there is a charge so you will not need to get foreign currency for them after you return home. Also ask for a transcript to be made AFTER the degree is granted and so stated on the transcript.

        • Leave forwarding address and/or permanent address at the Alumni Office.

        • Leave your permanent address with your department, faculty advisor, and others who might wish to be in contact with you.

        • Return departmental and other keys if you have any.

        • Make plans for checking out of your dorm room or apartment. Leave forwarding address with the manager or front desk. Return your keys and request the return of your security deposit.

        • If you are taking a computer or other such equipment home, take care of the necessary customs requirements. Consult your embassy or consulate to determine what customs regulations you will need to consider when taking your belongings home. Look into electrical connections and conversions.

        • Ask the post office about the shipping regulations to your home country. Inquire about special book rates.

        • Obtain airplane tickets and check with the airlines for specific regulations on the weight and size of suitcases, excess baggage, air freight, and costs. Check on the new strict regulations regarding carry-ons. If you are not checking your baggage through to your ultimate destination, be sure to ask what baggage regulations are for intermediate stops. Look into baggage insurance and keep VERY DETAILED information on the contents of each bag.

        • Arrange for transportation to the Airport. Contact the International Center for ideas if you need assistance.

        • If you have unneeded household items (pillows, blankets and other linens, pots and pans, irons, brooms, lamps, etc.) consider giving these to the WSU at the UCIE office for use by new students and scholars who will be arriving at WSU after your departure.

Visiting Canada or Mexico

  • Prior to traveling to Canada or Mexico international students and scholars must obtain an endorsement on their I-20 or DS-2019 at the University Center for International Education (UCIE) from the International Student Adviser. To obtain the required signature, bring your I-20 or DS-2019 to the UCIE and leave the form with the International Student Adviser with a request for his or her endorsement for your travel. The authorization is given provided the student has maintained visa status through full time enrollment. Some students go to Canada or Mexico to get their student visas (in the passport) extended, however, it is not necessary to have a current F-1 or J-1 visa to re-enter the US from Canada or Mexico. "Automatic Revalidation" of your previous visa will be accepted in such cases by the US Immigration Office border official. If you want to apply for a new F-1 or J-1 visa before returning to the US, make an appointment in advance at a US consulate in Mexico or Canada by calling 1-900-433-3131 or 1-888-840-00032.

    PLEASE NOTE: If you make an application for a new visa at a US consulate in Canada, you will be ineligible to use "automatic revalidation". Please consider also, that even if you may be eligible for "automatic revalidation," you may still be subject to significant delays at the Canadian (or Mexican) border to the US due to the your field of study being on the Technology Alert List or for a security check or "clearance". You should check with your international student adviser to see if this may be an issue in your case. Also keep in mind that "automatic revalidation" is not available to individuals from a country which the US Department of State has declared a State sponsoring terrorism. For more information about the arrangements necessary to apply for a visa in Canada or Mexico, visit the Bureau of Consular Affairs web-site at: http://travel.state.gov/visa/visa_1750.html.

    You are also advised to obtain an application for a Canadian visitor visa. The Canadian border officials will not admit you to enter Canada if you are a citizen from one of the countries required to obtain visa before entering Canada. More information is available on Canadian information page: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/index.asp

    Automatic Revalidation of Visas

    Note: Keep in mind that "automatic revalidation" is not available to individuals from a country which the US Department of State has declared a terrorist State.

    Under certain circumstances, an F-1 student with an expired visa may re-enter the United States as though the visa were still valid. An expired F-1 visa may be considered to be automatically extended to the date of application for readmission to the United States (and therefore the visa in the passport need not have an expiration date that is in the future), provided the F-1 student does the following:

        • applies for readmission to the United States after an absence not exceeding 30 days solely in Canada, Mexico or adjacent islands other than Cuba;
        • has maintained and intends to resume status as an F-1student;
        • presents (or is the accompanying spouse or child of an alien who presents) a valid Form I-94 and either a properly endorsed Form I-20ID (page 4 of Form I-20A-B), if there has been no substantive change in the information contained in items 4,5,7 or 8 on the most recent Form I-20A-B, or a new Form I-20A-B, if there have been substantive changes in that information;
        • possesses a valid passport (unless exempt from passport requirements); and
        • applies for readmission within the authorized period of initial admission or extension of stay.

    Furthermore, a person who entered in the United States in a classification other than F-1 student, may be considered to have the previous visa automatically revalidated and converted to an F-1 visa if he or she meets the conditions stated above. Thus, under these circumstances, a returning F-1 student whose visa has expired may be saved the necessity of applying for a new visa. A student whose visa has been cancelled or has applied unsuccessfully for a visa is not eligible for automatic visa revalidation. Individuals carrying passports issued from within the United States to replace the passport that contains their original non-immigrant visa may qualify for automatic visa revalidation only if they have the old passport in their possession. Citizens of countries that keep old passport upon issuance of a new one are therefore at a disadvantage when traveling to contiguous territories. Also keep in mind that "Automatic revalidation is not available to individuals from a country which the US Department of State has declared a terrorist State."

Traveling to Contiguous Territory and Adjacent Islands

  • For holders of F and J visa classes who have expired visa stamps in their passports, certain expired visa stamps are considered valid for travel only and solely to "contiguous territory and adjacent islands." Contiguous territory is Canada and Mexico, and adjacent islands are those located in the Caribbean (excluding Cuba). This means that you do not need a new visa stamp to reenter the U.S. after this type of travel. HOWEVER, this exception applies only as indicated below and ALL CRITERIA must be met. Furthermore, this exception may change as the political relationships between the U.S. and other countries change. Always check on the current status of these provisions before you travel. For holders of H and O visa classes who have expired visa stamps in their passports, certain expired visa stamps are considered valid for travel only to Canada and Mexico. The exception does not include travel to adjacent islands and applies only as indicated below and ALL criteria must be met. Again, check on the current status of these provisions before you travel.

    Criteria for the Provisions Listed Above

        • The time outside the United States MUST be for less than 30 days, and you must travel only into contiguous territory or adjacent islands. Travel to a third country from Canada, Mexico or an adjacent island is not permitted.
        • You must have in hand and present to the immigration officer a valid unexpired visa document (i.e., I-20, Ds-2019, I-797 approval notice).
        • You must have in hand and present to the immigration officer a valid unexpired passport.
        • You must have maintained F, J, H or O status and must intend to resume this class when you reenter the U.S.
        • You must have a valid I-94 card and apply for reentry before the end of the authorized stay.
        • You must not be considered inadmissible to the U.S. under Section 212(a) or 212(d)(3)(A) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. In other words, if either of the aforementioned notations appears on your expired visa stamp, you are not eligible for readmission. "J" visa holders - please do not confuse these two notations with Section 212(e) that indicates you are subject to the two-year home residence requirement. The Section 212(e) notation on your visa stamp does not affect your eligibility.

    NOTE: If traveling to Canada, Mexico or one of the adjacent islands, you certainly must check beforehand as to whether you need a visa stamp to enter those territories.

    So what is the action that can result in a foreign national being found to have committed visa fraud? An example may be helpful:

    Scenario I

    A Chinese national in the second year of her J.D. program wishes to go home at the Winter Break. Her original F-1 visa stamp expired in December of 1998, and a new visa stamp will be required in order to reenter the U.S. Having heard from a friend in China that the U.S. consulate in Beijing has refused to reissue new visa stamps to some persons also wishing to continue their academic programs in the U.S. - the consulate citing either insufficient funding or the possession of immigrant intent as the reason(s) for denying those requests - the WSU student is worried that if she flies from the U.S. back to China she may not be able to obtain a visa stamp to reenter the U.S. She knows, however, that she can get a visa stamp to enter Canada, and even though her U.S. visa stamp has expired, she also knows she can reenter the U.S. as long as she doesn't stay in Canada more than 30 days. So she travels to Canada and holds her I-94 card because she tells the immigration officer she will not be in Canada more than 30 days - which is true. She then flies from Canada to Beijing for two weeks. Once at home, she immediately goes to the U.S. consulate to apply for her visa stamp, but the officer denies her request. Then, even though she believes she has sufficient proof of funding and given she has done everything she can to prove she has non-immigrant intent (her family still lives in Beijing - she may even have a prospective Chinese employer), she returns to Canada and then arrives at the U.S. border with her expired U.S. visa stamp and her I-94 card still showing her status as F-1, D/S.

    The INS officer at the port of entry permits the student to reenter the United States, believing that she only has been in Canada and has not left Canada. Has visa fraud occurred? The answer is, "YES." Once the student left Canada for a destination OTHER THAN the United States, the "contiguous territory and adjacent islands" regulations have been violated. If Canada, Mexico or one of the approved adjacent islands is being used as a "launch site" for international travel with an expired U.S. visa stamp, then foreign nationals need to know they are breaking the law. They must return directly to the U.S. from any of the authorized territories - no side trips are permitted. Even if the INS officer readmits her to the U.S. in error or as a result of being misled by the student, the fraudulent admission remains as a permanent part of the student's immigration history. Visa fraud and misrepresentation are basic grounds for denying lawful permanent resident ("Green Card") status. It is also a basis for denying admission on any future trip to the U.S., even if she later obtains a valid visa stamp.

    Scenario II

    When the Chinese student attempts to reenter the U.S. in Vancouver, the INS officer at the port of entry inspects her travel documents and notices the stamps in her passport indicating a recent entry into China and an even more recent reentry into Canada. Immediately, the INS officer knows the student violated the contiguous territory rule, and the student is forced to return to China. The only way the student can complete her degree at WSU is to be issued a valid visa stamp for reentry to the United States.

    Important Consideration

    Each of us needs to recognize that being permitted into any country other than our country of citizenship or country of lawful permanent residence is a privilege - NOT A RIGHT. Thus, any time a foreign national chooses to travel abroad knowing s/he will need a new visa stamp to reenter, there IS NO GUARANTEE that 1) the new visa stamp will be issued, or 2) that you will be readmitted at the port of entry. Traveling abroad always carries some degree of risk, and the best thing you can do to insure that you encounter no problems is to carry valid documents with you at all times (including proof of funding if ever asked) and to abide by the laws and regulations governing your non-immigrant status.

Traveling to Canada to Obtain a Visa

  • Third country nationals wishing to apply for a visa in Canada must call the following number: 1-900-443-3131 to make an appointment at any one of the Consulates. Be prepared, it is very difficult to get through and the cost of the call is about $4 per minute. Calling early in the morning will get you the best results. Alternatively, you may apply for an appointment "on-line" at: http://www.amcits.com/nvars.asp Once scheduled for a visa appointment you can expect the following at particular consulates.

    MONTREAL

    It takes approximately 3 business days to get the visa. You must show up, in-person, in the morning, at the U.S. Consulate in Montreal to make an appointment for the following day. On Day #2, you have your appointment and turn in the application and required documentation. You are asked to return the next day (Day #3) to pick up his visa and other documents. The phone number of the U.S Consulate in Montreal is (514) 398-9695; the fax number is (514) 398-0973. Address: 1155 St. Alexandre Street, Montreal.

    OTTAWA

    Students applying in Ottawa must call the consulate well in advance to make an appointment. The consulate only accepts appointments on Tuesdays and Thursdays. You should schedule the appointment as soon as possible. At the appointment, you submit your application and documentation and are asked to return to the consulate at 3:00 p.m. on the following day to pick up the visa and documents. The phone number for the U.S. Consulate in Ottawa is (613) 238-5335, ext. 301. The fax number is (613) 234-2094. Address: 85 Albert Street, Ottawa, Ontario.

    QUEBEC CITY

    The U.S. Consulate in Quebec City accepts walk-in applications on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. You must submit your application and documentation and return in two days to pick up the visa and documents. Therefore, if you apply on Monday, you may pick up your visa on Wednesday; if you apply on Wednesday, you may pick up on Friday. The phone number for the U.S. Consulate in Quebec City is (418) 692-2095; the fax number is (418) 692-4640. Address: 2 Place Terrasse Dufferin C.P. 939, Quebec.

    TORONTO

    They state that it should take 5 business days to process an application, usually too long for many students (and could be longer if the student has to apply late in the week and stay over for the weekend). Recently, students have been able to get their visas in 3 days; so it really depends how busy they are. Students should arrive at the consulate EARLY in the morning (like 6:00 a.m.) to stand in line. Many students arrive before 7:00 a.m. and have been very far back in line. We recommend that you call so as to see what is recommended by the consulate. Applications are accepted between 8;30 a.m.-10:30 a.m. Phone: (416) 595-0228; Fax: (416) 595-0051. Address: 360 University Avenue, Toronto.

    In all cases, you should call ahead of time to make sure the consulate will be open and that the procedures have not changed. Another reminder, you must stay in Canada until a decision is made on the application because you must submit, as part of your application, your passport, Form I-20, Form I-94, and copies of financial documentation. There is also a 900 number for visa information for all U.S. Consulates in Canada. If you are calling within the U.S. the number is 900-656-2222. If you are calling from Canada the number is 900-451-6330 (recording) or 900-451-6663 (live voice).

Visa Appointment Reservation System

  • If you are a temporary visitor to Canada or are currently working, studying, or visiting the USA, you must obtain an appointment to apply for a visa. If you are a Canadian citizen or a Landed Immigrant in Canada from a British Commonwealth country or the Republic of Ireland, you do not need to make an appointment. Simply take your documentation and proof of Citizenship/Landed Immigrant Status and proceed to the Port of Entry.

    You can obtain an appointment by using the Visa Appointment Reservation System (VARS). The VARS is a system for booking non-immigrant visa interviews. Interviews may be booked at the U.S Embassy in Ottawa, Canada and selected Consulates and Consulates General in Canada and Mexico.

    If you want to make an appointment please visit the Visa Appointment Reservation System website for more information.

Automatic Visa Revalidation

  • There is a procedure available in the law, known as "automatic visa revalidation," which allows a person with an expired visa to re-enter the United States after a visit to Canada or Mexico, using a valid, unexpired I-94 in place of a visa.

    The rules are simple:
        • The person seeking re-entry must be returning from a visit to Canada or Mexico of less than 30 days duration. (Note: This procedure is not available if any other countries are visited while outside the U.S.);
        • The person seeking re-entry must be in possession of a valid, unexpired form I-94. In the case of F and J nonimmigrant's, they must also have a current I-20 or DS-2019, as appropriate; and,
        • The person seeking re-entry must have a valid passport.

    Anyone meeting these criteria will be allowed to re-enter the United States as though they had never left. If the person seeking re-entry has had his or her status changed (such as from F-1 to H-1, or B-2 to F-2), then the person will be readmitted in the changed classification as if they had a visa in the proper category. There are certain issues that must be kept in mind before using this procedure. They include:
        • The person applying for re-entry must present an original I-94. This means that you cannot allow the airline (or anyone else) to remove your I-94 when you depart from the U.S.
        • The I-94 presented must be valid. This means that it cannot have expired, or be for an incorrect nonimmigrant status. An example of this would be the case of a visitor (B-2) who is attending school, but who has not received change of status to F-1, but departs and tries to re-enter. In this case, the person would be returning to the U.S. to attend school, but would not have a student (F-1) I-94.
        • The person seeking re-entry must not have violated his or her status when previously in the U.S. If a person entered the U.S. as an F-1, violated status by working, and then tried to re-enter using an F-1 I-94 and an I-20 (and no visa), he or she would be subject to being refused entry.
        • PLEASE NOTE: If you make an application for a new visa at a US consulate in Canada, you will be ineligible to use "automatic revalidation". Please consider also, that even if you may be eligible for "automatic revalidation," you may still be subject to significant delays at the Canadian (or Mexican) border to the US due to the your field of study being on the Technology Alert List or for a security check or "clearance". You should check with your international student adviser to see if this may be an issue in your case. Also keep in mind that "automatic revalidation" is not available to individuals from a country which the US Department of State has declared a State sponsoring terrorism.

    For more information about the arrangements necessary to apply for a visa in Canada or Mexico, visit the Bureau of Consular Affairs web-site at: http://travel.state.gov/visa_services.html. The specific legal authority for this provision is found at Title 22, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 41.112(d), and is quoted below in its entirety: [ 22 C.F.R. 41.112(d)]

    (d) AUTOMATIC EXTENSION OF VALIDITY AT PORTS OF ENTRY.

    (1) Provided that the requirements set out in paragraph (d)(2) of this section are fully met, the following provisions apply to nonimmigrant aliens seeking readmission at ports of entry:
        (i) The validity of an expired nonimmigrant visa issued under INA 101(a)(15) may be considered to be automatically extended to the date of application for readmission, and
        (ii) In cases where the original nonimmigrant classification of an alien has been changed by INS to another nonimmigrant classification, the validity of an expired or unexpired nonimmigrant visa may be considered to be automatically extended to the date of application for readmission, and the visa may be converted as necessary to that changed classification.

    (2) The provisions in paragraph (d)(1) of this section are applicable only in the case of a nonimmigrant alien who:
        (i) Is in possession of a Form I-94. Arrival-Departure Record, endorsed by INS to show an unexpired period of initial admission or extension of stay, or, in the case of a qualified F or J student or exchange visitor or the accompanying spouse or child of such an alien, is in possession of a current Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, or Form IAP-66 (now DS-2019), Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status, issued by the school the student has been authorized to attend by INS, or by the sponsor of the exchange program in which the alien has been authorized to participate by INS, and endorsed by the issuing school official or program sponsor to indicate the period of initial admission or extension of stay authorized by INS;
        (ii) Is applying for readmission after an absence not exceeding 30 days solely in contiguous territory, or, in the case of a student or exchange visitor or accompanying spouse or child meeting the stipulations of paragraph (d)(2)(i) of this section, after an absence not exceeding 30 days in contiguous territory or adjacent islands other than Cuba;
        (iii) Has maintained and intends to resume nonimmigrant status;
        (iv) Is applying for readmission within the authorized period of initial admission or extension of stay;
        (v) Is in possession of a valid passport; and
        (vi) Does not require authorization for admission under INA 212(d)(3).

    (3) The provisions in paragraphs (d)(1) and (d)(2) of this section shall not apply to nationals of Iraq. (Now individuals from countries considered by the US Government to be state sponsors of terrorism may not be eligible for automatic visa revalidation) [53 FR 9110, 9172, Mar. 21, 1988; 55 FR 46028, Oct. 31, 1990]

    PDFMay 7, 2009 Fact Sheet update to Automatic Revalidation

Contact information

You can contact us by using the information below.

  • Wright State University
    University Center for International Education
    E190 Student Union
    3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy.
    Dayton, OH 45435-0001
  • Phone: 937-775-5745
  • Fax: 937-775-5776
  • Hours: 8:30 A.M. - 5:00 P.M.

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