Travel Guidelines

It is important to know what can be expected when traveling within and outside the United States while on an F-1 visa. You are encouraged to review this information several weeks prior to departure for any sort of travel. If you have any questions or concerns regarding travel, please feel free to reach out to the PDSO.

There is always risk involved with international travel. However, you can reduce your risk by planning ahead and carrying the proper documentation.

Travel Documentation

The following is a list of documents we strongly recommend you bring with you when you travel within the U.S. or internationally while you are a student at Eureka College.

Documents Needed

Travel Within the U.S.

If you stay within the U.S. and its territories (this includes Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands), you should carry your immigration documents with you as proof of your valid status.

  • I-20, passport, visa, I-94 Printout. Your visa can be expired: F-1 students do NOT need a valid visa to stay within the U.S. (Make sure that you do not travel to any other country in route to your final destination.)

  • Your Eureka College student ID as proof that you are a student enrolled at EC

Travel Abroad for Less Than 5 Months

We encourage all international students to notify the PDSO prior to any international travel by emailing your travel destination and dates to

All students traveling abroad should verify they have all the necessary documentation for re-entry prior to departure. Many common questions regarding F-1 travel and re-entry procedures can be answered by visiting F-1 Travel FAQ. If you have further questions or concerns regarding travel abroad, you may discuss them with the PDSO.

It is recommended that you carry the following documents with you when traveling abroad:

  • F-1 students require a valid travel signature. The travel signature on your I-20 is valid for one year from the date it was signed. To request a travel signature, please meet with the PDSO. Be prepared to share with her your travel destination and your departure and return dates

  • Passport valid for 6 months past your date of re-entry.

  • Valid U.S. F-1 visa (citizens of Canada and Bermuda do not need a visa to enter the U.S.).

    • If your visa stamp has expired, you will need to apply for a new visa in order to re-enter the U.S.

    • Visit the Visa Renewal drop-down section below for further details.

  • I-94 Printout marked D/S (“Duration of Status”)

  • Contact information for our office in the event that the border officer needs to reach us. (Please stop in to speak directly with the PDSO before departing for your trip.)

  • Other documents related to your status: transcripts, recent tuition receipts, proof of finances (bank statement, scholarship award letter, etc.), Eureka College ID, EC employment or invitation letter, documents related to any pending USCIS applications, SEVIS I-901 fee receipt.

  • Valid visa for other countries: If you are not returning to your home country, you may need a visa to travel to or even through (transit visa) other countries. Check the foreign embassy/consulate website for every country on your itinerary.

    • Visit the Department of State Learn About Your Destination site to find important travel alerts/warnings and links to foreign embassy websites where you can check visa requirements.

Travel to Canada, Mexico, or Adjacent Islands

F-1 students should carry the same documents for travel abroad (listed above). The only difference is that your F-1 visa can be expired if you are eligible for automatic visa revalidation.

You are eligible for automatic visa revalidation if ALL of the below are true:

  1. You are traveling for 30 days or less

  2. You have maintained and intend to resume your F-1 status

  3. You did not apply for a U.S. visa while abroad

  4. You are not from Cuba, Iran, Sudan, or Syria

Please visit for more information on automatic visa revalidation.

Any time you travel to a country that is not your country of citizenship, you should check whether you need a visa to enter or transit through that country.


List of adjacent islands:

  • Saint Pierre

  • Miquelon

  • Cuba

  • The Dominican Republic

  • Haiti

  • Bermuda

  • The Bahamas

  • Barbados

  • Jamaica

  • The Windward and Leeward Islands

  • Trinidad

  • Martinique

  • Other British, French, and Netherlands territory or possessions in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea

Emergency Travel

If you will be traveling abroad for more than just a few days in the middle of the fall/spring semester and not during one of the normal school breaks, we recommend that you request a letter from your PDSO:

  • explaining the reason for your travel

  • stating that your course instructors are aware of your travel plans (you will need to show written proof that your instructors are aware of your absence)

  • verifying that you will return to resume your studies or work

You should carry this letter with you while you are traveling, along with all the other documents for travel abroad (listed above).

Port of Entry
I-94 Printout

F-1 and J-1 students should printout their  I-94 record after every re-entry into the US. Even though you have been granted an F-1 visa in your passport, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer has the authority to deny or grant you entry into the US. Your I-94 printout serves as proof of the status you were granted admission on and the length of time you are permitted to stay in the U.S.

Print and review your I-94 information after every re-entry to make sure your were admitted in F-1 status and for “D/S” which stands for “Duration of Status.” This means that you are allowed to stay in the U.S. as long as you continue to maintain your status. If any information is incorrect on your I-94, please contact the PDSO immediately.

Secondary Inspection

If you are missing any of the required documentation for entry into the U.S. or the border officer cannot verify your information, you may be brought to an interview area known as “secondary inspection.” It is important that you have the phone number for the PDSO in case someone at Eureka College needs to be contacted in order to verify your valid F-1 status.

Form I-515A

If an F-1 student has most but not all of the documentation required at the border, the officer may choose to issue a  Form I-515A . This form gives the student temporary admission into the U.S. for 30 days. During that time, the student/scholar must submit the missing documentation to SEVP in order for their admission to be extended.

If you receive a Form I-515A, contact the PDSO immediately after your arrival and schedule an appointment.

FAQ: Visa Renewal

Do I need a new visa?
  • The visa stamp in your passport acts like a “ticket” into the U.S.  If you remain in the U.S. and your visa expires, that does not mean that you are out-of-status.

  • If you will be traveling outside of the country, however, you will need a valid visa in order to re-enter the U.S. If you will have to apply for a new visa, we recommend that you plan your travel accordingly, making sure you have enough time to obtain your visa and return in time for classes.

  • Your I-20 combined with your entry stamp and/or I-94 printout are the active documents that permit you to remain in the U.S. F-1 visa holders are allowed to stay for D/S or “Duration of Status”, which means the period of time in which students are maintaining their non-immigrant status.

  • The completion date on your I-20 determines the expiration of your status, NOT your visa stamp expiration date. If you require more time to complete your studies, you must request an extension at least 2 weeks prior to your I-20 completion date.

Where can I renew my visa?
  • You cannot apply for a US visa from within the US. We recommend that you apply for a visa at the US Consulate or Embassy in your home country.

  • Some consulates allow students to renew their visa by mail or drop box. Check the website of the specific consulate where you will apply to verify if such processing is possible, and whether you are eligible.

  • It is possible for F-1 visa holders to apply for a visa in a third country (a country that is not their home country). However, it may be more difficult for the consular officer to evaluate your ties to your home country. You will also need to stay in that country while you application is pending, and if you are denied the visa, you will not be allowed to re-enter the US. You will need to depart directly to your home country in order to apply for a new visa to re-enter the US. If you choose this option, please remember to:

    • Check the website of the US consulate where you plan to apply to make sure they accept TCN (third country national) applicants.

    • Check the foreign consulate website of the country where you plan to apply to see if you need a visa to enter that country.

How do I apply for my visa?
  • The application procedures should be very similar to when you first applied for your F-1 visa.

  • Always visit the website of the specific consulate or embassy where you will be applying for information on current application and documentation requirements, as they may vary by consular post.

What should I bring to my visa interview?
  • Most consulates require a personal interview with a consular officer and collect biometric identifiers (e.g. fingerprints and digital photograph).

  • You should bring with you all the items mentioned in the general visa application information links above, along with any other items listed on the website of the specific consulate where you will apply.

  • Don’t forget to:

    • Request a new travel signature from the PDSO, if the current signature on your I-20 will be more than one year old on your planned date of re-entry.

    • Request a letter of intent to return to Eureka College from the PDSO - request this no later than two weeks (10 business days) before you plan to depart the U.S. 

    • Request transcripts in a sealed envelope from the Registrar’s Office - request this no later than two weeks (10 business days) before you plan to depart the U.S.

    • Print your SEVIS fee receipt. If you have been outside the US for 5 months or more or if your SEVIS number has changed, you may be required to pay the SEVIS fee again.

    • Bring proof of finances. Students should be able to verify the amount shown as the total on their I-20 with a personal bank statement, or sponsor’s letter and sponsor’s bank statement.

How long will it take to get my visa?
  • You can check on typical visa wait times for your consulate, but this is just an estimate. It is always best to check with the specific consulate or embassy where you will apply, as procedures may vary.

  • Consulates and embassies frequently conduct background checks that can result in possible delays in visa issuance. Background checks can be triggered by, but not limited to, arrests in the United States, country of citizenship, certain courses that appear on a student’s transcript, or by field of study.

  • If the consular officer suspects that you may be inadmissible or ineligible for the visa, he/she may request additional security clearances. If you are subject to a security clearance, it may take several months to receive your visa.

  • Some visa delays are caused by issues outside of your control. Examples include instability in the region and limited consular staff resources.

  • If you believe that applying for your visa may cause you to be unable to return to the US to resume your studies on time, we recommend that you think through carefully your decision to travel and weigh the pros and cons.