International Student Travel

IPO encourages you to contact the IPO anytime you plan to travel outside of the U.S. This is particularly important as regulations and practices concerning reentry into the United States continue to change. Many students now experience significant difficulties and delays in applying for visas at U.S. embassies or consulates. When you return to the U.S. after travel abroad, you should bring your passport, Form I-20, and Form I-94 to the IPO so that we may update your file. Please print your I-94 directly from CPB website; your class of admission is F-1. Immigration regulations require that we maintain current copies of your passport and immigration documents.

Travel Within the U.S.

You may travel within the U.S. provided you maintain your lawful F-1 status and have a valid passport or valid North Carolina state ID, Form I-20, and Form I-94 in your possession.

Travel Outside the U.S. before Completion of Studies

You may leave the U.S. at any time. You are permitted to return in F-1 status if you have a valid passport, valid F-1 visa stamp and a current Form I-20 that has been signed for travel on page 3 by an authorized staff member at the IPO. Only a Designated School Official (DSO) at the IPO is authorized to sign a Form I-20. A travel signature is valid for one year except for travel to Canada, Mexico and adjacent islands, in which case the signature is valid for six months.

Procedures for returning to Methodist University are different from those for returning to attend a different school. If you wish to attend a different school upon your return to the U.S., you should notify IPO of your intention before your departure. You must obtain a new Form I-20 from your new school and present it to an immigration officer upon reentry the U.S.

Travel Outside the U.S. after Completion of Studies

The date you officially complete your studies (see “Completion of Studies” section) is very important to your ability to travel and re-enter the U.S. If you attempt to return to the U.S. in F-1 status after your completion date, you may be denied the right to re-enter the U.S. unless you have been authorized to engage in Optional Practical Training and have received your Employment Authorization Document and obtained a written offer of employment in your field of study.

If you depart the U.S. and wish to return after the date of your completion of studies, you must present the following documents to the CBP inspector upon arrival back in the U.S.:

  1. Your valid OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card (USCIS Form I-765)
  2. Your Form I-20 which has been endorsed for travel within the last six months by the IPO
  3. Your passport
  4. Your valid F-1 visa stamp
  5. Proof of employment in the field of study

Application for New F-1 Visa during Travel

F-1 students are allowed to remain in the U.S. with an expired F-1 visa stamp, provided that they are maintaining their status and their passport and Form I-20 are valid. Although you may remain in the U.S. with an expired F-1 visa, it will be necessary to apply for a new visa during your next trip abroad. You will need a valid F-1 visa in order to reenter the U.S.

Students needing to apply for a new visa during a trip abroad should inform the IPO before travel. Security checks and supplemental visa application forms developed since September 11, 2001 have significantly delayed the visa application process in many countries. Students planning to apply for a visa in Canada or in a country other than their home country should first consult an IPO advisor.

Holidays and Vacations

You may remain in the United States and still maintain F-1 status during holidays and vacation periods observed by Methodist University, including summer vacation, provided you are eligible and intend to register for the next academic semester and all of your immigration documents remain valid.