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Temporary Absence and Re-entry to the U.S.

Absences longer than 5 months will require a new “initial attendance” I-20/DS-2019 and payment of SEVIS I-901 fee. This constitutes beginning a new F-1/J-1 program, and students will not be eligible for any off-campus employment (i.e. OPT, CPT) until they enroll for one academic year on full-time basis.

Required Documents for Re-entry

In order to re-enter the U.S. after a temporary absence (not exceeding 5 months) you must carry the following documents:

  • Valid Passport
  • Valid F-1/J-1 visa stamp (except for a short trip to Canada, Mexico and Adjacent Islands)
  • Valid I-20/DS-2019 with travel endorsement from CIS. An F-1 student who is out of status must have a new “initial attendance” I-20.
  • Evidence of adequate finances
  • Copy of PC transcript and your current course schedule (optional)

Travel Endorsements

To travel outside of the country and re-enter the U.S. as an F-1/J-1 student, you must have a valid I-20/DS-2019 which has been endorsed by an International Student Advisor (F-1) or Program Sponsor (J-1). F-1 students may need a new I-20 if they have failed to maintain status.

F-1 students, and J-1 students whose DS-2019 was issued by PC, must obtain the travel endorsement at CIS (Harkins Hall 215). Bring the following documents to request an endorsement:

  • Passport
  • Your current, original I-20/DS-2019

Allow one week for processing. A travel signature is valid for one year from the date of issuance. However, you are strongly advised to obtain a new endorsement if the previous one is over six months old.

F-2/J-2 Dependent Travel

Dependents in F-2/J-2 generally need the same documents to re-enter the U.S. as the primary F-1/J-1 student. Be sure to obtain an endorsement on the dependent I-20 or DS-2019 in order to re-enter the U.S.

Dependents are not required to travel with the primary F-1/J-1 student. In addition, dependents may remain in the U.S. without the primary as long as the F-1/J-1 maintains their current status and will return after a temporary absence (generally 30 days or less) using the same SEVIS ID number.

Trips to Mexico, Canada & Adjacent Islands

To facilitate entry into Canada or Mexico as a visitor, you must carry all the documents listed above except for a valid F-1/J-1 visa stamps for some students. In addition, a visitor’s visa may be required depending on your country of citizenship

Visitor’s Visa to Canada and Mexico

F-1/J-1 students or their dependents who are planning a trip to Canada or Mexico should contact the respective consulate offices to determine whether a visitor’s visa to the country is needed prior to your trip.

Mexican Consulate

Canadian Consulate

Re-entering the U.S. from Canada on an Expired F-1/J-1 Visa

Most students may travel to Canada, Mexico and Adjacent Islands and re-enter the U.S. on an expired F-1/J-1 visa if the trip does not exceed 30 days (this is referred to as Automatic Visa Revalidation). Please note, however, that Automatic Revalidation, or entry on an expired visa, does not apply when a student applies for a new F-1/J-1 visa in Canada or Mexico and is denied.

CIS and the Department of Homeland Security recommend that students print out and carry a copy of a DHS document explaining the rules related to Automatic Revalidation (along with page 2, a copy of the regulations). This document should only be provided to the Customs and Border Protection officer at the port of entry if they experience difficulties in processing their re-entry.

DHS Automatic Visa Re-Validation Document.

Applying for a New F-1 Visa

To request permission to re-enter the U.S. from outside of North America, you must have a valid F-1 or J-1 visa in your passport. A U.S. visa can only be obtained abroad at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate, preferably in your home country.


Potential nonimmigrants w ho are initially issued an I-20/DS-2019 to begin a new program on or after that date, unless exempted, will be required to pay the SEVIS fee prior to obtaining their visa –if a visa is required– or entering the U.S. Generally this fee does not apply to students who have maintained their current F-1/J-1 immigration status and are continuing their program of study.

US-VISIT Program

The US-VISIT program is operational at most major U.S. airports and seaports and tracks foreign visitors to the U.S. through the use of biometrics (measurable, physical characteristics used to recognize identities such as fingerprints and eye scans).

When students and the dependents in F/J status enter the U.S., immigration officers continue to review their travel documents (i.e. passport, SEVIS I-20, visa, etc.) In addition, they takes the non-immigrants’ fingerprints (with inkless fingerprint scanner) and a digital photograph of their face.

When non-immigrants depart the U.S., they are required to “check out” at an exit kiosk at the port of departure. The exit procedures have not been fully implemented. Non-immigrants are expected to complete the exit procedures where the exit kiosks and attendants are available in some major U.S. ports.

Special Registration (NSEERS)

Under Special Registration (NSEERS: National Security Entry-Exit Registration System), nonimmigrants from certain countries are required to:

  1. Register with immigration authorities at a port of entry.
  2. Report to DHS for additional in-person interviews if instructed by the Port-of-Entry official.
  3. Notify immigration authorities of changes of residential address by updating address in WSU METRO [link to METRO page].
  4. Use specially designated port when leaving the U.S. and report in person to an immigration officer at the port on their departure date.

Male citizens or nationals of the following countries are required to comply with the Special Registration. (as of December, 2003)

Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen