- Planning is the key. Think several weeks in advance about what you will need for your trip and assemble it. That way, you will not be stressed out at the last minute.
- Make two copies of all of your important documents. Those include all of the I-20s you've been issued (from every school you've attended) and the pages in your passport showing your picture, birth date, passport number, expiration date, visa and I-94 card. Keep one set of copies in your carry-on luggage, one set in your checked baggage and leave a set at home preferably with someone who can send them to you if needed
- Visit the ISS office to have your I-20 signed if the last time it was signed was more than a year ago. Do this several days before you travel. Do not wait until the last minute.
- If you are traveling outside of the United States
1. Check the visa (for the United States) in your passport to learn if it has expired. If so, you will have to apply at a US Embassy or Consulate to have it renewed before returning to the United States.
2. If you have changed your visa status to F-1 in the United States, you will have to apply for an F-1 visa at a US Embassy or Consulate before returning to the United States. Remember, you are currently in F-1 status but you do not have an F-1 visa.
If you need to get your F-1 visa renewed or if you need to apply for an F-1 visa, you should contact the US Embassy/Consulate in the country where you are traveling BEFORE you travel to learn how long the process may take. Warning: Currently, it often takes a few weeks to apply for a visa so you may need to take the entire term as a vacation. Also, if possible, you may want to make an appointment with the US Embassy in the country you're traveling to BEFORE you leave the U.S. We recommend this because it often takes 3-4 weeks just to get an appointment. Also, obtain a bona-fide letter from the ISS office and a copy of your transcript from the Registrars office.
3. If you are traveling outside of the United States to a country other than your home country, call the embassy of that country to learn if you need a visa to enter that country. If so, ask what the requirements, cost, and timeframe are to apply for a visa. Keep in mind that it often takes 2-3 weeks to process a visa application.
- If you are traveling in the United States, make sure to carry your original passport and I-20 with you at all times. If you are stopped by any government official (i.e., police, border patrols, immigration officers, etc.), you will be required to show them your original documents.