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Ask a DSO: How do I Prepare to Return to the United States after a Vacation?

Find out how to best prepare to return to the United States.

Designated school officials (DSOs) are school employees that are dedicated to helping F and M students at their school to maintain their nonimmigrant status. “Ask a DSO” is a series with advice from DSOs on the different situations F and M students may encounter, and for which they need to be prepared.

Towards the end of any vacation, it is important to start thinking about your return to the United States. Are you prepared to come back to school? Along with your clothes, books and computer, do not forget to bring important documents with you when you return to the United States. You should hand carry the following documents:

  • Current passport valid for at least six months after your re-entry date or current through the date of entry if you are from a visa waiver country
  • Valid visa (unless you traveled to Canada, Mexico or to an adjacent island for fewer than thirty days or are from a visa exempt country)
  • Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status” endorsed for travel (within the last 12 months for F students; within the last 6 months for M students)
  • Proof of financial support to pay tuition and living expenses

If you do not hand-carry these documents so they are available for inspection, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers may send you to secondary inspection where you may be issued a Form I-515A, “Notice to Student or Exchange Visitor.” The Form I-515A allows you to enter the United States for only 30 days, during which time you must submit missing documents to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) I-515A processing team so you can remain for your complete program of study. We recommend that you work with your DSO to do this. If you do not submit your documents within the 30 days, your student status terminates and you must depart the United States immediately.

We recommend that you also want to bring the following documents with you upon your return to the United States:

  • Copy of your transcript and proof of enrollment
  • Paper receipt for payment of your I-901 SEVIS fee
  • Name and contact information of your DSO, including a 24-hour emergency contact phone number at your school

Talk to your DSO about any questions you have.

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