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International Students and Vacations

June 27, 2012

As warmer weather and longer days approach in the United States, so does summer vacation for many students. If you are interested in taking a vacation, make sure you know the rules so you can stay in compliance and maintain your F or M student status.

If you are considering taking a vacation, first talk with your designated school official (DSO). Your DSO can tell you if you are eligible for a vacation. Do not take a vacation from school without informing your DSO. Making this notification is especially important to make sure that you will be able to stay in status and not jeopardize any benefits for which you may plan to apply. Regulations provide requirements for when a vacation from school is acceptable for an F or M student.

An F student may take the equivalent of one academic term of vacation after completing a full academic year – often the summer, for a university student. During breaks when your school is not open, such as a winter break in December and January, you may take time off without counting it as an annual vacation. Each academic year, a student may take another vacation, as long as the student will enroll for the following term.

If you leave the United States during your vacation, you must bring the required documents with you so that you can easily re-enter the United States and avoid receiving a Form I-515A. Make sure you hand carry (do not put in checked baggage) your valid passport, a signed, valid Form I-20 (including a DSO certification that is valid for your re-entry at the time you plan to return), and evidence of financial support. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program also strongly suggests that you have with you evidence of acceptance by your school, paper receipt for payment of your I-901 SEVIS Fee, and the name and contact information for your DSO, including a 24-hour emergency contact telephone number at the school.

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