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U.S. Department of Homeland Security: Study in the States

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Traveling as an International Student

As a student studying in the United States, you may be able to travel during your time of study. If you travel internationally, for annual vacation or during a school break, make sure you take the appropriate steps before you travel to ensure a smooth reentry into the United States. 

Meet with Your Designated School Official (DSO)

Before you travel abroad, it is important to check in with your DSO. When you meet with your DSO, you should ensure that your record in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is up-to-date and in Active status.

Make sure that your DSO has signed your Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status” within the last year, and that you are not leaving the country for more than 5 months. You should also make sure that you have your DSO’s most up-to-date contact information, including both a daytime telephone number at the school and a 24-hour emergency phone number, before you leave.

If you have a pending practical training application, it is not recommended that you leave the United States. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may send you a request for evidence while you are travelling, and you are expected to be able to send in the requested documents. USCIS will only send the requests to your U.S. address.

If USCIS approves your practical training application, you will receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), which USCIS will only send to your U.S. address. You are expected to have your EAD in hand to re-enter the United States. Visit the Travel page on ICE.gov/SEVP for more information about traveling with pending applications. 

What to Bring to U.S. Ports of Entry  

When you enter the United States, you will arrive at a port of entry and meet with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers for primary and sometimes a secondary inspection. The CBP officer may ask questions about your reason for travel and to inspect important documents like your

  • Student visa
  • Form 1-20
  • Passport

Your passport must be valid for at least six months after the date of your reentry. If you are an M-1 student, it is recommended that you bring your most recent Form I-94, “Arrival/Departure Record,” with you as well.

Be sure to hand-carry all of these items and do not put them in your checked baggage.

You do not need to repay the I-901 SEVIS Fee to reenter the United States after travel.

Form I-515A

If you arrive at a U.S. port of entry and do not have all your signed required documents, have not paid the I-901 SEVIS Fee on your current Form I-20 or have a SEVIS status issue, a CBP officer may issue you a Form I-515A, “Notice to Student or Exchange Visitor.” The Form I-515A admits you to the United States for 30 days while you obtain and submit the proper documentation to SEVP.

If you are issued a Form I-515A at a U.S. port of entry, visit the Form I-515A Overview page for instructions.

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