F-1 students in lawful status and in good academic standing are eligible to return to the United States following a temporary absence abroad in order to continue full-time studies at Teachers College.
In general, you will need the following documents in order to return to the United States
Upon return to the United States, you will receive a new I-94 record which should include a notation of "F-1 D/S": this indicates that you are being allowed to re-enter the country as an F-1 student for "duration of status," i.e., for the period of time that you are a full-time student, as indicated on your I-20. You will be able to locate your most recent I-94 record by visiting the Department of Homeland Security website here. If you have difficulty locating your I-94 record or if you see any errors in information, contact the Office of International Students and Scholars immediately upon your return.
If you are in need of a travel signature, you can submit a Travel Signature Request via TC-Compass. Once processed, your updated Form I-20, reflecting the travel signature, will be emailed to you.
*Note that as of November 1, 2021, Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) published new guidance which allow schools to electronically sign a Form I-20, scan and email or electronically transmit the Form I-20 to the student.
Re-entry after short-term travel (less than 30 days) directly to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean
If you are taking a short-term trip (less than 30 days) to one of these destinations and will return to the United States directly, you may return on the basis of an expired visa. Your F-1 visa does not need to be valid in order for you to be eligible to return. However, you must still have a valid passport, an expired or unexpired U.S. visa, your unexpired I-20 with a travel signature, and if you were issued a paper version I-94--your I-94 card when you leave the U.S. and have it readily available for re-entry in the country.
If you intend to depart the United States for an extended period of time, please notify the OISS. Your F-1 status may be terminated if:
Students who will be outside of the United States for an extended period of time for the specific purpose of engaging in data collection, fieldwork, and research-related reasons may retain F-1 student status but must maintain full-time registration during the autumn and spring semesters. Registration during the summer is not required.
*Note: Due to the impact of COVID-19, “if an active F student leaves the United States to complete the spring term online, their SEVIS record should remain in Active status and not be terminated. While the temporary measures related to COVID-19 are in place, students are deemed to be maintaining status if they are making normal progress in their course of study. For that reason, the five-month temporary absence provision addressed in 8 C.F.R. 214.2(f)(4) will not apply for students who remain in Active status...”
If you have an un-expired EAD (Employment Authorization) card for post-completion optional practical training, you may be re-admitted to the US after a temporary absence (e.g., visit to your home country) to resume employment. However, you must carry the following documents:
F-2 dependents should carry their own individual I-20s when traveling, whether traveling alone or together with the F-1 student. In addition, each F-2 dependent must have a valid F-2 visa. If the F-2 is traveling alone, it is strongly recommended that they carry copies of the F-1 student's I-20, visa, I-94 card, and EAD (OPT) card, if applicable.
Whenever you wish to leave the U.S. temporarily for a trip abroad, check with the consulate of the country you intend to visit regarding entrance requirements. You may need to apply for a visa to enter that country. Note that most consulates will not issue you an entry visa if your US visa has expired and/or your I-20 has not been endorsed for re-entry to the United States.
If you will be traveling within the United States, it is not necessary to bring all of your immigration documents. However, you should bring the following:
Whenever you wish to leave the U.S. temporarily for a trip abroad, check with the consulate of the country you intend to visit regarding entrance requirements. You may need to apply for a visa to enter that country. Note that most consulates will not issue you an entry visa if your US visa has expired and/or your I-20 or DS-2019 has not been endorsed for re-entry to the United States.
U.S. entry visas are only issued at U.S. consulates outside of the United States and are only necessary for the purpose of entering/re-entering the United States. You do not need a valid F-1/J-1 visa to stay in the U.S. as an F-1/J-1 student, but you do need a valid visa to return to the U.S. as an F-1/J-1 student (exception: see information about travel to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean above), whether to continue studies and/or post-completion Academic Training/OPT.
If your visa has or will expire, and if you plan to travel, you may need to apply for a new F-1/J-1 visa at a U.S. consulate prior to returning (note: Canadian citizens are not required to have entry visas). Plan carefully, as waiting times and application procedures may be lengthy. In general, you will need the following in order to obtain a new F-1/J-1 visa:
1) An unexpired passport valid at least six months into the future
2) An unexpired I-20/DS-2019 from Teachers College with a re-entry endorsement (travel signature) signed by the Office of International Students and Scholars
3) Recent financial documents (bank letters, scholarship letters, etc.) showing that you have continued access to financial resources to support your education
4) Evidence of continued full-time enrollment at TC, such as your course registration or transcript
5) Evidence of the SEVIS I-901 fee, if necessary
Are you a TC student on an F-1 or J-1 student visa inviting your friends and family to visit you temporarily? You do NOT need any letter or document from the OISS to invite a family member as a B-1 or B-2 visitor. If you wish to invite family members, other than your F-2 spouse or child, to visit the United States for a short time on a visitor visa, you may provide them with the following in support of their visa application:
Note that an individual applying for a visitor visa should follow the directions of the US embassy or consulate for information regarding their visa application. Individuals on a B-1 or B-2 status is admitted to the US for a temporary period and should be mindful of their duration of status indicated on their documents.