F-1 Visa Renewal

F-1 Visa Renewal

F-1 students (except citizens of Canada and Bermuda) are required to have valid, unexpired F-1 entry visas in order to enter the United States as F-1 students.

You are required to have a valid F-1 entry visa for the purpose of entering the U.S. in F-1 status. However, once you are in the U.S., the expiration of your F-1 visa has no bearing on your eligibility to stay. You may remain in the U.S. as long as you have a valid and unexpired I-20, an I-94 card marked 'F-1 D/S,' and are making full-time progress toward the degree objective indicated on your I-20.


Before Leaving the U.S.

Before leaving on a trip outside the U.S., check the expiration date of your visa and the number of entries you are allowed. If your visa is expired or will expire while you are abroad, you may need to renew it while you are abroad. Short trips (30 days or less) to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean do not require an unexpired F-1 visa for re-entry into the U.S.

You cannot obtain a new visa while in the U.S. Visas are issued only at U.S. consulates outside of the United States. In order to obtain a new F-1 visa, you must carry with you: 

  1. a valid Form I-20 from TC with a recent travel signature on page 2
  2. any previously-issued I-20s from TC or other schools
  3. an unexpired passport (valid at least 6 months into the future)
  4. recent financial documents showing evidence of continued financial ability 
  5. receipt of your I-901 SEVIS fee payment (see below) 
  6. transcripts or other evidence attendance at TC and previous schools
  7. visa application form, fees, and photographs (consult the instructions of your local consulate)

To confirm the requirements and procedure for applying for renewal of an F-1 visa, consult the embassy/consulate where you will be applying. Most consulates post current information on their web site. Go to USEmbassy.gov for a list of consular websites worldwide.  Additional information about F and J visas can be found on the Study & Exchange page of the U.S. Department of State website.

Please be sure to plan carefully. Visa appointments and application procedures vary from consulate to consulate, and waiting times vary depending on the time of year.


I-901 SEVIS Fee

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security started charging a I-901 SEVIS fee in September 2004. Currently the fee is $350 for F-1 students. Students may or may not be required to pay the fee, depending on the following criteria:

  1. If you are an F-1 student who entered the U.S. in F-1 status on the basis of an I-20 issued before September 1, 2004, you are not required to pay the fee if you have maintained lawful F-1 status wihthout interruption since your initial entry. You should carry copies of your previous I-20(s) showing that you entered the U.S. on the basis of an I-20 issued before September 1, 2004.
  2. If you are an F-1 student who entered the U.S. after September 1, 2004 and you have already paid the fee, you do not need to pay the fee again. You should simply show a copy of your original I-901 SEVIS fee payment receipt.
  3. If you are an F-1 student and you are applying for an F-1 visa following an absence of five months or if you are returning to resume your current program following a leave absence, you are required to pay the fee.
  4. If you are applying for reinstatement or traveling to regain your F-1 status, you are required to pay the fee. 

Since individual situations may vary, contact the OISS at tcintl@tc.columbia.edu with specific information about your F-1 history, so that we may help you determine whether or not you are subject to the I-901 SEVIS fee.


Applying for a Visa in a Third Country

It is not always possible to renew your U.S. visa outside in a third country (i.e., a country that is not your country of citizenship or legal permanent residence). Some U.S. consulates do not accept visa applications from "third country nationals" at certain busy times of the year. (For example, the U.S. Embassy in Paris may not accept applications from non-French citizens during the summer.) Since 1996, many consulates around the world will not accept visa applications from third country nationals at all.

Also, if you apply for a U.S. visa in Canada or Mexico and your application is denied, you will not be allowed to re-enter the U.S. Discuss plans to apply for a visa in a country other than your own with one of the International Student Advisors.

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