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International Student & Scholar Services


Learn more about traveling outside the U.S. and renewing your visa.

Traveling Outside the U.S.

Students or scholars in F-1 or J-1 non-immigrant status should have the following documents in order to depart the U.S. and reenter in the same non-immigrant status to resume their program:

  • A valid passport with an expiration date that is at least six months in the future
  • A valid Form I-20 (F-1) or Form DS-2019 (J-1) with a signature for travel;  it is recommended to have a new signature every six months
  • A valid F-1 or J-1 non-immigrant visa in your passport; if you are a Canadian or Bermudian citizen, you do not need the visa in your passport
  • If you need to renew your F-1 or J-1 visa while abroad - be sure to review the recommendations for preparing for this visa renewal.
  • If you are participating in post-completion of studies Optional Practical Training (OPT), in addition to the above documents, you should have your valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card (OPT card) and a letter of employment from your employer

Traveling to Canada, Mexico & Caribbean

A student or scholar in F-1 or J-1 visa status who wants to visit Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean islands for less than 30 days, and is not a citizen of the country they intend to visit, may be able to do so even with an expired visa, with a few exceptions.  This is called “automatic revalidation of the visa” and only pertains to countries that are adjacent to the United States (Cuba not included). Be sure to take the following documents:

  • A valid passport (valid for at least six months into the future).
  • The current or expired passport containing the expired visa.
  • A valid/current Form I-94.
  • A valid Form I-20 or DS-2019 with a recent signature from the Office of International Student Services.
  • Evidence of return transportation arrangements.
  • Sufficient funds for length of stay in Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean.
  • Evidence of current status in the U.S. (Rollins I.D., copy of current registration, etc.).
  • A tourist visa for the country to be visited, if required.

In April 2002, there were changes made to this rule.  Automatic Revalidation of Visa is no longer available to citizens of the following countries:  Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, North Korea, and Cuba.  In addition, it is also not available for anyone who travels to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean, applies for a new visa to return to the U.S. and is denied the visa.  If the visa is denied, Automatic Revalidation of the Visa is not allowed and the person would need to return to their home country to apply at the U.S. Embassy there for a new visa.  With these exceptions, we highly recommend that you consult with an advisor in the Office of International Student & Scholar Services before planning any travel of this nature.

Depending upon your nationality, you may need a tourist or visitor’s visa to enter these countries. Information concerning tourist visas and the requirements to obtain them can be found by calling the Embassy or Consulate General of the country you wish to visit. If a tourist visa is required, go in person to the Consulate to file the application, or if necessary, file by mail. Be sure to give yourself sufficient time before your trip to obtain the visa.

Renewing Your Visa

When you initially received the visa stamp in your passport, an expiration date was noted. If your entry visa expires while you are studying in the U.S., there is no need to renew it as long as you stay in the U.S. However, if your entry visa has expired and you wish to travel abroad, you must renew your visa no matter how short a trip you are taking (with a few exceptions – see page on Travel to Canada, Mexico, Caribbean).

It is not possible to complete this procedure inside the U.S. if you are in F or J status. Although not required, it is best to apply for the student visa in your home country.  Theoretically, you may renew your visa at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy in any country to which you are traveling, but countries other than your home country may impose stricter requirements or be unwilling to renew a visa for a citizen or resident of another country.  Always consult with the OISS before leaving to renew your visa.

Documents you should have with you when renewing your visa include:

  • A valid passport.
  • A valid, recently signed Form I-20 (F-1) or Form DS-2019 (J-1).
  • Two current passport-sized photographs.
  • Financial documentation issued within the past 6 months, showing your ability to pay for your education and living expenses.

It is also recommended to have the following documents:

  • A copy of your current Rollins registration.
  • Transcripts from every school you have attended in the U.S.
  • The I-20 or DS-2019 from every school you have attended in the U.S.
  • A letter of support for the application issued by the Office of International Student & Scholar Services.

At the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, you will complete Form DS-156 (Application for Nonimmigrant Visa) and possibly be charged a processing fee (Taiwanese citizens apply through the American Institute in Taiwan; Canadian and Bermudian students are not required to obtain a visa if entering the U.S. from their home countries). The amount of time needed to obtain a student visa varies. All questions should be directed to the embassy or consulate.

Before issuing the renewed visa, the U.S. consular official must be convinced that you have a residence outside the United States that you have not abandoned and that you have not decided to seek permanent residence in the U.S. It is important to show the officer that you have strong ties to your country of residence, such as family, community or social ties, documents showing membership in professional organizations and religious groups, a family business, ownership of property, bank accounts, a job offer, or evidence that people with the kind of education you are seeking are needed. Do not emphasize any ties to or close relatives that you have in the U.S. and do not talk about working in the U.S. unless you have been awarded a graduate assistantship at Rollins.

If you are denied a student visa, you have probably not sufficiently proven to the consular officer that you are entitled to student status.  In most cases the denial will be based on failure to prove “permanent residence” or “strong ties” to your home country.  A visa denial is not permanent and may be reconsidered if you can show further convincing evidence.  We strongly suggest that you contact Rollins if you are denied a visa so that we can advise you prior to your second application.

Study Abroad

If you will be participating in a Rollins-approved semester abroad program, please keep the following things in mind:

  • Form I-20 must have a recent travel signature right before you depart. It is recommended to have a new signature every six months
  • A valid passport with an expiration date that is at least six months in the future
  • A valid F1 non-immigrant visa in your passport; if you are a Canadian or Bermudian citizen, you do not need a student visa in your passport

Please review the Visa page from Office of International Programs for further details on applying for visas for the country where you will be studying abroad: 

Non-Rollins Programs

We highly discourage international students from participating in a non-Rollins program because we cannot keep your SEVIS record Active. If you wish to enroll in a non-Rollins program, please see below the two options to continue your studies after your study abroad is completed:

Option 1:
Return to the U.S. within 5 months. OISSS will be required to terminate your SEVIS record as soon as you have departed the U.S. to attend your non-Rollins program. If you return to the U.S within 5 months from when you depart, we will be able to request SEVP to make a correction to your SEVIS record and change your status from Terminated to Active. We can only make this request 30 days before your arrival back to the U.S. We have seen delays with SEVP in finalizing these corrections within the 30 day time frame.

If at the point when you return to the U.S. and your record has not been changed to Active by SEVP, there is a high risk that the Customs and Border Protection officer will not allow you to enter the country or may detain you for questioning in Secondary Inspection.

If you are able to enter the country within the 5 month time frame, you will need to enroll in courses at Rollins as soon as possible to reactivate your student status here. Example: You study abroad for spring semester, depart in January and return in May (before the 5 months’ time frame), you must then enroll in Maymester or summer term.

Option 2:
Return to the U.S. after 5 months. OISSS will be required to terminate your SEVIS record as soon as you have departed the U.S. to attend your non-Rollins program. If you return to the U.S. after 5 months from when you depart, we will have to issue you a new Form I-20, you will need to pay for a new SEVIS fee and apply for a new student visa in your home country, before returning to the U.S. to resume your studies.

If you decide to go this route, the downside is that when you reenter your “student clock” will begin all over again. This means that for one academic year you would not qualify for any benefits that F1 students qualify for after studying in the U.S. for one academic year. These benefits consist of Curricular Practical Training and Optional Practical Training.

Please be sure to stop by the OISSS if you have any questions and to discuss your study abroad plans as you consider your options and BEFORE you depart for the semester.