Travel and Re-entry Tips for F-1 Students

Things to consider

Prior to making your travel plans, please consider your individual situation to determine what issues may prevent you from returning.  Below are some possible issues that could increase your risk of being denied entry to the United States.

  • Re-entry Risk
    • The US Customs and Border Patrol has full discretionary authority to allow or deny re-entry into the United States.  Travelers assume at least some risk in being denied re-entry each time they leave the United States.
  • Pending Applications with USCIS
    • If you have an application pending with USCIS or DHS, check with the ISS office prior to travel.  This includes OPT applicants.
  • Five month rule
    • If you leave the United States for five months or more, your Form I-20 is automatically terminated.

Checklist for Travel

Before you leave the United States, make sure that you have the items below.  If you are applying for a new visa, please check the section below for additional items that may be required.


  • Valid Passport
  • Valid Visa (need for re-entry, not needed for departure)
  • Valid I-20 (signed within one academic year by DSO in ISS Office)
  • Valid I-94 or Electronic Copy

Optional but Recommended

Renewing your visa in your home country

If you return to your home country to visit during your studies, you may need to renew your visa in order to return to the United States.  Below are some general guidelines to assist you in preparing for this process.  Please remember to check the US Consulate website specific to your region for further information. 

Always verify required documents through the US Embassy website before applying for the renewal of Visa.

Generally, F-1 students and F-2 dependents should take:

  • Passport
  • Visa
  • SEVIS I-20 with a recent travel signature from DSO
  • Any I-20’s previously issued by BGSU and any other U.S. school attended before enrolling at BGSU
  • BG1 student identification card (dependents should take photocopy)
  • Official transcript of F-1’s academic record (if time for official transcripts is not available, then you may print an unofficial copy from My BGSU website)
  • Letter certifying F-1’s current enrollment and Status from Registration and Records
  • Evidence of F-1’s financial support (bank statement, graduate assistantship offer letter, family bank statement, etc.)

Special note for Chinese students: 

Repeat travelers to the United States may qualify to use the CITIC Bank Drop-off Visa Renewal Service to renew their visas.  This process allows qualifying applicants to apply for a new visa by submitting their visa application via CITIC bank. Using the service may eliminate the need to come to the Embassy. The use of the drop-off service does not guarantee visa issuance. The Embassy may in some cases, after reviewing an application submitted through CITIC Bank, require a person to appear in person for a visa interview at the Embassy.

Applicants may drop-off their visa application at China CITIC Bank, if they meet the following requirements:

  • The previous visa must be currently valid, or must have expired within the last twelve months.
  • The applicant must be applying for the exact same type of visa.
  • The applicant must be applying in the place where they usually live.

Most applicants whose visa application requires additional administrative processing time, or who have any previous visas with a “clearance received” date printed in the annotation area, may not use the drop-off service and should make an appointment to interview in-person.

Updated: 07/13/2021 02:32PM