Visa Information for Current Students

Applying for visa renewal for continuing students

F-1 students (except citizens of Canada and Bermuda) are required to have a valid, unexpired F-1 entry visa 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 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. You will need the following documents for your visa appointment.

  • Valid Form I-20 from Bates with a recent (within 12 months) travel endorsement signature on page 2
  • Unexpired passport (valid at least 6 months into the future)
  • Recent financial documents showing evidence of continued financial ability
  • Receipt of your I-901 SEVIS fee payment 
  • Transcripts or other evidence of attendance at Bates. You may obtain your transcript via Garnet Gateway (official transcript recommended)
  • 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 or Consulate where you will be applying. Most consulates post current information on their web site.
  • 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.
Renewing your F-1 visa while on OPT

Students who must renew their visa while on OPT, must provide the following documents:

  • Documents listed above  plus
  • Valid travel signature on form I-20 (while on OPT, signatures valid for 6 months from date of signing)
  • EAD card (OPT card)
  • Letter from employer, verifying employment, recognizing travel (recommended)
  • Check with your U.S. Embassy or Consulate to see if they require any additional documents.
Security Checks

Some visa applicants may be subject to a security check as part of their visa application, which may delay getting the visa. This is often referred to as “administrative processing.” While most security checks are completed within 2 weeks, (the U.S. State Department works with the other federal agencies involved to expedite them), in rare cases they can take several months. Various factors may make you more likely to have a security check, such as your country of citizenship, your gender, and the field you are studying.

Applying as a “Third Country” National

Most students will apply for their F-1 visas in their country of citizenship but an applicant may apply for their F-1 visa at any U.S. Embassy or Consulate around the word. This is called a “third country” national application. However, this can be risky and is not recommended. Please consider the following before deciding to pursue such an application:

  • You might need to obtain a visa to enter the third country.
  • You will need to stay in the third country until you receive your F-1 visa and thus will need to factor in the cost and time needed to receive your visa.
  • If your F-1 visa application is denied, you will not be able to re-enter the U.S. as an F-1 student and might need to return to your country of citizenship to apply for your F-1 visa.
Authorization of your F-1 Visa

If the consular officer grants you the visa, the officer will instruct you on when and where you can pick it up. The visa will have an expiration date; however, the expiration date on the visa is not the date by which you must leave the U.S. You may stay in the U.S. on an expired F-1 visa as long as you maintain your immigration status by being in possession of a valid I-20 and follow all immigration rules. If you have left the U.S. and your F-1 visa has expired, you will need to apply for a new one to re-enter the U.S.

Bermudan and Canadian citizens do not need a F-1 visa to enter the U.S., but they do need an I-20.

You may stay in the U.S. until the completion of your program (see program end date on I-20) plus 60 days (e.g., grace period). During the 60 days grace period, you may travel in the U.S., prepare for your return home, etc.; however, you cannot work during that period – even on-campus.