Obtaining a New Visa

Traveling Outside the U.S. with an Expired Visa

If your entry visa has expired and your travel does not qualify for visa revalidation, you must apply for a new visa at a U.S. consulate before re-entering the U.S. Entry visas can only be issued outside the U.S. We recommend that you apply for the new visa in your home country; however, if you are unable to return to your home country and need to travel to a third country, it may be possible to apply for a visa there. We recommend in this case that you first contact the U.S. consulate in the country where you will be traveling to confirm that they will review your application. It is possible they would refuse to do so and ask you to travel to your home country. You should also be prepared for potential delays in visa issuance. A list of visa wait times is available on the Department of State website.

When you go to the consulate, you will need to bring your passport, I-20, financial documentation, and proof of full-time enrollment as well as any other documents requested by the consulate.
If you have ever overstayed your authorized stay (as noted on your I-94 document) in the U.S., you will be required to return to your home country to apply for a new entry visa.

Automatic Visa Re-Validation

Returning from Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean Islands

You usually must have a valid visa to return to the U.S. from abroad. However, there is a special, limited provision called Automatic Visa Revalidation that applies to some travel. If you are in F-1 status and your F-1 visa is expired, you may still return to the U.S. from a trip to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean Islands even with an expired visa, if you meet all of these conditions:

  • your passport is valid you have a valid I-20 with a valid travel signature (if you are on OPT, the signature must be signed within the last 6 months)
  • you have your EAD (OPT) card (if you have graduated and been approved for OPT)
  •  you have an expired F-1 visa
  • you only go to Canada, Mexico, and/or the Caribbean islands (except Cuba) and do not stay outside the U.S. for more than 30 days
  • you do not apply for a new U.S. visa while abroad (otherwise you have to wait for it to be approved and use it to reenter)
  • you keep your I-94 record when you depart the U.S. (retain it; don’t give it up at the border)
  • you are not a citizen of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan, North Korea, or Cuba

Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands

These are U.S. territories and thus an F-1 student does not need a visa to travel to those locations from within the U.S., or to return to the U.S. from those locations.