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Minnesota State University, Mankato
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Travel outside the United States may affect your visa status and eligibility for off-campus employment, so you will need to plan ahead carefully. Before you leave the United States, please review the regulations governing travel and re-entry.

Disclaimer: Entry into the US is at the discretion of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and students should consider this when making travel plans. 

Traveling more than 5 months 

If you travel outside the US for longer than 5 months, immigration officials will regard you as beginning a new F-1 or J-1 program of study when you return.  Therefore, you will need to get a new "initial attendance" I-20 or DS-2019.

If you were issued a new I-20 or DS-2019 to begin a new program of study, and if you need a visa to enter the US, you will likely need to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee. 

  • Off-campus employment eligibility

You will not be eligible for off-campus employment (such as Optional Practical Training or Curricular Practical Training) until you have been enrolled for 1 academic year on a full-time basis.


Traveling for 5 months or less

For travel outside the US lasting 5 months or less, you will need to have the following documents.

  •  Valid I-20 or DS-2019 with travel endorsement

To request an endorsement, bring your current, original I-20 or DS-2019 and completed travel endorsement request form (broken link) to CSU 250 (for F-1 students) or your program sponsor (for J-1 students). Please allow 5 days for processing.

If you are an F-1 student who is out of status, you will need a new intial attendance I-20. 

While a travel signature is valid for 1 year from the date of issuance, you should get a new endorsement if your previous one is over 6 months old. 

  • Valid passport with current F-1 or J-1 visa stamp

A valid passport and valid visa are required to re-enter the US from outside of North America. 

You should already have a passport from your intial entry to the US. If you need to obtain or renew your passport and US visa, you will need to contact a US Embassy/Consulate, preferably in your home country. 


Travel with Pending Criminal Charges

There have been numerous reports of nonimmigrant visa cancellations following a DUI arrest or conviction. In these types of cases, the person's nonimmigrant status is not disturbed by the visa cancellation, but prevents international travel and return to the United States until a new visa is issued. Please note, visa reissuances are anything but routine.

Unless the individual understands all the foregoing and is willing to assume the risk of travel, it is best not to leave the United States following notification of visa cancellation and/or ANY drug or alcohold related arrest or conviction, until the purpose of his or her stay is concluded. 


Trips to Mexico, Canada, and adjacent Caribbean islands

To enter Canada or Mexico as a visitor, you may not need a valid F-1 or J-1 visa stamp. However, a visitor's visa may be required depending upon your country of citizenship. If you are planning a trip to Canada or Mexico, contact the consulate office before your tip to determine if you or your dependents will need a visitor's visa. 

Mexican Consulate

Canadian Consulate

  • Re-entering the United States on an expired F-1 or J-1 visa

With a few exceptions, most students may travel to Canada, Mexico, and the adjacent islands and re-enter the United States on an expired F-1 or J-1 visa if the trip does not exceed 30 days. This is known as automatic visa revalidation. 


  • If you apply for a new F-1 or J-1 visa and that visa is denied while you are in Canada or Mexico, automatic visa revalidation does not apply. 
  • If you are a citizen of Iran, Syria, Sudan, or North Korea, you are not eligible for automatic visa revalidation. You must have a valid F-1 or J-1 visa to enter or re-enter the US at all times. 

If you are traveling to Canada, Mexico, or the adjacent islands and plan to re-enter with an expired visa number under the automatic visa revalidation law, it is critical that you retain the original copy of your I-94 card. It will substitute for a valid visa when you re-enter the US. 

When you depart the US do not reliquish this card to the airliners or an immigration officer. If challenged, you may need to present a copy of the printed regulations to explain why you must retain your I-94 card. 

When traveling, carry a printed copy of the DHS automatic visa revalidation document explaining the rules related to automatic revalidation. If there are difficulties processing your re-entry, you can provide these documents to the Customs and Border Protection officer at the port of entry. 


Summary of Travel within U.S.

As an F-1 student, you can travel throughout the U.S. If you wish to ensure you have sufficient documents with you to confirm you are an F-1 student in good standing, a short list could include:

  • Unexpired passport.
  •  Visa within the passport – note that can be expired as long as your I-20 is valid and you are maintaining your F-1 student status. 
  • Your I-20. It does not need a recent signature if you are staying within the US. 
  • An unofficial transcript to confirm you are a student in good standing. This is NOT required, but is one way to give direct proof of your attendance at Minnesota State University, Mankato.  You could also bring your MSU ID.
  • If you are driving, have a valid MN Driver's License and proof of automobile insurance.


Additional Travel Considerations

 Traveling while on OPT

If international travel is needed for your Optional Practical Training (OPT), here are some important things to consider. 

If you have graduated and your OPT is pending

You may travel outside the US and re-enter the US while your OPT application is pending in order to resume searching for a job. To be eligible to re-enter the US, you will need the following: 

  • Valid passport
  • Valid F-1 visa
  • I-20 signed for travel within six months
  • I-797 receipt notice (OPT receipt notice)

If you have graduated and your OPT has been approved

You may travel outside the US only if you have a job offer or you are returning to a job. In order to re-enter the US, you will need the following:

  • Valid passport
  • Valid F-1 visa
  • I-20 signed for travel within six months
  • EAD card
  • Letter from your employer stating that you need to return to the US to resume working
Disclaimer: Entry into the US is at the discretion of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and students should consider this when making travel plans.