Maintaining Lawful Status

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Holiday Travel - Passport and Visa Renewal

You may remain in the U.S. and maintain lawful F-1 status during holidays and vacation periods including summer provided that you are eligible and intend to register for the next school term and the "completion of studies" date on your I-20 will not be reached before you resume your studies.

Travel within the U.S.

You may travel freely within the U.S. provided you maintain your lawful F-1 status and have a valid passport, I-20 and I-94 in your possession.

Travel outside the U.S.

Students often travel home for holidays and during the summer breaks. Whenever your travel plans involve leaving the U.S. for a short period of time and returning to MCC to continue your studies, you need to make sure that your travel papers are in order. Prior to leaving the U.S., preferably about the same time you are making your travel arrangements, you need to check the following:

  1. Is your passport valid for the date you intend to return to the U.S. and at least 6 months after that date?
  2. Is your F-1 visa stamp still valid?
  3. If your visa stamp was valid only for a limited number of entries, do you still have unused "entries" left on that visa?
  4. Do you have a valid I-20?
  5. Has your I-20 been signed within 6 months of your departure date?

If you answered yes to all of these questions, you can most likely travel without having to see your international student advisor to get a travel signature. However, if you answered no to any of these, you should make an appointment to discuss your travel plans with your international student advisor.

Also, please be advised that you should check with the consulate of the country you wish to visit to determine if a visa for that country is needed.

Passport Renewal Information

If you need to renew your passport, contact the consulate or embassy representing your home country in the U.S., or the appropriate authorities in your home country.

Visa Renewal Information

What documents do I need to renew my visa? Check the website to see exactly what documents, including forms and photos, you need to bring to the consulate.

  1. DS-156 (staple or glue your photo in the space provided on this form)
  2. DS-158
  3. DS-157 (male applicants only)

F-1 students and F-2 dependents need (or may need - officers do not always ask for all these documents):

  • SEVIS I-20 from MCC, with a recent travel signature
  • Any I-20's previously issued by the MCC and any other U.S. school attended before enrolling at MCC
  • Official transcript of F-1's academic record (available from the Business and Registration Office)
  • Evidence of F-1's financial support (bank statement, letter, family bank statement, etc.)
  • If engaged in OPT, also take current EAD (dependents should take photocopy) and a letter from OPT employer stating you are working there under the terms of Optional Practical Training

How long will it take me to get a new U.S. visa?

It depends on your situation. But now, more than ever, all students are advised to go to the consulate to renew their visas at the earliest possible opportunity to avoid possible delays. Ask for a visa "renewal" appointment. Do not wait until the end of your stay abroad. If you know you will be required to appear in person at the consulate, try to make an appointment with the consulate even before you leave the U.S. Go to for more information.

What if my application for a new visa is denied?

Ask the consular officer to give you a written explanation for the denial. Contact us immediately and supply details about your visa interview. Give us the date and place of the denial and, if possible, the name of the consular officer who issued it. Usually, if it is clear there has been a misunderstanding, or if your documents weren't acceptable to the consul, we can provide the additional information needed to help you get the visa. Sometimes, though, we can do nothing to help. The law concerning visas gives consular officers very wide latitude, so their decisions can seem arbitrary.

Should I apply for a new visa if my old one has not expired yet?

If your current visa will expire next semester, you might want to go ahead and renew it. Many Consulate Offices have an expedited process for renewals.

Temporary absence from the U.S.

You will be considered a returning student after a temporary absence of less than five months provided that your current I-20 contains valid travel signatures that are not more than six months old.

If you have been outside the U.S. for more than five months, you will need new documents (I-20) and you will need to be enrolled for another full academic year before being eligible for optional practical training.

Travel during Optional Practical Training

F-1 visa holders may travel outside the U.S. during their period of OPT. The following documents are needed to re-enter the U.S.:

  • The unexpired Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
  • I-20 endorsed by the international student advisor within the last six months
  • Valid passport with a valid visa
  • We recommend you carry an additional letter from your employer acknowledging that you will return after a temporary absence.

If you have applied for Optional Practical Training (OPT) but have not yet received the Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) from immigration, you should be aware that leaving the U.S. before your OPT application has been processed by immigration may be considered abandoning your application. Also, if you try to re-enter the U.S. and do not have your I-20 signed for travel within the last six months and do not have your EAD card to show as proof that authorization has been granted, you may be denied entry into the U.S. These are some factors to keep in mind when making travel plans.

Getting a Travel Signature

Before you travel outside of the United States, you need to obtain endorsement for travel on the I-20 document, often referred to as a "travel signature." To qualify for a travel signature you need to maintain your F-1 status. The international student advisor will contact you if the travel signature cannot be issued to you. Depending on the nature of the violation of your status, you may need to apply for "reinstatement".

Special Registration Requirements

Certain foreign nationals are subject to special registration requirements. Please refer to the information on Special Registration Requirements at

If you have been subject to Special Registration (certain male non-immigrants who are citizens of Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen, or some male and female citizens of other countries who were chosen to report for Special Registration at a Port of Entry), please remember that every time you leave the U.S., you must leave only from a designated Port of Departure and check in at the Customs and Border Patrol office at the Port on the day you leave. Failure to do this could mean you will be prohibited from entering the U.S. upon your return. For a list of acceptable Ports, please see the website at:

Departing the U.S.

International students to not need to check out at a U.S. Visit kiosk when leaving the U.S. You do need to return the I-94 card to the airline or ship representative.

Applying for re-entry into the United States

When you return to the U.S., you should be prepared to present the following documents:

  • Your passport with a valid F-1 visa
  • Your I-20
  • Any other documents confirming your continued student status at MCC (transcripts, next semester's schedule, most recent bank statement, etc.)
  • While you are still at the Port of Entry, make sure the information on your new I-94 is CORRECT. If it is not, bring it to the attention of the officer at the Port of Entry. It will be much more difficult and time-consuming to attempt to get it corrected later. You should also certainly keep a photocopy of your new visa and I-94 in a safe place.



Last Modified: 9/19/11