Washington State University

International Programs

International Students

Temporary Absence and Re-entry to the U.S.

Absences longer than 5 months will require a new initial attendance I-20/DS-2019 and payment of SEVIS I-901 fee.

This constitutes beginning a new F-1/J-1 program, and students will not be eligible for any off-campus employment (i.e. OPT, CPT) until they enroll for one academic year on full-time basis.

Required Documents for Re-entry

In order to re-enter the U.S. after a temporary absence (not exceeding 5 months) you must carry the following documents:

  • Valid Passport
  • Valid F-1/J-1 visa stamp (except for a short trip to Canada, Mexico and Adjacent Islands)
  • Valid I-20/DS-2019 with travel endorsement (request) from Global Services or J-program sponsor. An F-1 student who is out of status must have a new initial attendance I-20.
  • Evidence of adequate finances
  • Copy of WSU transcript and your current course schedule (optional)

Note: For information regarding traveling while on OPT, please visit our OPT Travel Regulations page.

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Travel Endorsement Requests

To travel outside of the country and re-enter the U.S. as an F-1/J-1 student, you must have a valid I-20/DS-2019 which has been endorsed by an International Student Advisor (F-1) or Program Sponsor (J-1). F-1 students may need a new I-20 if they have failed to maintain status.

F-1 students, and J-1 students whose DS-2019 was issued by WSU, must obtain the travel endorsement (request) at Global Services (Bryan Hall 108).

Bring the following documents to request an endorsement.

Allow one week for processing. A travel signature is valid for one year from the date of issuance. However, you are advised to obtain a new endorsement if the previous one is over six months old.

For J-1 students whose DS-2019 was issued by another program sponsor (e.g. LASPAU, IIE, IREX, ISEP, Fulbright, etc.) you must contact your sponsor to have your document endorsed for re-entry.

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F-2/J-2 Dependent Travel

Dependents in F-2/J-2 generally need the same documents to re-enter the U.S. as the primary F-1/J-1 student. Be sure to obtain an endorsement on the dependent I-20 or DS-2019 in order to re-enter the U.S.

Dependents are not required to travel with the primary F-1/J-1 student.

In addition, dependents may remain in the U.S. without the primary as long as the F-1/J-1 maintains their current status and will return after a temporary absence (generally 30 days or less) using the same SEVIS ID number.

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Trips to Mexico, Canada & Adjacent Islands

To facilitate entry into Canada or Mexico as a visitor, you must carry all the documents listed above except for a valid F-1/J-1 visa stamps for some students.

In addition, a visitor's visa may be required depending on your country of citizenship

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Visitor's Visa to Canada and Mexico

F-1/J-1 students or their dependents who are planning a trip to Canada or Mexico should contact the respective consulate offices to determine whether a visitor's visa to the country is needed prior to your trip.

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Re-entering the U.S. from Canada on an Expired F-1/J-1 Visa

Most students** may travel to Canada, Mexico and Adjacent Islands and re-enter the U.S. on an expired F-1/J-1 visa if the trip does not exceed 30 days. (this is referred to as Automatic Visa Re-Validation) Please note, however, that Automatic Revalidation, or entry on an expired visa, does not apply when a student applies for a new F-1/J-1 visa and is denied in Canada or Mexico.

Global Services and the Department of Homeland Security recommends that students print out and carry a copy of a DHS document explaining the rules related to Automatic Revalidation (along with page 2, a copy of the regulations). This document should only be provided to the Customs and Border Protection officer at the port of entry if they experience difficulties in processing their re-entry.

**Citizens of Iran, Syria, Sudan, North Korea, and Cuba are not eligible for this benefit and must be in possession of a valid F-1/J-1 visa to enter or re-enter the U.S. at all times.

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Automatic Visa Re-Validation and the I-94 Card

It is vitally important for students to retain the original copy of their I-94 card when traveling to Canada, Mexico and Adjacent Islands, if they plan to re-enter with an expired visa under the Automatic Visa Re-Validation law. They will need this document as a substitute for a valid visa when re-entering the US. Subsequently, when departing the US, students should not relinquish this card to the airlines or an immigration officer. If challenged, students can present the DHS Automatic Visa Re-Validation Document to explain why they must retain this document when departing the US.

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Applying for a new visa

To request permission to re-enter the U.S. from outside of North America, you must have a valid F-1 or J-1 visa in your passport.

A U.S. visa can only be obtained abroad, at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate, preferably in your home country.

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SEVIS Fee

Potential non-immigrants who are initially issued an I-20/DS-2019 to begin a new program on or after that date, unless exempted, will be required to  pay the SEVIS I-901 fee prior to obtaining their visa if a visa is required or entering the U.S.

Generally this fee does not apply to students who have maintained their current F-1/J-1 immigration status and are continuing their program of study.

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US-VISIT Program

The US-VISIT program is operational at most major U.S. airports and seaports and tracks foreign visitors to the U.S. through the use of biometrics (measurable, physical characteristics used to recognize identities such as fingerprints and facial features.)

When students and the dependents in F/J status enter the U.S., immigration officers continue to review their travel documents (i.e. passport, SEVIS I-20, visa, etc.) In addition, they takes the non-immigrants' fingerprints (with inkless fingerprint scanner) and a digital photograph of their face.

When non-immigrants depart the U.S., they are required to "check out" at an exit kiosk at the port of departure. The exit procedures have not been fully implemented. Non-immigrants are expected to complete the exit procedures where the exit kiosks and attendants are available in some major U.S. ports.

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Office of International Programs

International Programs, PO Box 645121, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-5121, 509-335-2541, Contact Us