If you will be traveling outside the U.S. while you are in F-1 status, you will need to follow certain procedures in order to return to the U.S. to continue your study.
Emergency Travel for F-1 International Students
If you need to travel outside the United States due to a personal, family, and/or medical emergency during the university closures, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Your e-mail should include your name, SF State student ID number, your departure and return date from and to the United States, and the best way to contact you. You can still leave the United States without an updated signature on the 2nd page of the I-20.
Travel Within the United States
You are not required to have a valid F-1 visa if you traveling within the United States including Hawaii and Alaska. You are also not required to have an updated travel signature on the 2nd page of the I-20; However, we still recommend that you carry a valid passport, a photo ID (SF State ID or Drivers License) and your I-20 while traveling within the United States.
Check the expiration date of your passport, F-1 visa, and I-20 before you leave the United States.
Passport: Your passport must be valid for at least six months into the future at the time you return to the United States. However, Some countries have an agreement with the United States that allows you to enter on a current passport up to the actual date of expiration.
F-1 Visa: If your F-1 visa will expire on or before the date you return to the United States, you must prepare to apply for an F-1 visa in your home country.
- I-20: If you are travelling outside the United States, you must obtain a travel signature (see image below) under the "Travel Endorsement" section of the Form I-20. International Student Advisors at OIP are the only school officials who are authorized by U.S. Department of Homeland Security to sign the I-20. You may not be allowed to return to the U.S. without an updated signature. We recommend that you to request a travel signature at least 2 weeks before leaving the United States. Please note that the travel signature on the I-20 is valid for one year. We recommend you to request a travel signature at least 2 weeks before leaving the United States.
Travel Signature on the I-20:
To request a signature:
- Complete an F-1 Document Request Form (also available at the OIP Front Desk) and submit it with your most recent I-20 to the OIP front desk.
- The standard processing time for the travel signature request is 5 business days. The advisors will sign the 2nd page of your I-20 once we verified that you are in valid F-1 status.
- Pick up the signed I-20 in person at the OIP front desk.
You should have your valid passport, F-1 visa, and signed I-20 with you when you enter the United States. We also recommend that you carry previous I-20 from SF State (if any), official or unofficial transcripts with you. If you are on an approved Post-completion Practical Training (OPT) you must bring your EAD and a job offer letter/employment verification letter.
For your reference, see how to prepare your trip to the United States information provided by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) under U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Travel to Mexico, Canada, and Adjacent Islands
You should find out if you need to apply for a visa to visit Mexico or Canada before you make your travel plans.
- See entry requirements for Mexico at Visit Mexico
- See entry requirements for Canada at Visiting Canada
Apply for F-1 Visa
A citizen of a foreign country who wishes to study in the United States must first obtain a F-1 Student visa. F-1 visas are issued by U.S. Embassies and Consulates outside the United State, and it is not possible to obtain an F-1 visa within the United States.
Canadian citizens do not need visas to study in the U.S. However, Canadian students do need to obtain an I-20 from SF State and pay $200 SEVIS fee at https://www.fmjfee.com. Canadian students should enter the U.S. with their passports, I-20 issued by SF State, and other supporting documentation.
Here is a list of useful resources:
- 10 Points to Remember When Applying for a Student Visa
- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): Student Process Steps: How to Navigate the U.S. Immigration System
- List of U.S. Embassies, Consulates, and Diplomatic Missions at http://usembassy.state.gov/
- Education U.S.A - Prepare for the Student Visa
- How to complete an F1 visa application form (DS160) (YouTube Video)
- Visa Wait Times - for Interview Appointments and Processing
- Check visa application status