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While you are pursuing studies at WKU on an F-1 visa, you may wish to travel outside of the U.S. to return home during a break, to participate in a study abroad program, or simply to visit and explore another country.

Before you travel, please make sure you take the necessary steps to protect your F-1 status.


I-20 Requirements for Traveling Outside the United States

Before you leave the country, make sure you have a valid travel signature from an ISSS advisor on page 3 of your I-20. You will not be able to re-enter the United States without a valid signature.

  1. First, submit a Travel I-20 request through iStart at least two weeks before your expected departure date.
  2. Once you have submitted the request on iStart, bring your I-20 to ISO. If you have misplaced your Form I-20, you will also need to submit the Replace Lost Document request on iStart and include your travel information.
  3. Your Travel I-20 request will be reviewed and processed within 1 to 3 business days and you will receive an email notification once your Travel I-20 is available for pick up.

If there have been any changes in your situation (for example, if you have changed your major, degree level, or source/s of financial support) that are not indicated on your current I-20, you will need to get a new one.

You will need to submit the appropriate iStart request for the change in your record.

Timing can be critical for all of these changes, so start the process early.

Check the completion date in section 5 of your I-20 to see whether it is about to expire. If it expires while you are outside the U.S., you will not be able to re-enter the U.S.

If your I-20 is about to expire and you have not yet completed your program, you will need to apply for an I-20 extension through iStart. You do not need to make a separate request for a travel signature. When your extension is approved, a new I-20 will be printed and signed for travel.

Is the F-1 visa stamp in your passport valid beyond the date you plan to re-enter the United States? If not, you must apply for a new visa stamp while you are abroad.

Read about renewing your visa »

You may be eligible to return from Mexico, Canada and islands adjacent to the United States even if you have an expired visa. This is generally allowable for trips of 30 days or less. It is essential that you read all eligibility criteria on the Immigration and Customs Enforcement website before you decide to use this exception.

Don’t forget, you need a travel signature on your I-20 even for short trips to nearby countries!

If you are traveling to a country other than your home country, you may need a visitor or transit visa. To find out, visit that country’s embassy website at Foreign Embassies of Washington, D.C., and search for the consular section nearest you.

If you are traveling to the European Union, and your home country is not within the European Union, you may apply for the Schengen Visa, which permits travel within E.U. countries.

For the latest travel advisories, visit the U.S. Department of State’s website. 

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 Last Modified 3/25/21