Traveling outside the U.S.

Students or scholar in F-1 or J-1 non-immigrant status should have the following documents in order to depart the U.S. and reenter in the same non-immigrant status to resume their program:

  • A valid passport with an expiration date that is at least six months in the future
  • A valid Form I-20 (F-1) or Form DS-2019 (J-1) with a signature for travel;  it is recommended to have a new signature every six months
  • A valid F-1 or J-1 non-immigrant visa in your passport; if you are a Canadian citizen, you do not need the visa in your passport
  • If you need to renew your F-1 or J-1 visa while abroad - be sure to review the recommendations for preparing for this visa renewal.
  • If you are participating in post-completion of studies Optional Practical Training (OPT), in addition to the above documents, you should have your valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card (OPT card) and a letter of employment from your employer


Traveling to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean

A student or scholar in F-1 or J-1 visa status who wants to visit Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean islands for less than 30 days, and is not a citizen of the country they intend to visit, may be able to do so even with an expired visa, with a few exceptions – read below.  This is called “automatic revalidation of the visa” and only pertains to countries that are adjacent to the United States (Cuba not included). However, it is very important that the Form I-94 (white card) not be removed from the passport when leaving the U.S.  Be sure to take the following documents:

  • A valid passport (valid for at least six months into the future).
  • The current or expired passport containing the expired visa.
  • A valid/current Form I-94.
  • A valid Form I-20 or DS-2019 with a recent signature from the Office of International Student Services.
  • Evidence of return transportation arrangements.
  • Sufficient funds for length of stay in Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean.
  • Evidence of current status in the U.S. (Rollins I.D., copy of current registration, etc.).
  • A tourist visa for the country to be visited, if required (see below).

In April 2002, there were changes made to this rule.  Automatic Revalidation of Visa is no longer available to citizens of the following countries:  Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, North Korea, and Cuba.  In addition, it is also not available for anyone who travels to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean, applies for a new visa to return to the U.S. and is denied the visa.  If the visa is denied, Automatic Revalidation of the Visa is not allowed and the person would need to depart Canada to their home country to apply at the U.S. Embassy there for a new visa.  With these exceptions, we highly recommend that you consult with an advisor in the Office of International Student Services before planning any travel of this nature.

Depending upon your nationality, you may need a tourist or visitor’s visa to enter these countries. Information concerning tourist visas and who is required to obtain them can be obtained by calling the Consulate General of the country you wish to visit (most are located in Miami) or the Embassy (located in Washington, DC).   If a tourist visa is required, go in person to the Consulate to file the application, or if necessary, file by mail. Be sure to give yourself sufficient time before your trip to obtain the visa.

Mexico is a popular tourist spot for students and scholars in the southeast area of the U.S., as it is relatively accessible. Citizens of many countries require visitor visas to travel to Mexico. For information on visa requirements, please visit the Mexican Consulate Website.


Renewing your visa

When you initially received the visa stamp in your passport, an expiration date was noted. If your entry visa expires while you are studying in the U.S., there is no need to renew it as long as you stay in the U.S. However, if your entry visa has expired and you wish to travel abroad, you must renew your visa no matter how short a trip you are taking (with a few exceptions – see page on Travel to Canada, Mexico, Caribbean).

It is not possible to complete this procedure inside the U.S. if you are in F or J status. Although not required, it is best to apply for the student visa in your home country.  Theoretically, you may renew your visa at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy in any country to which you are traveling, but countries other than your home country may impose stricter requirements or be unwilling to renew a visa for a citizen or resident of another country.  Always consult with the OISS before leaving to renew your visa.

Documents you should have with you when renewing your visa include:


  • A valid passport.
  • A valid, recently signed Form I-20 (F-1) or Form DS-2019 (J-1).
  • Two current passport-sized photographs.
  • Financial documentation issued within the past 6 months, showing your ability to pay for your education and living expenses.


It is also recommended to have the following documents:


  • A copy of your current Rollins registration.
  • Transcripts from every school you have attended in the U.S.
  • The I-20 or DS-2019 from every school you have attended in the U.S.
  • A letter of support for the application issued by the Office of International Student & Scholar Services.

At the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, you will complete Form DS-156 (Application for Nonimmigrant Visa) and possibly be charged a processing fee (Taiwanese citizens apply through the American Institute in Taiwan; Canadian students are not required to obtain a visa if entering the U.S. from Canada). The amount of time needed to obtain a student visa varies. All questions should be directed to the embassy or consulate.

  1. The consular officer may ask you:
  2. What are you studying in the U.S.?
  3. Why do you want to study ______________?
  4. Why did you choose Rollins?
  5. How will your degree be used in your home country?
  6. What are your employment prospects?

Before issuing the visa, the U.S. consular official must be convinced that you have a residence outside the United States that you have not abandoned and that you have not decided to seek permanent residence in the U.S. It is important to show the officer that you have strong ties to your country of residence, such as family, community or social ties, documents showing membership in professional organizations and religious groups, a family business, ownership of property, bank accounts, a job offer, or evidence that people with the kind of education you are seeking are needed. Government officials like documents. Do not emphasize any ties to or close relatives that you have in the U.S. and do not talk about working in the U.S. unless you have been awarded a graduate assistantship at Rollins.

You must be truthful and willing to answer direct questions. If the consular official thinks you are not telling the truth, you may not get a visa. Rehearse what you plan to say to the consular officer and try to be clear in your presentation. Practice your English! It is important that you always be courteous and never demanding. Just in case a problem develops, you should make copies of any documents submitted. Applications should be made as early as possible before your planned travel to the U.S..

If you are denied a student visa, you have probably not sufficiently proven to the consular officer that you are entitled to student status.  In most cases the denial will be based on failure to prove “permanent residence” or “strong ties” to your home country.  A visa denial is not permanent and may be reconsidered if you can show further convincing evidence.  We strongly suggest that you contact Rollins if you are denied a visa so that we can advise you prior to your second application.