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​Travel Procedures

  • Are you going home for Summer vacation?...
  • Are you planning a day trip to Tijuana?...
  • Has your F-1 visa expired?...
  • If so, read on...

Travel Signatures on the I-20:

In order to return to the United States after a visit home or to another country, you must have your I-20 signed by the DSO in the International Student Office.  This also includes trips to Mexico or Canada!   A signature on the back of your I-20 allows you to return to the United States.
In order to have your I-20 signed, please follow these steps:
  1. Submit your I-20 to the International Student Office at least 3 days prior to your travel date.
    Last minute signatures are not permitted and may mean that your I-20 cannot be signed before your departure.

  2. The International Student Office will check your records to verify that you are in status.
    NOTE: Students who are out of status are not able to receive travel signatures.

  3. If you are currently in status, your I-20 will be signed and ready for pick-up the on the third business day.

  4. Check the F-1 visa stamp in your passport.  Look at the "Expiry Date".  If the Expiry Date has or will expire while you are outside of the United States, you must apply for a new F-1 visa at the US Embassy or Consulate in your home country BEFORE returning to the United States.  Please read "Renewing your F-1 Visa" below for information about what is needed to renew your F-1 visa.


Renewing Your F-1 Visa:

The F-1 visa is the entry document that allowed you to enter the United States.  Therefore, when you are in the United States and have a valid I-20 and passport, your visa can expire without penalty.  In fact, your F-1 CANNOT be renewed in the United States.  In most cases, the F-1 visa can only be renewed at the US Embassy or Consulate in your home country.

However, when you are getting ready to travel home and have an expired F-1 visa stamp, you will need to obtain a new F-1 visa before you return to the United States.  This means you will have to go to the US Embassy or Consulate in your home country and apply for a new F-1 visa.  The procedure is similar to what you had to do when for your first trip to the US; however, you should not need to pay the SEVIS fee again.  In general, you will need to supply the following to the US Embassy/Consulate:  updated bank statement verifying required funding, valid passport and new visa application fee.  However, you should contact the US Embassy/Consulate in your home country directly for a complete list of required documents.

You will need to supply enrollment verification documents and copies of your transcripts with your visa renewal application.  These can be obtained from the International Student Office.

Please follow these steps to obtain the necessary information:

Fill out the “Verification Request Form” and mark “Visa Renewal” in order to have the verification letter written and copies of your transcript processed.  Turn in your completed form at the International Student Office (ISO). You can get a copy of this document at the front desk in the ISO.

Verification letters are written for students who are maintaining their status.  Students who are out of status OR who have outstanding balances at the college are not eligible for verification letters.

Your letter and transcripts will be ready within 3 days from when you dropped off your request.

Students who are traveling after the semester ends are advised to register for 12+ units for the next semester prior to applying for a new F-1 visa.  This will allow you to show the US Embassy/Consulate that you are registered as a full-time students for the upcoming semester.

Check the expiration date on your I-20. This can be found on item #5 of the I-20. If your I-20 will expire while you are traveling, you will need to get a new I-20.  Please visit the Requesting a New I-20 page for more information on this process.

You are advised to apply for the F-1 visa early. An early application will allow you to deal with any problems that may arise and account for any embassy closures from the holidays.

If you have any problems or have questions regarding F-1 visa renewal, please email cmccabe@collegeofthedesert.edu.

Travel to Mexico or Canada with an expired F-1 visa:

Students who are traveling to Mexico or Canada for a period of less than 30 days, are eligible to re-enter the USA even if the F-1 visa is expired.  Students will need a recent signature on the back of their I-20 in order to be re-admitted.  Travel to any other country will require a valid F-1 visa in order to re-enter the USA.

Please note: The above rule DOES NOT APPLY to students from the following countries:  Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan or Syria.  Students from these countries must have a valid F-1 visa in order to re-enter the USA for any country that they travel to.