F-1 Travel and Visa Renewal


F-1 students must have a valid travel signature on their Form I-20 in order to return to the United States after traveling abroad. To request a travel signature, please refer to the Travel Signature Request program in Terra Dotta. 

Once an F-1 student has been recommended or approved for either Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) or the 24-Month STEM Extension of OPT, the travel signature on their Form I-20 is only valid for 6 months. Most students will not need to request a new I-20 with travel signature during their OPT or STEM OPT period because new I-20s with new travel signatures will be generated each time the student updates their employment information with ISS. Students on Post-Completion OPT should utilize the OPT Employment Update (F-M) Terra Dotta program and students on STEM OPT should utilize the various STEM OPT Employment Reporting program(s) through Terra Dotta. If a student is fully up-to-date with their employment reporting and their most recently issued I-20 does not contain a travel signature, the student may submit a Travel Signature Request in Terra Dotta in order to request a new I-20 with travel signature. 
There are several steps you should take before leaving the United States in order to be eligible to re-enter the United States with F-1 status.
  • Be in legal F-1 status.  Make sure that your SEVIS record is Active and has not expired.
  • Have your I-20 signed for travel by a Designated School Official (DSO)/International Student Advisor. The signature is valid for one year unless you are on Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) or the 24-month STEM Extension of OPT. For students on OPT and STEM OPT, the travel signature is only valid for six months.  Be sure the I-20 you travel with states “Continued Attendance.”  If your I-20 states “Initial” or “Transfer”, then you need a new I-20 printed before travelling.
  • All the information on your I-20 is up-to-date including your major and degree level. 
  • Have a valid F-1 visa (this excludes Canadian citizens).  Please see the visa renewal section for further information.
  • Your passport will be valid for at least six months in advance from the point of return.
  • My visa expired or will expire soon... please visit the U.S. Deptartment of State U.S. Visas FAQ page
To request a travel signature, please refer to the Travel Signature Request program in Terra Dotta.
If you are travelling to a third country, check with that country’s embassy to determine if you need a visa to enter that country.  https://embassy.goabroad.com/embassies-in/united-states.
Texas A&M University is closely monitoring coronavirus COVID-19.  Please review the latest updates at https://www.tamu.edu/coronavirus/ and http://iss.tamu.edu/Current-Students/Traveling-and-Coronavirus before traveling outside the United States.  It is important that you also report your travel in the Texas A&M Travel Portal located at the main University coronavirus page.

Please visit following link to get your most recent I-94: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home
If you need to renew your visa while outside the United States, please the following into consideration. 
  • Plan ahead.  It could take a considerable amount of time to renew the visa.  You can check the processing times at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/wait-times.html
  • Know what documentation to take with you.  ISS recommends taking at least a transcript, a letter of academic status from your academic department if possible, proof of financial support, standardized test scores, passport and I-20.  For more information regarding the required documentation, go to https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/study/student-visa.html.  Also check the embassy or consulate web page to determine if additional information or documentation is needed.
  • If you are a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) major, then you may want to have information about your research available.  A letter from your academic advisor explaining your program or research subject in plain English at the time of your interview may be helpful.
  • Schedule your appointment at the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulate, https://www.usembassy.gov/
If your travel history information is outdated on your electronic I-94 record, your I-94 record itself is incorrect, or you cannot locate your I-94 record online, first review the information and resources provided at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home for online help.

If you cannot resolve this online, then you will want to contact the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Deferred Inspections Office, which is a unit within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  https://www.cbp.gov/contact/deferred-inspection/overview-deferred-inspection

Houston, Texas Deferred Inspection Location
Address: 19581 Lee Road, Humble, TX 77338
Phone: 281-443-4350 extension 221 OR 281-230-4600 extension 1
Fax: 281-443-0241

If you call Deferred Inspection, have your immigration documents with you.  Ask if they can assist you with correcting your record.  CBP may require you to appear in person to resolve your case.
If your visa is delayed in being issued, please inform ISS, your on-campus employer and your academic department.  If the reason for the delay is because of administrative processing, please note that ISS and Texas A&M University cannot speed the process up.  

Delays in visa issuance could be caused the situation in the country, status issues, country of citizenship or major.  If you are a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) major, then you may want to have information about your research available.  A letter from your academic advisor explaining your program or research subject in plain English at the time of your interview may be helpful.

If the delay is caused by administrative processing, please be aware that there is little that University can do to find out what is causing the delay.  The Department of State will not release information to the school or to anyone besides the applicant.  The National Visa Center (NVC) is available to answer questions concerning nonimmigrant visas.  You can contact the NVC at 603-334-0888 from 7 am to 12 am EST, Monday through Friday (excluding holidays).  The Department of State recommends you wait at least 60 days from the visa interview before inquiring about delays caused by administrative processing.

According to the Department of State, “Most administrative processing is resolved within 60 days of the visa interview. When administrative processing is required, the timing will vary based on individual circumstances of each case.” https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/administrative-processing-information.html
If your visa is denied, do not panic. Calmly ask the reason for the denial.  You should also receive written notification of the denial reason. Several of the reasons for denials are listed at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/visa-denials.html.  Good advice is also available at this web page.
Send an email to iss@tamu.edu and include the facts of your interview, such as what questions were you asked, what were your answers, what documentation did you bring to the interview, and what did the consulate officer tell you.  Be sure to include the letter you were given explaining the visa denial.  ISS will then advise you on your options.