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F-1, M-1 Returning Students

F-1, M-1 Returning Students

Students, who are enrolled in schools and currently hold a valid student visa, are not required to apply for a new one to return to the United States even if they have transferred to a new school. These students will have to present their valid student visa and properly endorsed valid I-20 form from their current school when entering the United States. The only time that the I-20 and the valid visa must be for the same school is the first time the student enters the U.S.

Students who have valid student visas in expired passports may continue to use those student visas. They must present the valid student visa, a valid passport of the same nationality as the expired passport, and a valid I-20 form properly endorsed by the authorized official of their current school. Students should sign on the bottom part of page 1 of the I-20.

Students who have been out of the United States for more than 5 months must obtain a new visa before returning to the United States to resume study even though their current visa remains valid on its face. In order to apply, these students should either obtain a new I-20 from the school or verify that their previous I-20 remains valid and SEVIS record is in active status before applying for a new F-1 or M-1 visa.

Please note that the length of validity of your visa has nothing to do with the length of time you will be permitted to stay in the U.S. When you enter the United States on a student visa, you will usually be admitted for the duration of your student status. That means you may stay as long as you are a full time student, even if the visa in your passport expires while you are in the U.S. For a student who has completed the course of studies shown on the I-20, and any authorized practical training, the student is allowed the following additional time in the U.S. before departure:

  • F-1 student - An additional 60 days, to prepare for departure from the U.S. or to transfer to another school.
  • M-1 student - An additional 30 days to depart the U.S. (Fixed time period, in total not to exceed one year). The 30 days to prepare for departure is permitted as long as the student maintained a full course of study and maintained status. An M student may receive extensions up to three years for the total program.

If you depart the U.S. with an expired visa, you will need to obtain a new one before being able to return to the U.S. and resume your studies. A student visa cannot be renewed or re-issued in the United States; it must be done at an Embassy or Consulate abroad.

For more information on length of stay permitted in the U.S., click here. For additional information about student visas, click here (The Bureau of Consular Affairs Website).