When it comes to travel, it would be appropriate for students to refer to what the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) expects the F-1 students to follow.
If you are leaving the United States temporarily, you must have certain documentation with you in order to re-enter. As an F-1 student, you are expected to have the following:
Dependents in F-2 status must also have valid passports and visas. Whether they are traveling alone or with the student, they must also have with them the appropriate Form I-20 signed by SIS. If students forget to have their Form I-20 signed by SIS before leaving the United States, they must arrange to have a replacement I-20 mailed to them through express postal service. The charges will be billed to them (charges cannot be billed to their student account — they must pay the amount by check made payable to “Biola University” to SIS immediately upon arrival at school). As this involves time and money, students are expected to have their I-20 signed by SIS before leaving.
Like the United States, other countries have rules and restrictions on who can enter their country, and F-1 students who wish to visit their country of citizenship or permanent residence generally will be allowed to enter that country if they hold a valid passport or other travel document issued by that country. For travel into any country other than the home country, students must check with that country’s embassy to inquire about specific entry procedures. For a list of foreign consular offices, their addresses, and telephone numbers, Embassy.org provides links to the websites of many foreign embassies in the United States.
If students have changed their status to F-1 from other visas while in the United States, if they undertake any foreign travel, they will need to go to a U.S. embassy or consular office in their home country to apply for a new visa. It is not possible to obtain an F-1 visa inside the United States. Students need to contact SIS before leaving and obtain a letter to the consular office they will be going to for the interview along with sealed official transcripts, fresh financial documents and so on.
If the visa stamp has expired and they need to travel outside the United States, they will need to apply for a visa renewal in their home country. They must present a valid passport, sealed official Biola transcripts and fresh financial documents to the visa officer in their home country.
A student who re-enters the United States without the required documents may be allowed entry by the Port-of-Entry (POE) official using Form I-515A. This allows a student to enter for up to 30 days within which time the student will report to SIS for required documentation. The 30-day period will be reflected on their I-94 admission record and passport stamp annotation. In most cases, Form I-515A is used when the student did not obtain an SIS signature on page 2 of the I-20, or if he/she lost the I-20. If an SIS signature was not obtained prior to departure, the POE officer will issue the I-515A to allow the student to enter and obtain the proper signature. If the student has lost the I-20, the DSO will reprint a copy for processing. The Form I-515A along with the required documentation must be processed at the Washington DC address given in the I-515A Notice.
The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) will terminate the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record status of any F student who does not comply with the Form I-515A directive within the 30-day response period. Within five business days of the
student receiving temporary admission into the United States, SEVP will notify the relevant designated school officials (DSOs) of the issuance of the Form 1-515A and the future Termination date. Before the end of the 30-day response period, the student has to comply with the Form I-515A with the help of the DSO.
Beginning April 1, 2016, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) will send “Intent to Terminate” notices to F-1 students and their dependents (F-2) who failed to comply with the Form I-515A, “Notice to Student” directive by the specified deadline. Recipients of the “Intent to Terminate” notices will have 14 days, as of the date the notice sent, to respond to the Form I-515A. Failure to comply within the 14-day grace period will result in termination of the recipient’s Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record, which will flag the student as a possible visa violator in official government systems.
F1 students and dependents who lose their valid F status as a result of their SEVIS record being terminated for failure to comply with the requirements of a Form I-515A must file for reinstatement and relevant fees will apply. F-1 students and their dependents must file for reinstatement with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. F-1 students that do not comply with the Form I-515A and do not file for reinstatement must depart the United States immediately.
Readmission may be granted on a valid new Form I-20, for F-1 Student Status, with all previous entry deficiencies resolved, in order to establish nonimmigrant status again. Students may get their new visa to come back to study full time in their program.
For more details, please visit the Department of Homeland Security page on Form I-515A.