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 Designated School Official (DSO) in International
Education Program (IEP) office. This also includes trips to Mexico or Canada! A
signature on the second page of your I-20 allows you to return to the United States
in F-1 student status. This "travel endorsement" signature cannot be more than one
year old when you plan to reenter the US. We recommend having your I-20 signed every
In order to have your I-20 signed, please follow these steps:
The F-1 visa is the permits you to enter the United States as an international student. Since it's main purpose is to serve as an entry document, when you are maintaining your F-1 status in the US with a valid I-20 and passport, your visa can expire without penalty. In fact, your F-1 visa 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.
If you plan to leave the US 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. The visa renewal 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.
You will need to supply enrollment verification documents and copies of your transcripts with your visa renewal application. These can be obtained from the IEP office.
Be sure contact the US Embassy/Consulate in your home country directly for a complete list of required documents. You may need to provide transcripts, among other documents.