F1 visa – renewal and travel

Optimized-F1 Visa Renewal

To enter the United States, you must possess a valid visa. The type of visa granted depends upon the purpose of your visit to the United States.  Once the time of your visa is about to end, it is important to get it renewed in time to continue with your stay in the U.S. There are certain cases where the stay can be extended even if the visa has expired. Let us dig further and read all you need to know about F1 stamp renewal. 

What is an F1 visa?

An F1 visa is a non-immigrant visa offered to students who wish to take up an educational course in the U.S. An F1 visa also provides an opportunity to the students to take up training in the form of CPT and OPT

For how long is an F1 visa granted?

An F1 visa is usually granted based on the time of your program. If the course is of one year, the visa granted is also for one year plus an additional 60 days grace period. In case, the course duration of the program you have opted for is longer, visa status may be granted for a lesser time duration. In such cases, you can apply for your visa renewal. 

Don’t feel stressed if your F1 visa is about to expire and there is still plenty of time for your course to end. In such instances, you are eligible to stay in the U.S as per the date mentioned in your Form I-20.

(* It is important to note that you must not leave the U.S if your F1 visa expires but the date mentioned in Form I-20 is valid as it may lead to problems when you will try to re-enter the U.S.)

F1 Visa Renewal

Documents required for F1 renewal

  • Form DS-160
  • Passport size photographs
  • Passport with F1 visa stamp
  • Form I-20
  • Form I-94
  • Transcripts and attendance records
  • Financial documents
  • Previously issued I-20
  • SEVIS fee receipt
  • Academic documents
  • CV
  • A Letter describing your course 
  • A letter describing your intentions to return to your home country after completion of the course.

Different ways to apply for F1 visa renewal

  1. Go to home country and apply for F1 renewal
  2. Automatic visa revalidation 

How to apply for an F1 visa renewal in your home country?

USCIS lays down certain steps to be taken while applying for an F1 visa renewal. 

  • Apply for the F1 visa renewal at the U.S embassy in your home country. (To search embassy in your home country- https://www.usembassy.gov/#results )
  • Carry the above-mentioned documents along with you. 
  • For renewal, there is no interview session. The documents are verified and your F1 visa is renewed. 
  • Once the visa is renewed, you can head back to the U.S.

Time taken for visa renewal

It takes a maximum of one month for the visa to be renewed. Usually, the visa is renewed within this time frame. In cases where strict background checks are required, it might take longer than 60 days. To avoid hassles it is advisable to stay in your home country till the time you receive your renewed F1 visa. 

Automatic Visa Revalidation

Automatic Visa Revalidation is a way to revalidate your F1 visa till the time of your course. It allows students carrying an F1 visa to take up a trip of 30 days to states authorized by the United States (Canada, Mexico or adjacent Caribbean islands) even if the F1 visa has expired. The condition attached is that a valid date should be mentioned on your form I-94. 

Upon re-entry into the United States, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will verify your visa. In case, it is expired you can show your valid form I-94. After successful verification, you will be allowed to re-enter the U.S with an automatically revalidated visa. The revalidated visa is valid for the same duration as your original visa.  

(In this case, neither the visa status can be changed nor a new visa can be issued. It is important to note that, this process is merely revalidation, not renewal. )

Travel during OPT

You can be allowed to travel outside the U.S during your OPT. The only requirement is to keep the following documents ready with you when you return. These documents will be verified at the port of entry. Once the documents are verified, you can re-enter the U.S.

  • Valid F1 visa
  • I-20 clearly states details of the current employer and a travel signature.
  • Job offer letter provided by the employer
  • Valid Employment Authorisation Document (EAD)


Can an F1 visa be renewed while on a STEM OPT extension?

Yes, your F1 visa can be renewed if it expires any time during your ongoing OPT or STEM OPT extension period.  The basic and the most important requirement is to produce your valid EAD stating your current employment status.

Is traveling allowed while the request for OPT is pending?

You can travel while your OPT request is pending, but it is NOT recommended as it might create a problem when you plan to re-enter the U.S. Some of the reasons due to which it is not recommended to travel outside the U.S when your application is pending are- 

  • You might be asked to produce some documents for evidence as per the deadline set.
  • If you have applied for post-completion OPT and it is denied while you are traveling, your F1 visa will expire.
  • If approved, you will be asked to produce your EAD card at the port of entry. 
  • In case your F1 visa is expiring, you will require your newly generated EAD card and proof of employment to apply for renewal. 

Hope this guide tells everything you need to know about F1 visa stamp renewal and travel. 


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