Renewing an F-1 Student Visa

If you are currently studying in the U.S. in F-1 status and your visa is about to expire, please note that you’re allowed to stay in the U.S. with an expired visa because your I-94 card is marked D/S, which stands for Duration of Status. This means that you are eligible to remain in the U.S. as long as you are maintaining your F-1 status and you have either a valid I-20 or valid EAD card. Your visa is simply an entry permit to get into the U.S.

However, if you are planning a trip outside of the United States and your visa is expired or about to expire, you will need to renew your F-1 visa outside of the U.S. in order to re-enter and resume your studies. It is not possible to renew your visa from within the U.S.

Where to apply?

The U.S. Department of State recommends that you apply for a new visa in your home country.  However, if this will not be possible, you may apply at a U.S. embassy or consulate office that issues visas to third country nationals.  Keep in mind the following:

  • Contact the U.S. embassy or consulate office for the most updated information before departing from Tampa. Embassy websites are a great resource, but may have outdated information.
  • If you want to renew your visa in a country that is not your own, you must contact that country’s U.S. embassy or consulate office to verify that they will issue an F-1 visa to you. Let them know that you are a citizen of a different country when you call. Also, be aware of additional visa requirements that may be needed to enter that country.
  • Know the visa processing times before you go. Obtaining a visa may take several weeks. Although not common, the embassy may need additional time for administrative processing which could delay travel a month or longer.  You can find visa processing times on the U.S. Department of State website.

Automatic Visa Revalidation – Canada, Mexico or the Adjacent Islands

Students traveling to Canada, Mexico or one of the adjacent islands* who will be outside of the U.S. for 30 days or less may be eligible for Automatic Visa Revalidation.  This allows you to reenter the U.S. with a valid I-20 even if your F-1 visa is expired.

NOTE: You cannot enter with automatic revalidation if you apply for a new visa while you are traveling and your application is either pending or has been denied OR if your I-20 record has been terminated.              

*Find a list of adjacent islands and learn more at www.ice.gov/sevis/travel.

How to apply?

Step 1: Research F-1 visa renewal requirements and procedures online (https://travel.state.gov) for the U.S. embassy where you will apply.  It’s important to call and confirm requirements.  Also, students that are applying as third party nationals must call to confirm that they are eligible to receive an F-1 visa in that location.

Step 2: Visit the U.S. Department of State travel website (https://travel.state.gov) to submit a visa application online (DS-160).  Follow directions carefully for printing required materials, paying the application fee and setting up your visa interview.

Step 3: Prepare the documents you need for the interview. Again, be sure to check with the embassy or consulate office for additional documents. Requirements can differ between countries. You will need:

  • A valid passport. Your passport needs to be valid for at least six months past the planned re-entry date.
  • Most recent I-20. Be sure to get an updated travel signature (on page 2) of your I-20 from a CIE advisor before you depart from Tampa. Also check to make sure all information is correct (e.g. major, fees, etc.).  Note: Students with terminated I-20 records are not eligible for visa renewal.
  • Official HCC Transcripts. You should plan to order your transcripts at least 3 weeks prior to your departure. Don’t open them when they arrive. If you have registered for classes for the upcoming semester, also include a print out of your schedule.
  • A letter of good standing from HCC (optional). This can be provided by a CIE advisor upon request.
  • Proof of financial support. This includes bank letters/statements (on official bank letterhead), any scholarship or support letters, and sponsor letter. All documents should be dated within six months of your visa interview date.  Note: If there are any changes to your financial support, please notify CIE prior to your departure for an updated I-20.
  • Visa application form, fees and photograph (check the Embassy/Consulate’s website for information and requirements).
  • A plan for your return home. Since you are applying for a non-immigrant visa, it’s important to prove your intention to return home after you’ve completed your studies. Make your plan clear and concise. Use ties with you family or future jobs/finances as evidence of your goal to return home.
  • Post-Completion OPT Students only: You should also bring your valid EAD card and a letter from your employer that verifies you are currently employed and are expected to return to work.