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Travel and Visas

Where and When to Apply for a Visa

  • Apply for visa at a U.S. consulate in your home country.
  • Some students may be able to apply for a visa at a U.S. consulate in a country other than your home country. This is called a “third-country national (TCN)” application. Not all U.S. consulates accept TCN applications, and this practice is not encouraged by the Department of State. It can be risky to apply in a country other than your home country, and you may encounter greater processing delays. You will not be able to re-enter the U.S. while your application is being adjudicated or if your application is denied.
  • Students are encouraged to return to their home country during long breaks (such as summer or winter) to apply for a new visa.

Visa Re-validation

  • An exception to the rule requiring a valid, unexpired visa to re-enter the United States is known as “automatic visa re-validation.”
  • Students in valid F-1 status may travel for fewer than 30 days to Canada, Mexico, and islands of the Caribbean except Cuba.  Upon return to the U.S., your visa will be considered “extended” to that date of re-entry.
  • Students should make sure to obtain a valid travel signature on their I-20.
  • Note: If you apply for a new visa while in Canada, Mexico, or islands of the Caribbean, you will not be eligible to return to the U.S. under automatic visa re-validation.
  • Citizens of Iran, Sudan, and Syria are not eligible for automatic visa re-validation.

Expired or Invalid Visas

  • Visas may only be obtained outside of the U.S.
  • The F-1 visa in your passport is permission to apply to the enter the U.S. in that visa category.
  • As long as your passport and I-20 remain valid, you are authorized to stay in the U.S. with an expired student visa.
  • If your visa expires while in the U.S. and/or its number of entries has been used, or you have changed your non-immigrant status while in the U.S., the next time you travel abroad you must apply for a new F-1 visa to return to the United States.
  • If you have been outside of the U.S. for more than five months and were not registered full-time while abroad, your F-1 visa will be considered invalid, even if it has not yet expired. If you are returning to resume study, you must obtain a visa and pay the SEVIS I-901 fee ($350 for F-1 students).

Studying Abroad

  • Students in valid F-1 status may participate in the study abroad and exchange programs offered at Georgia Southern.
  • If planning to participate on a study abroad experience, students in valid F-1 status should have:
    • A valid passport
    • A valid F-1 visa
    • Authorized travel signature on I-20 that does not expire prior to returning to the U.S.
  • Students should also carefully review the entry requirements for the country where you will study for citizens of your home country.
    • For example, if you are a Nigerian citizen who plans to study in France, your entry requirements may differ from U.S. citizen participants attending the program.  No matter what, be sure to consult with your International Student Advisor prior to studying abroad to see if and how these plans may affect your F-1 status.
  • In order to maintain F-1 status while studying abroad, submit a Travel Form in the ISSS Portal prior to leaving for study abroad. We will issue an updated I-20 with a new travel signature. 

Inviting Family Members to Visit the U.S.

During your studies at GS you may want to invite your parents or other family members to visit. Here are some suggestions to help them apply for a visitor’s visa (B-2) at a US consulate or embassy in their home country.

To facilitate their visa interview process you should do the following:

  • Write a letter of invitation. Include:
    • Purpose of the visit
    • Your relationship to the individuals
    • A statement of your status here
    • Itinerary details
    • The length of time they will be visiting (usually less than three months).
    • It is best to emphasize the temporary nature of the invitation and to demonstrate their intention to return to their home country following the visit. If you will provide their financial support while they are here, include that information as well.
  • Include an Enrollment Certification Letter (may be requested online from the Registrar’s Office) to confirm your student status. Graduate students who hold an RA/TA appointment may want to also attach a departmental funding letter.
  • If you are graduating and they are traveling to attend your commencement ceremony, see more information on graduation invitation letters.
  • For additional information about U.S. consulate/embassy locations and application procedures, review the U.S. Department of State visa information.

Providing your family members with this documentation may improve their chances of obtaining a visa; however, there is no guarantee a visa will be issued. The success of their request for a visa lies in their ability to prove that they have no intention of staying permanently in the U.S.

Issues Re-Entering the United States

If you have repeatedly had trouble entering the U.S., you may have a “flag” on your record. The reasons may vary, but you can ask to have the Department of Homeland Security review your record which may eliminate the problem. Request assistance here:

Last updated: 1/31/2024