When traveling outside of the US while on an F-1 visa, it’s important to know what you’ll need to bring with you to get back into the country and continue your studies.

It’s critical to carry valid immigration documentation if you leave the United States during your course of study at Wingate University. Planning ahead can prevent delays.

Always travel with these items in your personal bag/carry on luggage. Do not put them in your checked baggage, since this can sometimes get lost.

Valid Passport

Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your date of re-entry. To renew your passport, contact your home country’s embassy or consulate in the United States.

Valid I-20 with Current Signature

The Designated School Official (DSO) signature on your I-20 form must be no more than 12 months old when you return to the United States (or 6 months if you are currently on OPT). Visit OIP at least one week prior to your planned travel to receive a travel signature (note: OIP staff is not available to sign I-20s after office hours or on weekends, so please plan accordingly).

If you forget to have your I-20 signed, you may not be permitted back into the US. Some customs officials may issue a temporary form (called an I-515), allowing you 30 days to gather the paperwork to be re-admitted. Please contact our office via email immediately if this happens, and we will help you complete the requirements.

Valid F-1 Visa

It’s legal to stay in the United States with an expired F-1 visa if these three conditions are met:

  • Your expired F-1 visa has the notation “D/S” (Duration of Status)
  • If you are in status
  • You have a valid I-20

If you leave the country with an expired F-1 visa, you cannot re-enter without getting a new visa. Your visa should be valid for at least 6 months from the return date. Visas cannot be renewed in the US; to renew your visa, visit a U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country.


You can print your most recent I-94 record in advance and give it to immigration when you leave. Visit the I-94 website and click on “Get most recent I-94,” then follow the instructions.

Proof of Financial Stability

Carry documentation with you that you have funding for educational and personal expenses in the United States. This may include a bank statement or scholarship letter.

If you have other questions about traveling while you’re enrolled at Wingate University, contact the Office of International Programs or speak with your DSO.

international@wingate.edu | 704.233.8998