Travel & Re-entry

Before traveling outside of the United States (including Canada), CHECK YOUR I-20! Make sure there is a valid travel signature on page 2. The signature must be less than 1 year old on the date you plan to re-enter the United States. Stop by International Services if you need a new travel signature. 

 Travel to Canada

Departing and re-entering the United States

When traveling outside of the United States (this includes Canada), you must always carry your immigration documents with you. 

  • Passport (valid at least 6 months into the future) 
  • Valid F-1 visa stamp (except Canadian citizens) 
  • Valid Form I-20 with valid travel signature on page 2
  • Students on OPT need a valid travel signature no more than 6 months old. The EAD card and proof of employment should also be carried. 
  • F-2 spouses and minor children who are not accompanied by the F-1 student must also carry their valid passport, valid F-2 visa, and valid Form I-20 when traveling 

You will need to present these documents to Customs & Border Protection officers every time you re-enter the United States as a student! Without these documents, you could be denied re-entry to the U.S. or given the Form 515A. Contact International Services immediately if you have forgotten your Form I-20 while traveling, or if you receive the Form 515A upon re-entry. 

F-1 visa: Important notes

Your F-1 visa is your most misunderstood immigration document. To help understand it, think of your F-1 visa like your "key to the door" of the United States. You use your F-1 visa to enter the United States. 

  • Once you have entered the U.S., the most important thing is to maintain your F-1 status by following the immigration regulations 
  • If your F-1 visa expires during your studies, you can stay in the U.S. as long as you are maintaining your F-1 status 
  • An expired visa does NOT mean you must leave the U.S. 
  • However, if you leave the U.S. after your F-1 visa is expired, you must apply for a new visa from outside the U.S. before you can re-enter the country. You will need to allow yourself enough time during a visit home to apply for a new visa.  

Please schedule an appointment with International Services if you have an expired visa and plan to travel outside of the United States. It is important to discuss possible risks and the documents needed for a successful visa application or renewal process. 

Visiting Canada

Many international students will choose to visit Canada over weekends or school breaks because MCC is so close to the border.  Rochester is located within driving distance of many great places in Canada including Niagara Falls (1.5 hours), Toronto (3 hours), and Montreal (5.5 hours). 

Before planning a trip, find out of you need to apply for a visitor visa or use an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) to visit Canada. This will depend on your country of citizenship. 

Remember to be careful bringing certain things or substances (alcohol, marijuana, drugs) over borders between the U.S. and Canada. They are different countries and have different laws! 

Under the "Automatic Revalidation" policy, you may be able to return to the U.S. from Canada using an expired F-1 visa, valid I-20, and valid I-94, as long as you visit Canada for less than 30 days. This policy can also apply to travel to Mexico and some surrounding island nations. You cannot visit any other countries during your visit.  Always check with International Services before traveling with an expired visa! 

Traveling within the U.S.

In general, keep your immigration documents in a safe place in your room or home. You do not need to carry your documents around MCC or Rochester.  This will help prevent theft or loss of these important documents!  It can be a huge hassle to replace a lost or stolen passport and visa. 

We do recommend bringing your immigration documents when traveling within the United States outside of Rochester. 

Rochester is close to a foreign border (Canada), so there is more presence of U.S. Border Patrol officers here at the local airport, bus station, and Amtrak station. You may be asked by Border Patrol to present your immigration documents when using these types of public transport (excluding local RTS bus).