Required Documents for Re-entry

In order to re-enter the U.S. after a temporary absence (less than 5 months), students must carry the following documents:

  • Valid Passport (valid for at least 6 months beyond the date of the re-entry to the U.S.)
  • Valid F-1/J-1 student visa in passport (except students from Canada)
  • I-20/DS-2019 with a valid travel signature from the DSO (signatures are valid for 12 months). Students who need a new travel signature should submit a Travel Signature Request form along with the original I-20/DS-2019 to the GEO. The I-20/DS-2019 will be ready for pick-up in 4 business days.

Optional Documents to Carry

  • Financial support documents
  • Copy of WCU transcript and/or proof of course registration

Students on OPT Must Carry the Following Documents

  • Valid Passport (valid for at least 6 months beyond the date of the re-entry to the U.S.)
  • Valid F-1 student visa in passport (except students from Canada)
  • OPT I-20 with a valid travel endorsement from GEO (signatures are valid for 6 months)
  • Valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card
  • Proof of current employment or offer letter

Proof of Legal Status

Passports will now be stamped with the date of admission to the U.S. and the visa status in which one has been admitted. Along with a valid passport and I-20/DS-2019, this admission stamp serves as proof of legal status. It is strongly suggested that one obtains a printout of their electronic I-94 document from the CBP website after each arrival and retain these documents for their records. The printout will serve as an official I-94 record for federal and state government-based benefit applications, such as driver’s license and social security number.

Renewing Passport or Student Visa

Renewing Passport

All non-immigrants in the U.S. are required to always maintain a valid passport. Passports should be valid for at least six months into the future when entering and re-entering the U.S. and when applying for a visa. Students must contact their local embassy or consulate for instructions on renewing their passport.

Students whose expired passport has a valid visa are still able to use that visa if they have the old passport. Students must remember to carry and present the old passport along with the new passport when traveling.

Renewing Student Visa

Students may stay in the U.S. on an expired F-1/J-1 visa as long as they are properly maintaining their status by being in possession of a valid I-20/DS-2019 and an I-94 Arrival/Departure record.

Visas cannot be renewed inside the U.S. Once students have made a visa interview appointment at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad, they should review the Embassy or Consulate’s website regarding details on the visa renewal process including required documents. Students are also able to check on the visa wait times for a specific U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the U.S. Department of State Website.

The Department of State recommends that students apply for a visa in their home country. Students who must apply for a visa in a third country must remember the following:

  • Students cannot return to the U.S. until their visa has been issued.
  • If a background check is required, students must wait until this is cleared and the wait could be several weeks.
  • If the visa application is denied, students will not be able to return to the U.S. and will be required to return to their home country.


The SEVIS I-901 fee is mandated by Congress to support the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) and the automated system that keeps track of students and exchange visitors and ensures that they maintain their status while in the United States. The fee also covers the operational costs of the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) Each student or exchange visitor issued an initial Form I-20 or DS-2019 on or after October 27, 2008, is responsible for paying this fee to SEVP. The fee is $220 for J-1 students and scholars and the fee for F-1 students is $350.

Who is required to pay the fee?

  • Students who are applying for F or J status with an initial Form I-20 or DS-2019 must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee.
  • Students must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee every time they start a new degree program that requires a new I-20 or DS-2019 with a different SEVIS ID number.

Students must have the Form I-20 or DS-2019 before they pay the fee. Although students can schedule a visa application interview before they make the SEVIS I-901 fee payment, the fee should be paid at least a few days in advance of the interview date.

Who is not required to pay the fee?

  • Continuing students who received an initial Form I-20 or DS-2019 dated prior to September 1, 2004, and have not completed their program and have maintained status do not need to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee.
  • Continuing students with a change of level or transfer on the same SEVIS ID are considered a continuation of the current program and are not required to pay the fee.
  • Even if students received a Form I-20 or DS-2019 from their school or exchange visitor program with updated information and the printed date is on or after September 1, 2004, they do not need to pay the SEVIS fee. Payment is determined by the original issuance date.
  • Dependents of students and exchange visitors in F-2 or J-2 status do not have to pay the SEVIS fee. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offers more guidelines on who is/is not required to pay the SEVIS Fee.

Paying the SEVIS I-901 Fee

Students can pay the SEVIS fee online. When paying online, please make sure to print the receipt directly after the transaction. Students and scholars must present the fee payment receipt to the officer at the visa interview and at the port of entry when entering the U.S.