You will need a valid U.S. visa to re-enter the United States after traveling abroad.
If the visa stamp in your passport has expired or has been damaged, mutilated or lost, you must apply for a new one at a U.S. embassy or consulate before you return to the United States. Visa renewal and replacement cannot be done within the U.S.
If you are only taking a short trip to Mexico, Canada or certain contiguous territories and islands near the U.S. (except for Cuba), see the Automatic Revalidation of Visa section below for possible exceptions to the need for an unexpired visa when reentering the U.S.
Visa Renewal Process
In most cases, you must schedule a visa interview appointment at a U.S. embassy or consulate to renew your visa. The Department of State recommends that you apply for a new visa in your home country whenever possible.
It is never possible to renew your visa inside the United States, regardless of whether the United States maintains an embassy in your home country. Remember that you can legally remain in the United States even with an expired visa stamp as long as your Form I-20 or DS-2019 is still valid.
Visa appointment wait times and visa application processing times vary from several days to several months. The processing time for your application will depend on a number of factors, including your country of citizenship, your major field of study, and the state of diplomatic relations between your government and the United States.
You should contact the embassy where you plan to renew your visa to ask about specific application requirements. A complete list of U.S. embassies and consulates can be found on the Department of State website.
Here are a few suggestions to help you prepare for your interview. 10 Points to Remember When Applying for a Non-immigrant Visa
Third-Country Visa Applications
You may apply for a visa in a country other than your country of citizenship or legal permanent residence unless prohibited by the U.S. Department of State. Occasionally, a U.S. consular post may limit visa applications for Third Country Nationals (TCNs). Therefore, you need to read their website carefully for any mention of this limitation before scheduling your visa appointment.
What to Bring
The website for the US consular post where your visa renewal request will be processed should have a list of required and recommended documents.
Documentation may include:
- Unexpired passport, which should be valid for at least 6 months into the future;
- Current I-20 or DS-2019 with a travel signature (signature must not be more than 12 months old -- 6 months if on OPT);
- Documentation showing financial support for the next 12 months (F-1 students) or duration of your program (J-1 students);
- Documentation establishing ties to your home country, such as property deeds, investment portfolios, or job offer letters);
- Letter of Enrollment Verification and/or DU transcripts from the Office of the Registrar;
- Evidence of future course registration (if applicable);
- [OPT/STEM OPT] Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
- [OPT/STEM OPT] Evidence of employment such as job offer letter or pay stubs
- Copy of any degree(s) earned in the United States.
Automatic Revalidation of Visa
If you travel to Canada, Mexico, or certain contiguous territories and islands near the U.S. (except for Cuba) for less than 30 days, you may be permitted to re-enter the United States with an expired non-immigrant visa.
You are not eligible for this benefit if you have been denied an application for visa renewal.
NOTE that reentering the U.S. using automatic revalidation does NOT give you a new F-1 visa stamp in your passport. Only applying for an F-1 visa using the renewal process mentioned in the previous section gives you the new visa stamp.
Additionally, citizens of the following countries are not eligible for automatic revalidation of visa validity [list current as of 19 August 2022]:
- North Korea
For more information about Automatic Revalidation of Visa Validity and the list of 'adjacent islands', please review the information listed on official U.S. government websites:
- Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Automatic Revalidation
- Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) F-1 Student Travel FAQ including list of adjacent islands
- Department of State Automatic Revalidation
Please note that this benefit does not apply to the Visa Waiver program.