Visa Validity After Break in Studies

According to the Department of State, if you have a break in your studies of five months or more, then your current student visa will be considered invalid, even if you depart the country in good status. For students who remain continuously enrolled during the academic year and maintain their student status, this does not apply.

If you will have a break in your studies of this length, please contact us so we can help.

Visa Expiration While a Student

It's important to have a clear understanding about visas. A visa is your permission to cross a border and enter a country, so your US student visa must be valid at the time you cross the border to enter the United States. Each time you enter, you will receive a stamp in your passport that designates how long you can stay. As a student, your stamp should have D/S (Duration of Status) as the expiration date. This means that as long as you are maintaining student status you may stay in the U.S., even if your visa expires.

If you don’t depart from the U.S., you can stay to complete your bachelor’s degree, move to another school to do a master’s, and stay some more to do a doctorate, etc. That is all allowed as long as you maintain status, even though your visa may expire. Once again just to be clear - after you have legally entered the US in student status you may remain in the country even if your visa expires as long as you follow the student regulations and maintain status.

Anytime you enter the U.S. you will need a valid visa to return. If your current visa is expired, a new visa can best be obtained in your home country at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate there. A more complicated situation arises if you wish to travel to a country aside from your home country after your visa expires. In that case, US Embassy officials typically frown on issuing a visa outside your home country, and this can limit your opportunities for travel. We recommend you plan your travels to include your home country if you will need a new visa.

If your visa has expired, there are special provisions for visiting Contiguous Territory (Canada, Mexico and some Caribbean islands) for a short visit and returning directly to the U.S. Current regulations allow you to travel to contiguous territory for up to 30 days and re-enter with your passport and valid I-20 even if your visa has expired, and this procedure is called automatic revalidation. These regulations could change at any time! Even though these regulations currently exist and most students have no difficulty reentering, the officer at the Port of Entry has absolute authority to permit or deny your entry. You can cite the regulatory authority as 42.112(d) of 22 CFR if the officer questions why you are trying to enter with an expired visa. Automatic revalidation is not possible if you are a citizen of a country which is considered a state sponsor of terrorism by the United State government.


Renewing an expired passport

In order to maintain your student status in the United States you are required to have a valid, unexpired passport. Please safekeep your passport and important papers, and plan ahead so if needed you can renew your passport with the least possible disruption for you.

You may wish to consider getting a Minnesota ID so you do not have to carry your passport as frequently. We suggest you keep a copy of your important papers (passport, visa, I-94, I-20, etc) in a safe place, and if you also provide a copy to us we can keep it in your student file.

If you lose your passport or need to renew it, please contact the government that issued your passport in order to renew it. Each government has different policies and procedures for renewing or replacing passports. Find out what those are, along with the estimated time needed. Most countries handle passport renewals and replacements for students in the U.S. through their embassies in Washington.

Find your embassy with these lists:

U.S. Department of State

You should always keep a copy of your old passport and your I-94 arrival/departure card when you send your passport to be renewed. In fact, try to keep the original and send a copy. You should do whatever you can to complete the renewal process quickly and conveniently.

Things to Consider:

  • If you will be applying for a job or accepting employment your original passport may be required
  • If you will be obtaining a state ID card or driving license your original passport may be required
  • If you are applying for a social security card or duplicate card your original passport may be required
  • There may be other circumstances where your original passport is required.

When you receive your new passport, try to keep your old one as your visa is in it. The first time you travel outside the United States with your new passport, you may have to obtain a new visa.