Many F-1 student visa holders may want to travel abroad to the Caribbean, their home country, or elsewhere during the summer break. Other students may intend to seek temporary employment related to their course of study (Curricular Practical Training or “CPT”). In order to be able to travel, study, or work there are important issues to know about early on.
F-1 students may typically travel within the U.S. without any additional documentation – so long as you are a full time student and plan to return the next summer, you may remain in the U.S. during school breaks. If you plan to travel outside of the U.S., you should first:
- Meet with your International Student Advisor at least a month before you plan to leave; and
- Have your I-20 signed for travel.
In order to endorse your travel, the student advisor will need to review and affirm certain things before allowing you to travel abroad to ensure that you will be able to return to the US. Your advisor should:
- Review the status of your enrollment (credits, grades, payment);
- Review the status of your I-20 (including signing once everything is verified);
- Review your passport (unexpired, etc.) ;
- Review the status of your I-94; and
- Review your visa (unexpired, etc.).
If your F-1 visa or I-94 has expired, you should contact a qualified immigration attorney prior to making any travel plans!
Summer School Sessions
Holders of a valid F-1 student visa may take summer sessions. You cannot usually take summer sessions at a U.S. university as a tourist visa holder or under the Visa Waiver Program. Thus, the normal terms of the F-1 visa program will apply to summer program: you must maintain full-time student status for that session; complete any mandatory I-20 and check-in procedures; and maintain health insurance.
Most F-1 students are eligible to work on their school’s campus for up to 20 hours per week. To apply for on-campus employment, you should contact your International Student Office or advisor. Employment before and after schooling (OPT) can always bear the risk of being “unauthorized employment,” so you should contact a qualified immigration attorney prior to accepting any employment in the U.S. Below is a short list of additional documents needed even for student employment:
- You will need to have a social security card in order to get paid for your work (even being a “research assistant”) or other academic jobs count as employment;
- Valid F-1 visa; and
- Valid Passport.
Always contact your immigration attorney before changing enrollment, accepting employment, or traveling abroad! Only a qualified immigration attorney will be able to protect your status and interests, making sure that you can return to the U.S. at the end of your vacation.