Renewing a Visa

If you plan to take a trip outside the U.S. or to go back to your home country for a temporary visit, you must make certain that you will have the proper visa documents to return to the United States. If your visa stamp will be expired at the time of your reentry to the U.S., you must budget time while outside the U.S. to renew the visa at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your country. You cannot renew a visa stamp from within the U.S. The process of renewing a visa is almost the same as applying for the initial visa.

A visa is used solely for the purpose of entry and reentry to the United States. The visa does not determine how long an individual may remain in the United States. Therefore, an individual may stay in the United States beyond the expiration date of a visa as long as the visa document (Form I-20, Form DS-2019, or Form I-797) has not expired. 

Special Considerations When Renewing a Visa

It is not possible to apply for or renew non-immigrant visas inside the United States. You must apply for a visa in a U.S. embassy or consulate outside the United States. You may check the estimated visa processing time on the web site of the specific U.S. embassy or consulate where you plan to apply for your visa. Please see below for details.

  • You do not have to pay the SEVIS fee again if you are an F-1 or J-1 visa holder.
  • Depending on your field of study and your country of origin, you could be put through a security check which could delay your return to the University. Please keep that in mind when planning a trip.
  • While you can apply for a visa at any U.S. embassy or consulate, it is always better to apply in your home country.
  • Please keep in mind that you must be able to prove your eligibility for a non-immigrant visa by presenting credible financial information along with the rest of your documents. You should also be prepared to answer questions regarding the length of your intended stay in the U.S. and how you will use your academic experience gained in the U.S. when you return to your home country. Consular officials expect to see evidence of your ties to your home country, such as family, property, employment, bank accounts, etc. If the consular official determines that you are not eligible for a non-immigrant visa because you have not presented sufficient evidence that you intend to return home, there is usually no recourse to the visa denial unless you are able to present new information that proves strong ties to your home country. You may also be asked to present evidence that you have maintained legal immigration status if you have worked, studied, or resided in the United States previously.
  • If you are on post-completion OPT or AT and have a pending or approved H-1B petition, you will still be required to prove ties to your home country. Please consult your HIO advisor before applying for an F-1 or J-1 visa while on post-completion OPT or AT.
  • Additional points to consider when renewing a U.S. visa can be found here.

What You Need to Return to the U.S.

In general, you will need the following in order to return to the United States:

  • Unexpired passport
  • Unexpired U.S. visa (except for Canadian citizens)
  • Unexpired immigration document (Form DS-2019, I-20, I-797)
  • Updated travel signature* on Form I-20 or DS-2019 (in most cases no older than 12 months)

*If you will need a travel signature, please check the HIO website for regular office hours. You do not need an appointment to get a travel signature from the HIO.

Please check your documents prior to making international travel plans. Note that it is also recommended that you take all related visa documents for domestic travel outside the Boston metropolitan area.