Jun 16, 2024  
International Student Handbook 
International Student Handbook

Passport & Visa Renewal

Special Passport Acceptance Fairs

What is a US Visa?

A citizen of a foreign country who seeks to enter the United States (US) generally must first obtain a US visa, which is placed in the traveler’s passport, a travel document issued by the traveler’s country of citizenship.

The type of visa you must obtain is defined by US immigration law and relates to the purpose of your travel. There are two main categories of U.S. visas:

If you leave the US with an expired visa, you must renew the visa at a US consulate before returning.

Remember: If your F-1 or J-1 visa is about to expire, you may remain legally in the United States (US) with an expired visa because your I-94 card is marked D/S, which stands for Duration of Status. This means that you are eligible to remain in the US until you either reach the end date on your I-20 (F-1)/DS-2019 (J-1) or until the end of your academic program, whichever comes first. Your visa is simply an entry permit to get into the US.

Traveling with an Expired Visa

If your visa expires, you must renew it before you re-enter the US after traveling abroad unless you are not eligible for automatic revalidation.

Automatic Revalidation

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has the authority and responsibility over the admission of travelers to the US. Under the automatic revalidation provision of immigration law, certain temporary visitors holding expired nonimmigrant visas who seek to return to the US may be admitted at a US port-of-entry by CBP if they meet certain requirements, including, but not limited to the following:

  • Nonimmigrants who departed the US for brief travel to Canada, Mexico, or an adjacent island (for F and J nonimmigrants only) for thirty days or less;

  • Nonimmigrants with a valid (unexpired) admission stamp or paper Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, endorsed by DHS.

Automatic revalidation is not the same as applying for a new visa. If you apply for a new nonimmigrant visa, you cannot use automatic revalidation.

 Visa Renewal Process 

Whether you are applying for the first time or renewing your visa, you will use the same application process:

Some applicants seeking to renew their visas in certain visa classes may be eligible for the Interview Waiver (IW), which allows qualified individuals to apply for visa renewals without being interviewed in person by a US consular officer.

Review the instructions on the US Embassy or Consulate website where you will apply to determine if the IW is available and if you qualify.

Can a Visa Be Renewed in the US?

Typically, visas cannot be renewed while in the US unless you qualify for automatic revalidation or if the embassy/consulate for your country waives the visa interview. This is at the discretion of consular officers and is not guaranteed.

  • Once you have made a visa interview appointment, check the embassy or consulate website for details on their visa renewal process.

  • Some visa applications require further administrative processing and may take additional time after your visa interview.

  • It is recommended to apply early for visa renewal and well in advance of your anticipated travel date. 

 Renewing Visa as a Third Country National

Applying for a visa in a country that is not your home country (“third” country) can be more difficult than applying at home. You may need to prove that you have continuously maintained lawful immigration status during your time in the US or be sent back home to your country to apply for the visa. Since refusal in a third country is more likely to occur than in your home country, you should plan well in advance for your travel date.

The Department of State (DOS), which operates embassies and consulates worldwide, prefers that applicants apply for visas in their home countries. 

  • However, consulates or consular posts located in Canada and Mexico - often referred to as “border posts” - will entertain an application by a “Third Country National” (TCN) applicant who makes an advance appointment. 
  • The possibility always exists that a consulate in Canada or Mexico will not grant a visa because it believes that only the US consulate in an applicant’s home country is equipped to make a visa issuance decision. 

Any third-country national (TCN)* present in the US and visitors present in Canada or Mexico who wish to apply for a nonimmigrant visa at the Embassy or consulates in Canada or Mexico must make an appointment for an interview.

Find information at How to Apply for a Visa at a US Embassy or Consulate if you are a Third Country National Present in the United States or Visiting Canada

  • If seeking this option, you must contact the embassy or consulate for additional information, have a “valid” reason to provide for why you must apply as a third-country national, and be prepared to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the visa officer that you have enough funding to complete your program and that you plan to return to your home country.

  • If you have relatives who are US citizens or permanent residents, this will be more difficult to do, and if your only reason for applying in this country is to avoid your home country consulate, you will more than likely be denied.

  • Good examples of valid reasons include: attending a conference, visiting family or friends, etc.

What is a Passport?

A passport is a travel document issued by your country of origin that allows you to travel internationally. Usually, an ordinary passport is valid for 5 to 10 years; however, if your passport has less than 3 or 6 months left until expiration, most countries do not allow you to travel and must renew it.

  • A passport is different from a traveling visa, so they are not valid for the same amount of time.

  • All non-immigrants in the US are required to maintain a valid passport at all times.

  • A passport must be completely replaced when it expires, either by renewing it in advance or submitting a new application.

Note: F and J students with a valid visa and an expired passport can still use their visa (if they have the old passport) and must remember to carry and present the old passport along with the new one when traveling.

Passport 6-Month Rule

The 6-month passport rule states that your passport must be valid for another six months before you depart for international travel.

  • Depending on the country you travel to, the six-month period may begin when you leave or arrive.

  • This requirement changes based on where you are traveling and sometimes even your nationality, and it is strongly advised to renew your passport or check with an embassy or consulate on their requirements.

Passport Renewal 

Depending on the length of a student’s program, their visa may expire before they complete their program of study. Students are responsible for renewing their passports before they expire (check with your embassy or consulate on how early you may apply to renew). 

Expiring Passport

If your passport is going to expire within one year, you should make plans to renew the passport. As an F-1 or J-1 student in the US, you must always have a valid passport. It is recommended that your passport is always valid for at least six months into the future.

Renewing or Updating Passport

Some embassies/consulates will allow you to renew your passport while inside the US; however, you must view their website for details or contact them directly to confirm their renewal and update processes.

If you get a new passport but you have a valid visa in your old passport, you should travel with both passports. Submit a copy of your new passport identity page to ISS. You may be issued a new I-20 if there has been a change to your legal name or other biographical information.

Stolen or Lost Passport

If your passport is lost or stolen, report the loss to the local police and get a copy of the police report. To replace your passport, contact your country’s consulate. If your passport is lost or stolen outside the US, you must apply for a new visa at the nearest US consulate after getting your replacement passport.

If your passport is lost or stolen inside the US, you must get a new visa the next time you travel internationally to return to the US as an F-1 or J-1 student. Remember, you can remain in the US without a valid F-1 or J-1 visa if your passport, I-20, and I-94 are valid.

Please view the following links to learn more about the visa application process for your country:

 Remember: There are delays in passport renewal services worldwide; please make sure to provide ISS with proof that you have requested passport renewal before your passport expires