I’m studying in the U.S. under an F-1 visa, but I need to go back home right away. Can I leave if there’s an emergency?

Yes. The F-1 visa program will allow you to return to your native country, but you must communicate your intentions to your school and the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services. You will also need to carry several items and important documents with you when you exit and re-enter the country, which may include:

  • A valid passport 
  • Your student visa
  • Form I-20, "Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status" 
  • Form I-94, "Arrival/Departure Record"
  • Your Social Security card
  • Plane tickets or travel itinerary
  • Form I-766, "Employment Authorization Document" (EAD)
  • Contact numbers or email addresses of your designated school officials (DSOs) or responsible officers (ROs) 

Customers and border patrol officers may ask for additional school information, so it is wise to carry your Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) contact information with you as well.

If you fail to possess the necessary documents, you may have trouble re-entering the United States after your trip home is complete. If you are gone longer than the term of your visa, your status may become invalid, leaving you to begin the application process all over again.

Vaughan de Kirby
California Immigration Attorney

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