Travel - Gordon Conwell


Domestic Travel

Domestic travel within the U.S. is permitted. However, we always recommend you bring your passport, current I-20 form(s), and proof of enrollment at Gordon-Conwell with you to avoid any unnecessary confusion about your identity and/or reason for being in the U.S. No I-20 endorsement is required for domestic travel.

International Travel

Many F-1 students and F-2 dependents travel internationally during their time at Gordon-Conwell, usually back to their home country, for vacation (e.g. Canada), or for missions work. While international travel is permitted for F-1 students and F-2 dependents, there are provisions and restrictions that must be followed to avoid travel delays and violations of the F-1 visa restrictions. If you are traveling outside the U.S., please read the information below carefully.

Before You Leave

Prior to your departure from the U.S., please ensure that you do the following:

  • Review the requirements and restrictions for the country which you plan to visit.
  • Verify all your important documents are current and not expired, including passport, visa, and I-20.
  • Make three sets of copies of all your important documents for both you and your dependents (even if some dependents are U.S. citizens). Include copies of identity pages of your passport, such as your picture, birth date, F-1 visa, and I-94 card. Leave one set of copies at home, one in your carry-on luggage, one in your checked baggage. Verify that your adviser has current copies of your passport, F-1 visa, and I-94 card.
  • Meet with your adviser to have your most current I-20 form(s) signed, including I-20s for any dependents traveling with you. Your adviser will endorse your I-20 for travel by signing the bottom of page 3.
  • Meet with the Registration Office to receive a ?Proof of Enrollment? letter. This letter will help you prove your enrollment at Gordon-Conwell should a border officer, embassy/consulate official, or any other official request proof you are an F-1 student in the U.S.
  • Bring all official documents used to receive an I-20 with you as you attempt to re-enter the U.S., including your passport and any/all church or family support letters, bank statements, and/or financial aid forms. Financial documents must not be greater than six months old.

Provisions and Restrictions to Consider

Every country has its own rules with regard to who can enter their country, under what restrictions, and for how long. Typically, as an F-1 student, you can enter your own country of citizenship if you hold a valid passport issued by that country with little or no problem. Before entering a country other than your own country of citizenship, however, we advise that you check the embassy of that country to learn about their specific entry rules.

Though travel is permissible for F-1 students and F-2 dependents, there are restrictions that must be followed. For instance, an F1 student with an application pending with the USCIS for change of status or post-completion OPT should not travel outside the U.S. while the application is still “pending.” Travel during this time is considered an abandonment of the application. This restriction includes F-1 students currently in the 60-day grace period after the completion of a program (indicated on line 5 of your I-20) or students in the process of adding a second degree. In these instances, under no circumstances will you be permitted to travel outside the U.S. Attempting to re-enter the U.S during the 60-day grace period automatically terminates the F-1 visa and the student would not be permitted to re-enter. The implications of this rule can be very severe, causing delays in students? course of study if violated. This restriction includes travel to Mexico and Canada.

Travel Between Transfers

Transfer students must exercise careful consideration with regard to travel during the period between enrollment at both Gordon-Conwell and their respective transfer institution. Thus, you must pay attention to the start and end dates listed on your I-20 to avoid complication when attempting to re-enter the U.S., and consult your adviser at both schools to ensure you have a valid, properly endorsed I-20.

When you Return

When you return and attempt to re-enter the U.S., you will need the following documents to present to a U.S. Customs and Immigration Officer:

  • Valid passport and I-20 endorsed by your adviser (i.e. signed on the back page)
  • Valid visa and previous I-94 card
  • Current financial statements and support letters, as required to create your I-20
  • Letter from the Registration Office (i.e. a Proof of Enrollment Letter) indicating enrollment as a current student

You will be required to speak with border officials and/or other related officers. Remember, remain calm, speak clearly, and most importantly, have all required documents with you. If needed, the official can contact Gordon-Conwell for verification of any needed information, or review your current I-20 available to them in SEVIS. Gordon-Conwell’s 24 hour contact number is (978) 836-6798. This number will connect you with our on-duty officer.

Five-Month Absence Rule

You are not permitted to leave the U.S. for longer than five months and maintain a valid F-1 visa status. U.S. law refers to this as “The 5 Month Absence Rule” Under this law, absence for a period of more than five months outside the U.S is considered beyond the permitted temporary absence allowance, thus terminating an F-1 (and F-2 visa) status. This means if you are absent from the United States for more than 5 months, you will no longer possess a valid I-20 and will need to request a new I-20 to return to Gordon-Conwell (or reenter on a new school’s I-20 if the intent is to attend a school other than Gordon-Conwell upon return to the United States). The implications of this rule can be very severe, causing delays in students’ course of study if violated. Gordon-Conwell is required by law to maintain strict adherence to this rule.


Contact the International Student Advisor at [email protected] or call 704-940-5807.

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