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Can I travel to the US if I have a valid Student Visa and I attend a New School on a New I-20?

If you have a valid F or M visa and a new I-20 issued by a school different than the one for which you received your original F or M visa you may be eligible to seek admission to the United States on your unexpired visa if you meet certain requirements. Requirements vary depending on how long you have been outside of the United States, why you were outside the United States, and if your SEVIS number is the same or different. The definitive source of information is the Department of Homeland Security.

If You’ve Been Outside of the United States for Less Than Five Months: If you have a valid F or M visa and took an authorized, temporary absence of less than five months, you can travel on your valid visa if:

  1. You have a valid I-20 using the same SEVIS number as listed on your current visa; and
  2. Your academic institution has changed your SEVIS record to “initial” or “active”

If You’ve Been Outside of the United States for Five Consecutive Months or Longer: If you have a valid F or M visa and have been out of the United States for more than five consecutive months (and not on a study abroad program), you may travel on your valid F or M visa if:

  1. You have a new, valid I-20 form using the same SEVIS number as listed on your current visa;
  2. You have paid a new I-901 SEVIS fee; and
  3. Your academic institution has verified that you have an active SEVIS record.

If the SEVIS number on your new I-20 is different from the one listed on your valid visa you must apply for a new visa.

The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official at a U.S. port of entry makes a final determination on admission into the United States. A CBP officer may find a student presenting an unexpired F or M visa and a new I-20 inadmissible and we have seen this happen in practice.
Work with your academic institution before you travel to ensure that your student status is listed as “active” or “initial” in the SEVP system.  If you are denied boarding and/or admission you should apply for a new student visa which will match your current I-20.

I have a valid Student visa, can I return to the US?

Students that already have a valid F or M visa and a valid I-20 may now return to the United States without further administrative steps. Visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website to ensure that you follow any quarantine or social distancing requirements upon your return. Contact your airline to determine what documents you need to board the plane. You do not need a letter or other permission from the U.S. Embassy to travel to the United States from the Schengen area on your valid F or M visa.

I need a visa appointment with the US Embassy in Copenhagen. When can I obtain an interview with a consular officer?

Visa services at the U.S. Embassy in Copenhagen remain suspended. Visa services were suspended worldwide in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic. Visa services in Copenhagen are further suspended due to critical renovation work is taking place at the Embassy until August 13. We will continue to provide emergency and mission critical services as we are able while the Embassy is closed. We will post here once there is a definitive date for a resumption of visa services. If you have an existing visa appointment you can manage your visa appointment by logging in to your account. While the Embassy aims to process cases as soon as practicable when we resume services, there will be increased wait times for completing such services due to substantial backlogs. The MRV fee is valid and may be used to schedule an appointment in the country where it was purchased within one year of the date of your payment.

What are the National Visa Interest Exceptions?

Answer: On July 16, the State Department announced that certain travelers subject to Presidential Proclamations 9993 and 9996 (which suspend travel to the United States from the Schengen Area, the UK, and Ireland), may qualify for a national interest exception for non-tourist travel to the United States. Travelers that may qualify for a national interest exception to the Presidential Proclamation include:

  • Humanitarian: For example, if you are having a child born to surrogacy in the United States; you require urgent medical treatment in the United States; or you have an immediate family member in the United States who is gravely ill.
  • Economic: Temporary travel that provides a substantial economic benefit to the U.S. economy. Examples may include: Technical experts and specialists to install, service, maintain, or receive training for vessels, machinery and other specialized equipment used by U.S. and foreign firms with a substantial investment in the United States; Senior-level managers and executives, and their dependents, who provide strategic direction necessary for the success of the company or venture; Professional athletes, dependents, and essential staff who enter the United States to participate in major sporting events, which bolster the U.S. economy.
  • Investors: Travel in connection with investment or trade in the U.S. economy that generates a substantial economic impact, including investors and treaty-traders and the senior-level employees who provide strategic direction or expertise essential to the success of the investment, and their dependents.
  • Students: All students, and their dependents, traveling to the United States to: pursue a full course of study per INA 101(a)(15)(F) or INA 101(a)(15)(M); or participate in an exchange program as a bona fide student per INA 101(a)(15)(J).
  • Academics: All exchange visitors and their dependents traveling to the United States as a nonimmigrant under INA 101(a)(15)(J) in the following categories: Professors, Research Scholars, Short Term Scholars, Specialists.

I don’t have a visa but I believe I qualify for National Interest Exception. How can I request a visa?

If the purpose of your travel to the United States if for a life-or-death emergency and you believe you qualify for one of the exceptions to the National Interest, e-mail the Embassy at to discuss your purpose of travel.

I was approved for a National Visa Interest Exception. What next?

Answer: If approved, the exception is valid only for 30 days from the date of approval and is valid for a single entry to the United States. An individual who departs the United States and wishes to return must be re-assessed for a national interest exception. Students, investors, and academic researchers do not need to be re-approved for each entry to the United States. F and J visa travelers are reminded that they must still meet all Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) requirements. All individuals are reminded that their admission remains subject to a determination by Customs and Border Protection officers at ports of entry and that they may be subject to a 14-day quarantine upon arrival. DHS requires travelers using a NIE waiver to fly into one of 15 specifically designated airports found here.

I posess a valid visa or ESTA. Do I quality for a National Interest Exception?

Answer: Travelers that already have valid nonimmigrant visas or ESTA and believe they qualify for a national interest exception (NIE) for economic, investor, or exchange visitor related purposes must verify with a consular official that they qualify. To do so, travelers must send the following information along with supporting documentation to documents may include a letter of invitation, confirmation of your medical treatment in the United States, letter from the U.S. business explaining the economic impact of your travel on the U.S. economy, etc. Due to a large volume of inquiries it may take up to ten business days to review your documents and qualifications. You will be notified by e-mail if you meet the NIE requirements. Print out that e-mail as confirmation of your excepted status.

  1. A scanned copy of your visa (if applicable)
  2. A scanned copy of the biographic page of your passport
  3. Reason for travel (and any supporting documentation)
  4. Proposed travel itinerary
  5. Your e-mail address
  6. Your phone number