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Can I Travel to Mexico With US F1 Visa

Learning should not necessarily be confined to classrooms. When a person is an international student in a foreign land away from home, family and country, he/she may want to soak in all the new experiences.  

Holders of the United States F1 visa may wish to explore the new world outside of academics and traveling is one of the many ways to do that. International students in one of the US universities will get ample time and opportunities like semester, fall, spring, Christmas and Thanksgiving breaks to pack their bags and hit the road.     

Mexico, a country that shares international borders with the US, known for rich history, serene beaches, majestic mountains and delicious cuisine has always welcomed foreign students studying in US universities. 

As per the Mexican immigration law, foreign nationals who are in possession of a valid visa issued by Canada, The United States of America, The UK, Japan and some of the European nations do not need a visa to enter the country.

This is irrespective of the visitors’ nationality provided they are in Mexico for a short period not exceeding 180 days.  

International students who hold a valid US F1 visa do not require to apply for a Mexican visa if they are not planning to stay for over six months or engage in activities earning remuneration.   

They just need to present a completed FMM form and a passport valid for at least six months at the point of entry.

Update: Mexico FMM form has been terminated for air arrivals.

Complete FMM form for land here.

Immigration officers may ask a few questions with regard to the nature of the trip and the duration of the stay. They may also need to submit their travel itinerary, including details of the accommodation and return tickets.      

What does an F1 Visa Mean?  

The US has always welcomed international students through its Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). There are different kinds of student visas, but the most common is the F1 visa. It is a non-immigrant student visa.  

International students coming to the US on this visa should be accepted to a US university or college affiliated to the SEVP program prior to the application.    

They must also complete their degree in the prescribed time which will be written in the I-20 form given by the university.   

What is an I-20 form? This document is given by the college after the application of an international student is accepted.

This form will have the details of their study plan and duration.

After graduation, they may get a permit (Optional Practical Training) for working in the US for 12 months. Those who do not get the OPT option will have to return to their home country within 60 days.  

Is an F1 Visa Required to Travel to Mexico? 

Technically no. Its only needed if a traveler is from a visa-required country and has a F1 visa. The F1 visa grants visa-free entry to Mexico.

Foreign students from US universities will have to show proof of a valid F1 visa to legally cross Mexican borders. This is irrespective of his/her nationality and citizenship.  

They will not have to apply for a Mexican tourist visa and can enjoy the exemptions that the US visa holders have.  

Though international students are exempt from getting a Mexican tourist visa, they have to fulfil other formalities before their Mexican trip. The documents needed before leaving the US for Mexico are as follows:  

  • The 1-20 form that is signed by the designated school official (DSO) of the university. The form should endorse the travel plans. This signature is valid for 12 months or until the completion of the course period. Without this signature, traveling students may not be able to re-enter the US.
  • Passport with a validity of at least six months.
  • Proof of income source.
  • Proof of enrolment in a US university or college.

Please note that the travel signature from the DSO is valid for 12 months only for international students. The signature issued to students on OPT is valid for up to six months.  

Are There Advantages to Having an F1 Visa? 

The US has many well-established academic institutes that attract students across the world.

For international students aspiring to join various programs offered by them, an F1 visa is a blessing.

Though the terms and conditions are a bit tough, an F1 visa opens numerous opportunities for students in addition to world-class education.  

  • F1 visas can be issued to any number of students in a year. There is no limitation there.
  • Foreign students can travel in and out of the country at any number of times during the visa period.
  • They can bring their close relatives, if they have F2 visa status.

How Long Can I Stay in Mexico Using an F1 visa? 

As per the Mexican immigration rules, foreign travelers with a valid Mexico Tourist Card can legally visit in the country for six months. If they would like to extend their stay, it would require them to follow a specific process.

International students with F1 visas can travel outside the US for five months. As per the US immigration laws, this period is considered as a break in F1 status.

If they extend their stay, they will not be able to re-enter the country as a continuing student. They will have to apply for a new 1-20 form after paying an additional SEVP fee.  

Hence, they are encouraged to take trips for 30 days or less to avoid any complications. 

For traveling inside USA, these restrictions are not applicable. Also, foreign students with an expired F1 visa can live in the US as long as they maintain their student status. If they are returning home or traveling abroad, they will have to get a valid visa to re-enter the US borders.  

What will Happen with My F1 Visa Once It Expires? 

International students can stay in the US with an expired F1 visa as long as they are still a student at a SEVP college or university.

The date on which an F1 student is expected to leave the country will be stamped in the 1-94 record. Usually, immigration officials will not enter a date, but a D/S status on this document.

The immigration authority will give enough time to process a new visa, if they possess all the required documentation.  

The documents needed for a new F1 visa are as follows:   

  • Proof for necessary funds for the extended stay. This covers both the tuition fee and living expenses.
  • I-20 form that is signed by the DSO of the institution.
  • Evidence to show their intention to return home after the completion of the course. They must have a home in their country of origin and a return date in mind.
  • Submit the OPT form, if they have an approved one

If the students are planning to return to their home country or travel abroad, they will not be able to return to the US without a new Visa. They can apply for the new F1 visa in their home country, but their DSO must approve their return.  

It is strongly advised not to travel outside the country, if the visa or form 1-20 are about to expire. There is a high chance that such students are not able to renew the visa and may have to discontinue their studies.  

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