If the visa stamp in your passport which correlates to your current legal status in the U.S. (F-1, J-1, H-1, O-1, TN, etc.) is expired and you are traveling outside the U.S., you will be required to visit a U.S. Embassy or Consulate to obtain a renewal of the same visa status before being permitted to return to the U.S.
If you have changed your status while in the U.S. and are now legally holding a different status than the visa stamp last recorded in your passport, you will need to apply for the new visa category at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas before returning to the U.S.
Administrative processing (security clearance check) is applied to international students and scholars from certain countries and/or from certain fields (usually STEM fields). Here is some information on Administrative Processing. Anyone who is subjected to Administrative Processing will face long delays of 3+ weeks when obtaining a visa. For this reason, it is recommended that you travel during the summer vacation period should you need to obtain a visa renewal and risk being processed for a security clearance.
Students holding an on-campus job, especially if the job is a Teaching or Research Assistantship, must inform and obtain approval from their on-campus employer(s) of the possible delays in returning. International Scholars must inform their UMass Lowell supervisor of their planned absence as well.
It is helpful to have certain documents ready when applying for a new visa or visa renewal if you are from a country which may undergo additional screening, or if you are in a STEM field. Most STEM fields are listed in the government’s Technology Alert List (TAL).
The following is meant to help you be prepared in case you are asked to present additional documentation. Do not, however, present it unless you are asked to do so. Some people may be asked to present some or all of the following:
Current Students or Visiting Scholars who will need to apply for a new visa stamp or to extend their visa stamp while traveling overseas must also be prepared with above-mentioned as well as other relevant information listed below.