Anyone holding an F-1 academic student visa may leave the United States and re-enter as long as their visa is still valid. Even F-1 visa holders who submitted Form I-526, Immigrant Petition by an Alien Investor, and are awaiting adjudication may leave and reenter the United States. However, traveling outside of the United States may not be prudent.
The Difference Between Immigrant and Non-immigrant Visas
F-1 is a nonimmigrant academic student visa. Holders of this visa do not have the intent to remain in the United States. On the contrary, their intent is to enter the United States as a full-time student to attend an accredited college, university, seminary, or other academic institution or training program. At the end of their course of study, F-1 visa holders are to exit the United States, unless they apply for and receive approval of a separate type of visa.
The EB-5 visa program was created as a way to boost the U.S. economy. Foreign nationals invest in projects approved by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and, in turn, are granted U.S. permanent residence. These immigrant visas are considered by foreign nationals to be a safe and reliable pathway to U.S. permanent residency and eventual U.S. citizenship.
F-1 Visa Holders with Pending I-526 Petitions
An F-1 visa holder may exit the United States and re enter without any issues. However, a visa is not a guarantee of access to the United States. An F-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa, but a pending I-526 petition demonstrates intention to immigrate. Therefore, a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent could, at their discretion, deny entry into the United States. If, however, the investor indicated on the I-526 petition that he or she intends to consular process upon I-526 approval, reentering the United States is less likely to be problematic.