I think this question was asked before¹ on another post, but I feel paranoid and want to hear some opinions on my unique situation.

I came to the USA on a tourist visa 18 years ago and have never been out since. Thus my visa has long expired and since then I have changed my status to F1 status without leaving the States (so I do not have an F1 visa, just the status).

I am now into my fourth year of PhD and my advisor wishes me to present some works I have published at a conference held in Puerto Rico.

I have heard that if I ever visit another country, then re-entry would be impossible as my visa expired. This would mean having to go back to South Korea (legally speaking, I am a South Korean citizen) and applying for a visa to enter the States again. This would probably be impossible since I have left the country with a tourist visa and never returned since and did not serve in Korea's mandatory military service.

If I get deported during this critical time of my career, it would be disastrous, so I wish to take utmost caution when I travel out of the 50 states. Will I be able to travel to Puerto Rico without running any risk of getting deported, provided I have valid I-20 and I-94?

¹It's not exactly a duplicate because it doesn’t mention returning.

  • 2
    Not relevant to this specific question, but you can apply for a visa elsewhere than South Korea.
    – phoog
    Mar 24 '18 at 19:35
  • 3
    Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States Mar 24 '18 at 19:54
  • 2
    Thank you. I am aware that Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, but it still makes me worried since it’s not one of the 50 States. Mar 24 '18 at 19:55
  • 2
    @WGroleau yes they do. Furthermore, once a foreigner is in the US the State Department's responsibility ends unless the person is a diplomat or similar; the Department of Homeland Security is instead responsible, largely through US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
    – phoog
    Mar 24 '18 at 20:22
  • 1
    "I have heard that if I ever visit another country, then re-entry would be impossible as my visa has expired." Not necessarily. You can travel for less than 30 days to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean islands and re-enter on Automatic Revalidation without a valid visa.
    – user102008
    Mar 25 '18 at 0:37

Here’s an answer from a personal experience; I received an official response from TSA saying it is okay for me to travel only with driver’s license, so I did. Indeed, I was able to travel as a domestic flight (round trip) only with NY state driver’s license. I just returned yesterday. Have a safe travel everyone!

  • Did you ask anyone about getting an F-1 visa in Canada or some other non-Korean country? Also, did you encounter any CBP officers or just TSA?
    – phoog
    Jul 1 '18 at 1:18

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