I am travelling in Mexico (it's been about a little more than a week) and need to go back to the States asap as my school is starting soon. However, I forgot to bring my F1 visa which was in my old passport. I asked a friend to mail my old passport to my hostel in Cancun but it is taking forever to get here and I am not sure if it will ever arrive according to my brief research on this matter (my friend used the USPS priority mail).

Is there any way for me to enter US without the physical F1 Visa with me? I have my current passport, I20, and a copy of my F1 Visa. What would be the fastest way?

Edit: I just learned about ESTA. Is it possible to enter US with ESTA and leave US before ESTA expires and come back with my F1 Visa?

  • 2
    Why didn't you have them use FedEx or UPS? It will be much faster and much, much more reliable.
    – xuq01
    Dec 29, 2018 at 2:00
  • Thank you for your reply. I guess I should’ve specified... i later found out that USPS is not very reliable for international shipments. It looks like my stuff is in Mexico City right now but don’t know what to do to get it ASAP. Do you have any recommendations?
    – Chris
    Dec 29, 2018 at 2:07
  • 2
    I'm afraid you could do nothing but wait.
    – xuq01
    Dec 29, 2018 at 2:53
  • 12
    You already had your passport mailed to you. Don't go anywhere until it arrives. Dec 29, 2018 at 5:50
  • 1
    When you find that you are going to be late returning to school you should probably email your professors. If you have an assistantship you should definitely email your department earlier rather than later. Dec 29, 2018 at 17:27

2 Answers 2


The simple fact is: you're not getting in without a visa, least of all by air.

You need to visit a US embassy or consulate in Mexico and obtain a new visa in your current passport, bringing your I-20 and visa copy and explaining the situation.


I am sorry to that you are in this situation. I am, too, an F1 student, and I understand these kind of paperwork issues can be very worrisome.

Since you haven't lost your old passport or your old visa, I would suggest just wait. Getting a new visa takes a while, even if you explain your urgent situation. As cruel as this sounds, the US government doesn't really give a crap about whether you can start school on time.

I had a friend who forgot to bring her I-20 when she entered the States, and after going through secondary inspection, she was allowed in. When it comes to visa though, I have no idea.

I highly doubt the USCBP officer will admit you without your F1 visa. And if you are flying, chances are you won't even be able to roll that dice. Pretty much all airport staff will check your US visa when you get your boarding pass. This is because if you get deported, they have to fly you back for free and they get fined by the US government. In fact, many airports now check both the US visa as well as the original I-20 for all those flying on F1.

If you are driving, I don't know what will happen. You can try, but get ready to be denied entry. Also keep in mind a denied entry doesn't play well next time you apply for a US visa, or any visa or immigration document in any country for that matter (because they ask for those information).

In a word, just wait. Since your visa is already on the way to you, it shouldn't take long. Finally, I hope that you could get your visa soon and be on your way back to the States. Best of luck!

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    Since Cancun is about 30 hours of driving from Brownsville, it's unlikely that the plan is to drive. This is a good answer; welcome to the site. The interview wait time at Merida is currently reported to be 12 days, so waiting really is the only sensible option. travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/…
    – phoog
    Dec 29, 2018 at 15:30
  • @phoog Thank you! Yeah, I would recommend waiting too. Imho even if the border is right next to me I wouldn't risk it. Getting denied entry is not only embarrassing but also provokes issues down the road.
    – Leo Liang
    Dec 29, 2018 at 15:42

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