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Staying outside the US for more than a year for research while on F-1

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I am PhD student on F1 visa, currently in India pursuing my research. I need to extend my trip for longer than a year for more research. However, the office of international students (OIS) at my University tells me that according to some federal policy, I must make a trip back to the US within 1 year or I might get into trouble at the port of entry. They have not directed me to this policy though.
I know of other PhD students on F1 VISA who stayed outside of the US for research for more than 1 year and had no trouble going back, nor did their Universities warn them about this. I called ICE, and they told me that staying for more that 1 year on research should be fine as long as I continue to be a registered student and my i20 has updated travel signature.
I am certain that I will be a full time registered student through this period and am planning to renew the travel stamp on my i20 by mail. The OIS says they will renew the i20 stamp but still strongly advise to make a trip to the US within a year. Please advice.

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I would listen to your International student office. Sure, sometimes they get stuff wrong, but they ARE the people in charge of handling your paperwork, and they are often up-to-date with any changes in rules, and know lots of anecdotes of students having difficulty re-entering. It's probably from this perspective that they are giving you this advice. Based on what you wrote above, it doesn't sound like they are telling you that you can't spend over a year studying/researching abroad on F1, but rather that you need to visit the US during that time. If it's possible for you to do funds-wise, I'd do it.

I did study abroad for 6 months while on an F1 and when I got to the airport, the immigration agent asked me a bunch of questions, then went to ask around to see if I was allowed to do that. Scared the ever-living crap out of me. 

Anyway, I'm of the opinion of "better safe than sorry," if you can afford it, of course. 

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They know what they are talking about. It probably has something to do with the specifics of India-US visa agreements. 

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