Please consult with the International Center before traveling outside the U.S.  If visiting our office in person, bring the passport and I-20 or DS-2019 when making inquiries about international travel. When entering the U.S., the visa stamp in the passport must be valid (meaning it must not be expired); and the passport must be valid for at least six months in the future.

If the visa has expired, or if the visa status has changed within the U.S. since the last entry, international travel is still possible.  However, the traveler will need to apply for a new visa to return to the U.S.  Anyone with an expired visa, should contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate closest to their destination to apply for a visa renewal.  The same applies to those who underwent a visa change within the U.S.; they must apply for the visa stamp to be placed in the passport at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  The traveler may always apply in their native country.  But when traveling to a different country, it is advised that the traveler contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in that region, to ensure they will be able to apply for a visa at that location. This process is often called “third-party processing” and some U.S. Embassy or Consulate locations process these types of requests, while others do not.  Please check before taking the trip.

It is not possible to renew a visa within the U.S. Generally a person must present a valid visa at the U.S. port of entry when returning to the U.S. from an international trip. There is one exception however. If a person is travelling to Canada, Mexico, or an island adjacent to the U.S. for 30 days or less, re-entry with an expired F or J visa is allowed. The traveler must have a valid I-20 or DS-2019 and an I-94 record valid for “D/S” (duration of status).  This is sometimes referred to as automatic visa revalidation.  For additional information, refer to https://www.ice.gov/sevis/travel.

Whenever travel is planned for Canada, Mexico, or any of the adjacent islands to the U.S., the traveler must first check with that country if an entry visa is needed to enter the country.  If a visa is needed, the embassy or consulate of the destination country can advise of the requirements for applying for the proper visa.  If traveling to Canada, contact the Canadian consulate in New York, NY, to determine if there is need for a Canadian entry visa.

Please give the UFIC at least a week to review documents before any trip abroad. A minimum of 3-5 working days is required for the Student and Scholar advisors to process any documentation needed for travel.  During vacation periods, it is especially important to apply for travel documents very early, since most other students are planning to travel also. If a visa renewal is needed, allow enough time for the visa process at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  Always hand-carry the passport, I-20 or DS-2019, (or any immigration-related documents) when travelling; never pack these items with the rest of the luggage! Luggage can be lost, sometimes for days, sometimes forever, and the Immigration Officials can refuse entry to a person that does not have proper travel documentation in hand.

 

F-1 Students - Travel

If leaving the U.S. temporarily and returning to continue studies, students must have the required documentation:

  • Entry visa to the destination country, if required (whenever going to a country that is not the traveler’s native country)
  • Entry visa to the United States

The basic requirements for an F-1 to re-enter the United States after traveling abroad are below. Please remember that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the Port of Entry (POE) ultimately decides to grant or deny entry into the United States. The decision is based upon the facts and circumstances presented at the time of entering. We cannot guarantee admission or re-admission to the United States.

Required Documents for F-1 Re-Entry

  • A current I-20, signed for travel by an International Student Advisor (ISA).  The travel signature must be less than one year old at the time of re-entry.
    Note: Granting a travel signature for the I-20 is contingent on having valid F-1 status. UFIC will conduct a review of the student’s record and any problems found will delay our ability to grant a travel signature. For this reason, we require that students request signatures in a timely manner, allowing at least 5-7 business days for processing the request.
  • A current passport valid for at least six months after the date of re-entry.
  • A current valid F-1 visa; if the visa has already expired or was issued only for a single entry, the traveler will need to renew it prior to re-entry. Please make an appointment to renew it, before leaving the country, by contacting the U.S. Embassy in the destination country.
  • If traveling to a US contiguous country or adjacent island for less than thirty days, re-entry on an expired F-1 visa is allowed.
  • If the student is from a visa exempt country, then a visa is not needed for re-entry. However, this currently applies only to Canadian citizens.  Currently citizens of all other countries that will pursue study in the U.S. under the F-1 status, require an F-1 visa for entry into the U.S.

The following documents may requested of the traveler at the Port of Entry:

  • I-901 Fee Payment Receipt. Click here to print the receipt.
  • Financial information showing proof of necessary funds to cover tuition and living expenses.

After a successful re-entry, we advise that the traveler checks the passport to ensure the Customs Official properly stamped the passport with the correct date entry and visa status.  The traveler should also review the new I-94 record to ensure the most recent entry was properly recorded. Remember the I-94 number changes upon each subsequent entry into the U.S.!

Required Documents for Dependents of F-1's (F-2's) Re-Entry

  • Valid passport for at least 6 months from the date of re-entry.
  • Valid F-2 visa (unless exempt from having a visa such Canadian citizens); if the visa is expired, please make an appointment to renew it by contacting the U.S. Embassy in the destination country.
  • Current I-20, signed for travel by an ISA; the travel signature must be less than one year old at the time of re-entry.
  • Dependent may be required to show proof of funds

Re-Entry on Optional Practical Training (OPT) or STEM OPT Extension

To travel outside of the U.S. and re-enter while on OPT or STEM OPT, the traveler must have:

  • Valid F1 visa (unless exempt from having a visa such Canadian citizens); if the visa is expired, please make an appointment to renew it by contacting the U.S. Embassy in the destination country.
  • Valid passport for at least 6 months from the date of re-entry
  • Current I-20 that reflects the OPT request or authorization on the second page and is signed by an ISA; the travel signature must be less than 6 months old at the time of re-entry.
  • The unexpired OPT card (also called EAD card)
  • The job offer letter on the employer’s business letterhead stating the employee’s name, a general idea of the expected start date, and a brief description of the work duties

Notes:

  • If the EAD card has not been received, we recommend avoiding international travel until the EAD card is received; international travel without the EAD is risky
  • If traveling internationally with a valid EAD card but lacking a job offer, we recommend postponing travel if possible; re-entry may be denied for a traveler lacking a job offer during OPT or STEM OPT.

FAQ for F-Nonimmigrants: Entry and Exit

J-1 Exchange Visitors - Travel

If you wish to leave the U.S. temporarily and return to continue your studies or research, you must have the required documentation to:

  • Permit entry to another country (if not your home country).
  • Permit re-entry to the U.S.

Required Documents for J-1 and J-2 Re-Entry

  • A current DS-2019, signed for travel by the sponsor who issued your DS-2019, within one year of your re-entry date.
    Note: Endorsing the DS-2019 depends on your status. We will check your status and any problems found will delay the signing of your DS-2019. For this reason we require you to request signatures in a timely manner.
  • A current passport valid for at least six months after the date of your re-entry
  • A current valid J-1 visa; if your visa has already expired or is not for multiple entries, you will need to renew it prior to your re-entry date; please make an appointment to renew it, before you leave the country, by contacting the U.S. Embassy in your country.

The following documents may also be requested of you:

  • I-901 Fee Payment Receipt. Click here to print your receipt.
  • Financial information showing proof of necessary funds to cover tuition and living expenses

NOTE: Upon re-entry, you will automatically obtain a new I-94 admission number. Be sure the Port of Entry stamp in your passport it is properly stamped with your re-entry date and J visa status.

Guidelines for traveling abroad

  • Travel to home country, with intent to return to the U.S., requires a valid passport, a valid US visa and a valid travel signature on the DS-2019 form. If the J-1 visa is expired, the exchange visitor must obtain a new visa before entry to the U.S. will be granted.
  • Travel to a country abroad, other than the visitor’s home country, requires a valid passport, a valid US visa and a valid travel signature on the DS-2019 form. Exchange visitors should also contact the Consulate General's office or Embassy of the country that will be visited for entry requirements and procedures.

"Automatic Revalidation" -Travel to Canada, the Caribbean (except Cuba and Bermuda), or Mexico

Visits to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean (except Cuba and Bermuda) for fewer than thirty days by non-immigrants may not require a new visa to return to the U.S. Citizens of certain countries are prohibited from utilizing this provision (see Department of State web site for details). Qualifications for this provision include:

  • Valid J-1 status
  • Possession of a current DS-2019 with valid travel signature
  • Possession of a J-1 visa (expired or valid) in your passport that matches the immigration status posted on the current I-94 record
  • Individuals who change from one non-immigrant status to another in the U.S. will possess a passport visa which reflects the previous non-immigrant status. A new visa for the new status will be required to re-enter the US.
  • Possession of a passport valid for at least 6 months from the re-entry date to the U.S.
  • If an application for a visa is submitted during the stay, the applicant must have the visa issued before re-entry to the U.S. will be permitted. If your visa application is denied, "automatic revalidation" will not be permitted and the individual will be required to return to his or her country of citizenship to apply for a new visa.
  • Exchange visitors should contact the Consulate General's office or Embassy for entry requirements and procedures.

Travel during change of Status from J-1/J-2 to H-1B/TN/O-1 or PR

Travel abroad by non-immigrants during change of status processing period often causes undesirable results (Example: A decision issued by USCIS to: (1) deny the current petition based on the basis of abandonment, or (2) require that the change of status will be granted through consulate processing abroad).

I-94 - Arrival/Departure Record and Travel History

The I-94 Record reflects the most recent entry date into the U.S.; it is an electronic record that can be printed by the traveler after entering the U.S. The I-94 record must be correct upon a person’s entry into the U.S.; it assigns an I-94 number, reflects the date in which the person entered the country, the visa type used to enter, the duration for which the person is allowed to remain in the U.S., and the person’s biographical details (name, date of birth, citizenship). The I-94 record number changes with each new entry. For students, scholars, and any accompanying dependents entering the U.S. in either F or J visa status, the “Admit Until Date” must reflect “D/S.” The I-94 record is frequently needed for applications involving Immigration Services, Social Security numbers, and Driver’s License permits. If an I-94 record is not correct, or cannot be found, the student or scholar should contact UFIC for further guidance. Depending on the case, the student or scholar may need to visit a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) office in person to have the matter corrected.  

The Travel History shows a record of entries and exits from the U.S. undertaken by the traveler using the same passport.  If a passport changes, then future entries and exits will be recorded under the new passport.  The Travel History, though helpful, is not always completely accurate but that is not a problem.  The CBP office will not correct inconsistencies in the travel history since it is not a legal representation of a person’s stay in the U.S., but simply a guide. The important point is that the I-94 record is correct.

I-515A Form

The Form I-515A is an official document given to travelers entering the United States who do not have all the required paperwork. If a visitor is missing a required travel document they may be given Form I-515A.

When a Port of Entry (POE) officer issues a student or scholar a Form I-515A, they need to report it to UFIC immediately. The UFIC will need to assist the student/scholar by providing the proper guidance or documentation required to complete the submission process within the 30 days allowed. If these documents are not received within 30 days of the student or scholar’s entry into the United States, he or she will not be in legal status and must leave. The issuance of an I-515A results in delays at the port of entry, and the need to wait 30-90 days for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to verify the validity of the traveler’s paperwork. Once the documents are received by mail at the I-515 processing office, they will be processed and later returned by mail to the student or scholar.

Important Notice from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS):

Typically, when an I-515A is issued to a student or scholar, the school in notified about it within five business days.  And upon receiving the notification, our office will contact the impacted person to seek a prompt resolution.  However, in the event the student or scholar fails to comply with the 30-day submission deadline, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record will be terminated. This action will result in the loss of valid status for the F or J visa holder. Once the 30-day submission period ends, the student or scholar will have two choices:

  • Depart the United States immediately or
  • File for reinstatement immediately with USCIS; please contact UFIC for additional guidance