Travel

Definition

Domestic travel covers all travel within the United States. International travel is divided into two different categories for F-1 and J-1 students: travel outside North America and travel to North American countries (Canada, the United States, Mexico, and adjacent islands). Students should obtain a visa, if required, for each country they plan to visit. Please consult the list of foreign embassies located in Washington, D.C. for more information.


Domestic travel

When traveling domestically in the United States you should carry your passport, I-94, and your valid I-20 or DS-2019 Form. No signature is needed on the immigration document. The visa stamp in the passport may be valid or expired.


Travel outside North America

Obtain a travel signature on page 3 of your I-20 or page 1 of your DS-2019 from an international student advisor in ISSS. (Please be sure to bring your passport, with current visa and I-94, when you come to request a signature.) International student advisors provide travel signatures during walk-in hours. We also offer travel signature days scheduled immediately prior to peak holiday periods. On these days, advisors are available throughout our normal business hours to sign documents for travel.

The travel signature is valid for one year while pursing your degree and for six months while on post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) or Academic Training (AT); therefore, it is not necessary to get a new signature every time you travel within those periods. It is advisable, however, to carry current transcripts. Unofficial transcripts can be printed using OPUS. Official transcripts may be requested from the registrar's office. If your visa will expire by the date that you intend to re-enter the United States, you will need to obtain a new visa from a U.S. Embassy or Consulate prior to presenting yourself for re-entry at the U.S. border. The process will be similar to the process when you applied for your initial visa, including providing proof of finances, completing forms, paying fees, and proving your non-immigrant intent. For more information, please see our pre-arrival information on obtaining a visa.

International students must return Form I-94 to an airline or ship representative when departing the United States if the old I-94 card is still present in the passport. For those who last entered following the launch of the electronic I-94, there will be no card to return.

Please note:
If you are a student with a major that requires a security clearance, you are encouraged to allow at least two months for the processing of your visa. Please see our pre-arrival information on obtaining a visa for more information on security clearances.

Checklist of documents needed when traveling outside of the United States:

Passport valid at least six months into the future
Valid visa
Valid I-20 or DS-2019 Form with valid travel signature
I-94

Checklist of documents needed for F-1 students traveling outside of the United States with approved, post-completion OPT:

Valid F-1 visa stamp
Passport valid at least six months into the future
Valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
Valid I-20 endorsed with travel signature on page 3 that will be less than six months old at the time of re-entry
Employment verification letter from your company on company letterhead

Checklist of documents needed for J-1 students traveling outside of the United States during post-completion AT:

Valid J-1 visa stamp
Passport valid at least six months into the future
Authorization letter from ISSS for Academic Training
Valid DS-2019 endorsed with travel signature that will be less than six months old at the time of re-entry
Employment verification letter from your company on company letterhead

Travel to Mexico, Canada, and adjacent islands except Cuba

Travel to Canada, Mexico and neighboring islands (except Cuba) is handled somewhat differently than travel to other countries. Students are still required to carry the I-20 or DS-2019 Form with a valid travel signature. The F-1 or J-1 entry visa, however, may be expired. There is a special provision called automatic visa revalidation which allows students with expired entry visas to briefly visit Canada, Mexico and the adjacent islands (except Cuba) and return to the United States without applying for a new visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate. Please see our section on automatic revalidation for more information.