There may be a number of reasons you or your family would want you to be home or you need to travel internationally in a time of pandemic response. Students and scholars must make international travel decisions that are in their best interest. However, please keep in mind the following considerations:
- Visa Validity, Travel Restrictions, and Uncertain Return to the U.S.: Many U.S. embassies and consulates have modified or limited their visa services. Additionally, there are currently entry restrictions for noncitizens traveling to the U.S. from certain locations. We do not know when these will be lifted or if other locations will be added. Therefore, if your visa will be expired or you may be subject to entry restrictions at the anticipated time of your return, there may be some uncertainty in terms of how quickly you may be able to return to the U.S. Delayed return to the US could affect your enrollment, your on-campus employment and/or GSSP funding, and potentially, your practical training (OPT and CPT) eligibility, depending on the circumstances. Please consider contacting your OIS advisor to discuss travel plans before making a decision.
- Graduating and Optional Practical Training (OPT) Eligibility: OPT is a type of off-campus employment authorization in one’s field of study typically utilized after degree completion. You cannot apply for OPT from abroad. You must be inside the U.S. with a SEVIS record that has been active for at least 1 academic year in order to be eligible to apply for OPT. If you travel and are unable to return prior to your degree conferral date, you forfeit your ability to return to the US and apply for OPT.
Travel Signature Validity: Travel signatures for currently enrolled students, J-1 students on Academic Training, and active J-1 scholars/student interns are valid for one year from the date of the signature. If you are an F-1 student on OPT, your signature is only valid for six months from the date of the travel signature (please also see our FAQ on travel on OPT).
Travel Signature Requests: A Travel Signature is essentially documentation from OIS that shows you have permission to travel and return to your program because you are in good standing with respect to your academic and immigration status. Please read the following to make sure you are able to have the correct documents that can demonstrate you have permission to travel and return to your program as per below:
- For F-1 Students: Electronic copy of an updated I-20 which includes a travel signature. If your I-20 has been (or will be) updated while OIS is operating remotely, an electronic copy of the I-20 will be emailed to you and will have a travel signature on it. Per SEVP guidance, an I-20 issued electronically during the COVID-19 pandemic is the valid, original document. As such, this I-20 with a travel signature can be used for travel when printed out. If you do not have an I-20 with a travel signature that will be valid upon your planned return, you can complete a Travel Request Form for OIS to electronically issue you a new I-20 to print and carry with you upon your return to the US.
- For J-1 Students and Scholars: Physical DS-2019 with a travel signature. If you do not have a DS-2019 with a travel signature that will be valid upon your planned return, please complete a Travel Request Form. You will need to include proof of insurance with this form. OIS will review your request and issue you a new DS-2019 with a travel signature. We will then mail your DS-2019 to you. We have a 10 business processing time for this request, so please submit your request with plenty of time for processing and mailing before your planned trip.
OIS continues to monitor the testing and quarantine requirements associated with travel to the US. Please visit our page here for the latest updates.