Immigration and Travel
Many international students, scholars, and/or their dependent family members will wish to travel abroad (outside the U.S.) temporarily during a program of study or research – particularly if it is a long program. Those in F or J status do not need permission from OIS to leave the U.S. and OIS does not generally need to know when a student or scholar returns. However, those wanting to return to the U.S. and resume their program (or their dependent family members wishing to re-join the principle F-1 or J-1) DO need to have a current travel endorsement by OIS (or other J-1 program sponsor if OIS did not issue the Form DS-2019). International students, scholars and/or their dependent family members should keep a copy of all travel documents and new documents received after traveling.
If you are an F-1 student will be out of the U.S. for an extended amount of time (5 months or more), you will need to contact OIS and schedule an appointment with an OIS advisor. If you have any dependents in the US, it is required that they leave the country with you if you will be gone for an extended period. It may be necessary to close out your current SEVIS record and create a new record before your return and issue a new Form I-20.
What documents do I need to re-enter the U.S.?
If you will have been out of the country for less than 5 months, you will need:
- Most recent SEVIS I-20 or DS-2019, endorsed for travel within the last 6 months by an advisor at OIS. The processing time for a travel signature is five business days.
- A passport valid for at least six months into the future (some exceptions apply)
- A valid visa. If you need to apply for a visa while overseas, plan ahead and follow all instructions for applying for a visa.
- Receipt confirming payment of the SEVIS fee, if applicable. Please check to find out if you need to pay the SEVIS fee.
Though the following documents are not required, they are suggested by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement:
- Financial information showing proof of necessary funds
- Evidence of student or exchange visitor status (transcripts, letter of enrollment from Records & Registration or a letter from your department)
We strongly recommend that you do everything to arrive on time for the start of an academic term. Click here for more information on arriving late.
New I-20/DS-2019 to apply for a visa
If the information on your current I-20/DS-2019 is up-to-date (funding, curriculum, etc), you only need a recent OIS signature on the third page of your current I-20/DS-2019. However, if your funding has changed or there are any other updates, we recommend that you request a new I-20/DS2019 with the updated information.
Many foreign nationals will be eligible for a provision called “Automatic Revalidation” It allows those in an nonimmigrant visa status (such as F-1 and J-1) to reenter the US from a “contiguous territory” (Canada, Mexico, and adjacent islands) without a currently valid visa stamp in the passport. More information including limitations and exceptions can be found here.
Travel and OPT
For information on travel while OPT is pending or approved, visit our OPT page here.
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