All international visitors should verify that their immigration documents are in order BEFORE traveling outside the United States. At minimum, you need the following documents in order to return to the US:
Valid original I-20 with a valid travel signature
Valid F-1 or J-1 visa*
Passport with at least 6 months of validity
EAD card (if applicable)
Transcripts (official or unofficial)
Copy of electronic I-94 card
Copy of I-901 fee receipt
Employment information (for F-1 students on OPT or STEM OPT)
If you are leaving and do not plan to return, please complete a Departure Form with OIS, which can be found on our Forms page.
Request a travel signature by logging into https://ipconnect.oregonstate.edu/ at least seven (7) working days before departure. Once your request is approved, bring in your most recent I-20 (F-1s) or DS-2019 (J-1s) to OIS. Travel signatures are valid for up to one year (6 months for F-1 students on OPT or STEM OPT) or until the program end date listed on the I-20 or DS-2019, whichever is sooner.
F-1 students and J-1 students are initially required to pay the Student Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee. If you have paid the SEVIS fee and have the same SEVIS ID number, you do not need to pay it again. Go to https://fmjfee.com/ to pay your fee, check the status of a fee payment, or reprint a receipt. If you do not pay the SEVIS fee your SEVIS record may be terminated.
If you have been arrested for driving while drunk (DUI), you need to see an international student advisor before you make travel plans or leave the US. The US Department of State (DOS) has begun revoking (or cancelling) visas for international students who have been arrested for driving while drunk (DUI), even if the visa stamp still looks valid. We strongly recommend that students in this situation consider consulting with an immigration attorney, as well.
If you intend to visit a country other than your home country (including Mexico and Canada), contact the nearest consulate or embassy of each country to determine if you will need a visa to enter. This process may take several months, so inquire early. A list of foreign consular offices in the US can be found at http://www.embassy.org/embassies/.
If you need to renew your passport, you should plan to renew it either before you leave the US (check with your home country Embassy in the US) or before you re-enter.
If you have a paper I-94 arrival/departure card (stapled inside your passport), you will be required to surrender your I-94 when you leave the US (unless you are traveling to Canada or Mexico for less than 30 days). If you do not have a paper I-94, you can access your current or new arrival/departure information online at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov.
If your US visa has expired or will expire while you are outside the US, you will need to obtain a new visa while you are abroad. You will also need to apply for a visa if you have used all the entries available on a single or double entry visa or if the visa in your passport does not match the status you currently hold (e.g. you have been approved for a change of status after entering the US). If you are traveling to Canada or Mexico for less than 30 days, see the section below on "automatic extension of validity of visa" for exceptions to this requirement. To apply for a new visa, visit the Department of State website. You should also check with the US consulate or embassy where you will apply to determine that particular post's policies and procedures at http://www.usembassy.gov/.
In most cases, we do not recommend that students apply for a US visa in Canada or Mexico. If you choose to do so and your visa is denied, you will not be eligible to re-enter the US and you will not be eligible for “automatic extension of validity of visa.” If you decide to apply for a nonimmigrant visa to the US in Canada or Mexico, you will first need to verify that the US embassy or consulate will accept visa applications from third country nationals. Some consulates will not process visas for people from a third country.
If you travel to Canada, Mexico or the adjacent Caribbean Islands* (except Cuba) for 30 days or less, you may be eligible for automatic extension of validity of visa (also called “Automatic Revalidation”). This means you may re-enter the US with an expired US visa stamp in your passport. This benefit also applies to individuals who have changed non-immigrant status in the US and whose visa is still in the category in which they entered the US (such as an F-2 dependent who changed to F-1 inside the US). Nationals of certain countries may not be eligible for automatic extension of validity of visa. For more information, visit https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/general/automatic-revalidation.html.
To be eligible for the automatic extension of validity of visa provision, you will need to have maintained and intend to resume your nonimmigrant status, and you must have the following documents:
Original I-94 card that you received upon your most recent entry to the US or printed copy from https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov.
Valid I-20 or DS-2019 with a travel signature
Optional: Letter from OIS citing the regulation that covers automatic extension of validity of visa
NOTE: If you choose to apply for a new US visa in Canada or Mexico and are denied, you will not be eligible for automatic extension of validity of visa.
Be aware if you are in a research field that may be considered of US national security interest you may face serious delays receiving a visa while a background check is being conducted. It is impossible to predict how long a background check might take (one week to 6 months), and it is not possible for any agency to intervene to expedite the background check. Learn more about Security Clearances and how to help prevent visa delays on the Department of State website here.