All international visitors should verify that their immigration documents are in order BEFORE traveling outside the United States. If you are leaving and do not plan to return, please complete a Departure Form with ISAS, which can be found on our Forms page.

Things to Consider

Is your passport valid?

Passports must be valid at least 6 months beyond the date you plan to re-enter the U.S. and should be valid at least six months beyond your intended stay in the U.S.. If a you need to renew you passport, contact your home country's embassy in the U.S. and learn about the procedures and timeline for passport extensions. It is very important to keep your passport valid at all times. As long as your visa is still valid, you may continue to use the visa stamp in the old (returned) passport along with the newly issued passport.

Do you need a visa?

If a you intend to visit a country other than your home country, contact the consulate or embassy for the country you intend to visit to inquire whether you will need a visa. Learn about the the procedures and timeline for visa applications.

Is your US visa valid?

In order to re-enter the United States you must have a valid visa. 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. If your visa has expired or will expire while you are outside the U.S., 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 U.S.). It is currently not advisable to apply for a U.S. visa in Canada or Mexico. If you choose to do so and your visa is denied, you will not be able to re-enter the U.S. with your former visa.

To apply for a new visa, you must submit the following documentation to the U.S. Consulate or Embassy:

  • DS-156 and DS-158 visa application forms
  • Valid passport
  • Copies of financial documentation (including a letter from your department if you have an assistantship)
  • An official copy of your transcript
  • A copy of your current registration and, if available, pre-registration for the next term
  • If you are an F-1 student on Optional Practical Training, you must also produce your Employment Authorization Document (EAD card).

Do you need a travel signature on your I-20 or DS-2019?

International students must obtain a travel signature from an International Student Advisor. Submit your I-20 (F-1's) or DS-2019 (J-1's) to the Office of International Services (OIS) at least seven (7) working days before your departure. If you have been maintaining your visa status and owe less than $2,200 to OSU, you will receive a travel signature. You must have a valid travel signature to re-enter the U.S.; travel signatures are valid for up to one year or until the program end date listed on the I-20 or DS-2019.

International faculty and scholars must obtain the appropriate travel document or travel signature from an International Scholar and Faculty Advisor. For more information, please visit our scholar travel page.

Travel to Canada

Based on your country of citizenship, you may or may not be required to secure a visa for a short-term visit to Canada. To get current information on Canadian visas, please visit the following Canadian Consulate website. The website includes a list of countries requiring a visa along with fillable visa application forms, and instructions for applying for a visa by mail or in person. Be sure to allow several weeks if you are applying by mail.

Travel to Mexico

Mexican Tourist forms (FMM) or visas may be required of all persons visiting Mexico. The Tourist Form (FMM) can be obtained at any airline that flies into Mexico or port of entry into Mexican territory. Please visit the Mexican INM webistes for countries and regions that require a visa to enter Mexcio and for countries and regions that do not require a visa to enter Mexcio,

Automatic Extension of Validity of Visa Status

If you will travel to Canada, Mexico or the adjacent* Caribbean Islands other than Cuba for 30 days or less, you may be eligible for automatic extension of visa. In other words, you may re-enter the U.S. without a valid U.S. visa stamp in your passport. This benefit also applies to individuals who have changed non-immigrant status in the U.S. and whose visa is still in the category in which they entered the U.S. (the visa is considered "converted" as well as "extended"). Nationals of Iran, Cuba, Sudan, Syria, and North Korea are not eligible for automatic extension of validity of visa.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:

  • The original I-94 arrival/departure card (if applicable) that you received upon your last entry to the U.S.  If you were issued a paper I-94 upon your last entry to the US, you must present the paper I-94 to apply for Automatic Revalidation.
  • A valid I-20 or DS-2019 with a travel signature from an international student advisor (less than one year old).
  • A valid passport

Note: If you choose to apply for a visa renewal while visiting a neighboring country, and are denied, you will not be eligible for the automatic revalidation benefit, but may need to apply again from your home country.

*The Code of Federal Regulations at 8 CFR 286.1(a) defines "adjacent islands" for the purpose of travel into the U.S. to include Anguilla, Antigua, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Barbuda, Bermuda, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Marie-Galante, Martinique, Miquelon, Montserrat, Saba, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Christopher, Saint Eustatius, Saint Kitts-Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Maarten, Saint Martin, Saint Pierre, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, and other British, French and Netherlands territory or possessions bordering on the Caribbean Sea.

Please see our Forms page for information on getting a Travel Signature and Traveling Outside the U.S.

Security Clearances & Visa Delays

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.