All international visitors should verify that their immigration documents are in order before traveling outside the United States. Learn what you need to know before you go.
Original I-20 or DS-2019 with a valid travel signature (6 mos - 1 yr)
Valid F-1 or J-1 visa (except Canadian citizens)*
Passport with at least 6 months of validity
EAD card (if applicable)
Pending I-765 application receipt notice (if applicable)
Request a travel signature at least seven business days before departure. 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. Pay your fee, check the status of a fee payment, or reprint a receipt online. If you do not pay the SEVIS fee your SEVIS record may be terminated.
Most I-94 arrival/departure records can now be accessed online. If you have a paper I-94 stapled inside your passport, you will be required to surrender your I-94 when you leave the US.
If you intend to visit a country other than your home country, 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.
If you need to renew your passport, you should plan to renew it either before you leave the US or at home before you re-enter.
If you have been arrested for driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol (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 canceling) visas for international students who have been arrested for driving under the influence, 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 your visa has expired or will expire while you are outside the US, you likely will need to obtain a new visa while you are abroad. You will also need a visa if you have used all the entries available or if the visa in your passport does not match the status you intend to have in the US.
To apply for a new visa, you must apply at a US embassy or consulate abroad and follow by the Department of State policies and those of the particular embassy or consulate where you will apply. We do not typically recommend that students apply for a US visa in a country other than their home country. If you choose to do so, you will first need to verify that the post will accept visa applications from third country nationals.
One of the most common reasons for visa delay is due to a refusal under section 221(g) of the INA - incomplete application or supporting documentation. In most cases you can provide the missing documents to have your application reviewed again.
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 or for any agency to intervene to expedite the background check. Learn more about Security Clearances and how to help prevent visa delays by visiting the Department of State website and searching for “Administrative Processing.”
*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, even if the visa in your passport no longer matches your status (change of status applicants).
To be eligible for the automatic extension of validity of visa provision, you need to have maintained and intend to resume your nonimmigrant status, and you must have the following documents:
Original I-94 card or copy of the online record that you received upon your most recent entry to the US
Change of status approval notice with attached I-94 (if applicable)
Valid I-20 or DS-2019 with a travel signature
Valid passport with expired or other US visa
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.
Nationals of certain countries may not be eligible for automatic extension of validity of visa. For more information, visit the Department of State website and search for “Automatic Revalidation.”