Center for International Services & Programs

How to Travel while studying in U.S

How to Travel while studying in U.S

We understand that many students have questions about traveling over the summer break. We have prepared the following information to help you to decide what to do when making plans to travel. If you have any questions concerning travel that are not addressed in this information, please make an appointment and come in to talk with one of our advisors.
Your passport must be valid (unexpired). It must be valid 6 months into the future of the date of your return to the U.S.

What to take with you

To be extra cautious you should make several copies of your documents, such as, your passport ID pages, visa page, I-20 and I-94 card. Keep one set of copies in your carry-on baggage, and one set of copies in your checked baggage. Of course you do need to carry the original documents with you also.

If you are a current student and you have a valid visa in your passport and you wish to travel outside the U.S.:

  • Drop off your current SEVIS I-20 in our office MC 106, for a travel signature. You can pick up the endorsed I-20 at the front desk after two full business days have passed.
  • Take a student copy of your transcripts or a printout of your Viking account for the previous semester (if possible) with you. You may never need to show these documents, but it doesn't hurt to have them with you.
  • Your passport must be valid.
  • You DO NOT need a letter from our office as everything can be checked by any consular or immigration official in SEVIS itself.
  • If you are traveling outside the country to somewhere other than your home country, please make sure that you have all documents that you need to enter that country, i.e., a visa for that country.Your passport must be valid (unexpired). It must be valid 6 months into the future of the date of your return to the U.S. 

If you are a current student and you will need to apply for a new visa when you return home:

  • Drop off your current SEVIS I-20 in our office MC 106 for a travel signature. You can pick up the endorsed I-20 at the front desk after two full business days have passed.
  • If anything on your I-20 has changed (including a financial change) we will need to make you a new I-20 and you should provide current financial documentation. (You do NOT need a new I-20 if all the information is current)
  • If your financial documentation is more than one year old, you must obtain new financial documents to present to us if there is a change and to the U. S. embassy when you apply for a visa.
  • If your I-20 requires change, we will email you when the I-20 is ready to be picked up. Plan on three full business days.
  • Take copies of your transcripts and registration if possible.
  • Take the I-20, financial documentation and your transcripts to apply for an F-1 visa at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country http://usembassy.state.gov
  • Your passport must be valid 6 months in to the future from the date of your return to the U.S.
  • You DO NOT need a letter from our office as any consular or immigration official has access to SEVIS.
  • Plan wisely during high volume periods such as summer. 

You are currently an F-1 student who is on Optional Practical Training:

Since students who are on OPT continue to be in F-1 status the same criteria, indicated above, for travel applies to you, with the following exceptions:

  • You MUST carry your EAD (work permission) card with you along with your I-20 when you enter the country.
  • Instead of carrying transcripts and registrations materials, you should carry recent pay stubs or a letter for the company that you are working for. Regulations require that students on OPT who enter the U.S. must have a job.
  • If you need to apply for an F-1 visa because yours has expired, there is never a guarantee that you will receive a visa. CISP cannot guarantee this and neither can anyone else.

*** Remember that your dependents who now carry their own I-20s must also receive a signature from our office on their I-20 if they travel outside the country and wish to return.  

If you are traveling to Canada or Mexico or adjacent Caribbean Islands and you are not a citizen of one of those countries:

To go, you must determine if you need a visa to enter. You may find this information at:
Canadian embassy:www.canadianembassy.org
Mexican embassy: www.embassyofmexico.org

Adjacent Islands are defined as: Saint Pierre, Miquelon, The Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, the Windward and Leeward Islands, Trinidad, Martinique and other British, French and Netherlands territories or possessions in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea.

F-1 students and their dependents who travel to either Canada or Mexico and adjacent Caribbean Islands and do not stay for more than 30 days may return with an expired U.S. visa under The Automatic Extension of Validity Process and still maintain their F-1 status.

Citizens or nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria and the Sudan may not exercise The Automatic Extension of Validity Process.

If a non-immigrant F or J applies for a visa in Canada or Mexico and is not a home resident of the country in which he/she applies and he/she is denied, he/she will NOT be allowed to return to the U.S. under The Automatic Extension of Validity Process. Therefore it is not advisable to apply for a visa in Canada or Mexico, as you will most likely be denied and unable to return to the U.S.

To return to the U.S. in F-1 status you will need:

  • Your Passport
  • Your I-94 card (this is normally surrendered or given up when traveling off the continent but is NOT given up when traveling to Canada or Mexico and adjacent islands
  • An endorsed I-20
  • You need to have been maintaining your F status and have the intention to resume status. 

Students who are from Special Registrant countries:

Citizens or Nationals of Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Eritrea, Lebanon, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, or Kuwait, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Syria.

You MUST exit at one of the airports identified in the information given to you when you registered with immigration. An airport exit interview is mandatory and is completed at the airport from which you depart the U.S. Please allow plenty of time for this when planning your trip home. If you fail to do this, you will NOT be allowed back in the U.S. upon your return.

When you return to the U.S., you will be interviewed again at the airport. We regret the inconvenience this presents to your life in the U.S.

Enjoy Your Trip!!!!