Required Documents for Reentry
Review the list below for details about the required documents for travel while you are in active F-1 or J-1 status.
I-20 or DS-2019
You must have a valid travel signature to reenter the United States. Travel signatures are valid for 1 year from the date signed.
To request a travel signature, submit the Travel Signature e-form.
Your passport must be valid 6 months into the future from the date of your entry into the U.S., unless your country has an agreement with the U.S. allowing entry with a passport until the date of expiration.
In most cases, you must have a valid visa to reenter the U.S., with a few exceptions:
If you are a citizen of Bermuda or Canada, you are not required to apply for a visa, but you must carry your I-20 or DS-2019 with valid travel signature.
If your visa has expired and you are traveling to Canada, Mexico or an adjacent island for less than 30 days, you may be eligible for automatic visa revalidation. For more information, meet with an international student advisor.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recommends students also carry the following:
- Proof of funding
- Proof of student status (such as recent tuition receipts or transcripts)
Special Considerations for Post-Completion and STEM OPT
Travel signatures are only valid for 6 months while you are on post-completion or STEM OPT.
In addition to the above documents, you should carry:
EAD: The bottom of the card says “not valid for reentry to the U.S.” This statement means that the EAD card alone is not sufficient documentation for entry to the U.S.
Employer Letter: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement recommends carrying a letter of employment if you have one (read Can I reenter if I left while on OPT?). There is no specific template for the employer letter.
You do not need to request a new travel signature if your previous signature is still valid.
You do not need a travel signature if you are traveling within the U.S. (including Alaska and Hawaii), however, you should carry your original immigration documents (I-20 or DS-2019, passport and I-94).
It is fine to leave the U.S. without a travel signature. A valid travel signature is only required for reentry. To request a travel signature, submit the Travel Signature e-form.
If you are an F-1 student, we will send an electronically signed I-20 to your university e-mail (for students on OPT, we will email your personal email, if that is what you are using to access the SEVP Portal).
If you are a J-1 student, we will send a signed DS-2019 to your university e-mail, following Department of State rules for digital transmission.
Review these resources to learn more about applying for your student visa:
The Department of State recommends that you apply for a visa in your home country. Visa applications outside your home country (also called “third country applications”) can take longer to process, and denial is more likely than at home, so you should plan well in advance of your date of travel. If you must travel to a third country to apply for or renew your visa, contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in that country to confirm they will process applications for third-country nationals.
It is not possible to renew your visa from within the U.S.
We can’t advise on visa and entry requirements for travel to countries. Check with the embassy or consulate for the country you plan to visit for more information.
Customs and Border Protection officers make the final decision on your entry to the U.S. If you are not carrying the correct, original documents at the port of entry, they may deny you entry or issue a Form I-515A, granting temporary entry for 30 days.
If you receive an I-515A, meet with an international student advisor as soon as possible. You will have 30 days to send the required documents to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program. If you do not respond by the deadline, your SEVIS record may be terminated.
Go to the I-94 website.
From the menu at the top, click “Get Most Recent I-94.”
Enter all information exactly as it appears on your travel documentation you used to enter the U.S.
Click “Next” to get your most recent I-94 record.
If you are entering by land, you can apply and pay $6.00 for your I-94 online up to 7 days before entry. Please be aware that the I-94 you obtain online is temporary and just the first step in completing the I-94 application. To obtain the final, legal-for-travel Form I-94, you will need to appear at a port of entry in person with your immigration documents.
If you are entering by air, you do not need to apply for an I-94 in advance in order to access your record at the CBP website.
You must always carry proof of your admission (entry) to the U.S. You can carry your passport with admission stamp, a printed copy of your electronic I-94, or your paper I-94 to satisfy this requirement.