Before You Go!
Travel & Reentry While You're a Student
Travel & Reentry on OPT
Automatic Revalidation
Travel to or Through Another Country

Before You Go!

Before any international travel, be sure to do the following:

Double-Check Your Visa Expiration Date

Your visa must be valid on the day you reenter the United States. If your visa will expire while you’re outside the United States, you will need to obtain a new F-1 visa before returning.

Allow for processing time at the consulate when planning your travel. The Department of State provides a list of visa wait times that gives the average wait for an appointment and visa processing time.

If you have an F-1 visa that is still valid in an expired passport, you do not need to get a new F-1 visa in your new passport. You can carry both passports with you when entering the U.S.

Canadian citizens do not need an F-1 visa stamp in their passports to enter the U.S. Canadian landed immigrants, however, are required to obtain a visa stamp in their passports.

Ensure Valid Travel Signature

Travel signatures (on the third page of your I-20) are valid for one year while you are a student and for six months while you’re on OPT.

To see if you have a valid travel signature, look at the bottom part of the third page of your I-20. Check if there is a signature, and if so, the date it was signed.

If you need a new signature, please make an appointment with an ISAP advisor on your preferred campus: Oakland or San Francisco.

Double-Check Your Passport Expiration Date

Students who are citizens of a country that is part of the “Six Month Club” are only required to have a passport that is valid for their intended period of stay in the United States.

To check if you fall into this category, visit the “FAQ for F-1 Nonimmigrants” information on the ICE website.

If your country is not on this list, you are required to have a passport that is valid for at least six months beyond your intended period of stay in the United States.

Travel & Reentry While You're a Student

Required Documents

When travelling, keep the items listed below in your carry-on luggage; do not pack them in your suitcase!

When reentering the United States after an international trip, be prepared to present the following documents at customs:

  • Valid passport
  • Valid F-1 visa
  • I-20 with travel signature

It is also recommended to carry the following items:

  • Print-out of your current class registration (or next semester’s class registration if traveling during a break)
  • Financial documents that reflect the resources listed on your I-20

Travel & Reentry on OPT

Important Notes About Traveling After Your Program End Date

  • Once your program end date has passed, ISAP strongly advises avoiding international travel whenever possible until OPT has been approved and you have a job.

  • In general, a student on post-completion OPT with a valid EAD card and valid F-1 visa who is otherwise admissible may reenter the United States to resume employment after a temporary (fewer than five months) absence.

  • If your visa is expired and you need to travel internationally during OPT, you will have to obtain a new F-1 visa while outside the United States, as visas can’t be renewed from inside the United States.

Contact ISAP to discuss your situation and the risks involved in applying for a new visa while on OPT.

Warning:
Do not attempt to reenter the United States on a B visa or through the visa waiver program while waiting for OPT approval or because you have an expired F-1 visa. Doing so automatically ends your F-1 status and you forfeit your OPT.

ISAP cannot correct or change this.

Required Documents

Have the following documents with you when reentering the United States while on OPT:

  • A valid passport: Passport should be valid for at least six months into the future.

  • A valid F-1 visa: Your F-1 visa is your reentry document. If your visa will be expired on the day you reenter the United States, you must obtain a new visa prior to reentering.

  • I-20 with OPT recommendation on third page and a current travel signature. (While on OPT, you must get a new travel signature on the third page of your I-20 every six months.)

  • EAD card

  • A job offer letter: This letter should be on company letterhead, signed by your supervisor and should give the start date of employment, salary, and a brief description of your duties.

  • Financial documents: If your job is unpaid, you should be prepared to show financial documents proving you can support yourself. (There is no specific amount to show, but your should be prepared with evidence that you can support yourself for at least two to three months.)

If you have a paid job, it is still a good idea to bring financial documents with you.

Automatic Revalidation

Automatic Revalidation allows, under certain circumstances, students who visit Canada, Mexico, or adjacent islands for fewer than 30 days to reenter the United States with an expired F-1 visa.

Adjacent islands include the Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Miquelon, Saint Pierre, Trinidad, the Windward and Leeward Islands, and other British, French, and Netherlands territory or possessions in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea.

Cuba is not included as an adjacent island.

Eligibility for Automatic Revalidation

You must not:

  • Remain in Canada, Mexico, or an adjacent island for more than 30 days

  • Apply for an American visa while in Canada, Mexico, or an adjacent island

  • Travel to any other noncontiguous country

  • Be a citizen of Cuba, Iran, Sudan, or Syria (citizens of these countries are not eligible for automatic revalidation)

It is highly recommended to print out your electronic I-94 before departing the U.S. and have it with you upon re-entry (see instructions for printing your electronic I-94 below).

Required Documents

You must have the following documents upon reentry to the Untied States:

  • Valid passport

  • F-1 visa stamp in your passport

  • I-20 with valid travel signature

  • Printout of your electronic I-94

How to print your electronic I-94: Go to www.cbp.gov/i94. You will need to enter some information to retrieve and print your record, so please have your passport with your F-1 visa in it when accessing this site. Please contact ISAP with any questions or concerns about printing your electronic I-94.

Contact ISAP for an info sheet on automatic revalidation that you can present at customs upon reentry in case of problems.

Travel to or Through Another Country

If you plan to visit a country other than the United States or your home country, find out if you will need a visa. Each country has its own immigration system and laws.

To find out if you must obtain a visa before traveling to your destination, visit the embassy website of the country (or countries) where you will go. Procedures and required documents for obtaining a visa can vary greatly, so plan ahead and do your research as far in advance as possible.

If you will travel through another country on your way to a final destination, check if you need a transit visa. Depending on your country of citizenship and the country where you have a stopover, you may be required to obtain a transit visa in order to be allowed to land and continue on your trip.

To find out if you need to obtain a transit visa, visit the embassy website of the country where you have a stopover. As mentioned above, procedures and required documents for obtaining a visa vary greatly, so it is advised to check before purchasing your plane ticket.