Travel

Departure

If an F-1/J-1 (including an F-2/J-2 dependent) is leaving the United States, he or she (and dependents) must have his or her Form I-20 or DS-2019 endorsed by an ISSO Advisor. You must complete a Service Request Form to receive an endorsement signature on the Form I-20/DS-2019. Please come between the office hours of 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

It is recommended that document endorsement be requested at least 30 days prior to the planned travel date.

If travel is to a non-contiguous territory (Canada or Mexico) or adjacent island*, see section Automatic Visa Revalidation.

*The term adjacent islands includes 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 territory or possessions in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea.

As an extra precaution, students can carry copies of their official NCA&TSU transcripts and financial support documents.

It is not recommended that an F-1 student travel while there is a “change of status” or “reinstatement” application pending. USCIS considers you to have abandoned your application and you may not be able to obtain a non-immigrant visa to re-enter the United States.

F-1 Student Travel 
     
Re-entry to the United States

A student in valid F-1 status needs the following documents to reenter the U.S. after a temporary trip outside the U.S.:

  1. A valid passport
  2. A valid visa (U.S.)
  3. A valid Form I-20 endorsed by an ISSO Advisor

The advisor’s signature is generally valid for one year and can be signed if the student is in lawful status and eligible to be readmitted in the same status.

Visa Renewal

If the student’s visa has expired or there are no remaining valid entries on the current visa stamp, it is necessary for the student to apply for a new visa in the student’s home country. In some cases, it may be advisable for ISSO to issue a new, updated I-20. You must be able to show proof that you have adequate support for the remainder of your program (i.e. assistantship award letter, bank statements, etc.)

Note: “Visa” refers to the visa stamp in your passport, not to your I-20 or DS-2019. Please also read the advisory on changes in the “automatic visa revalidation benefit”.

Be prepared for longer and more complex visa application procedures at U.S. Consulates and Embassies. It is a good idea to read about the procedures at the consulate where you plan to apply for your new visa BEFORE you travel. Links to US consulates and embassies are at http://travel.state.gov/links.html.

The State Department has warned that visa issuance may take one month to several months or more; in some instances, security clearances may take much longer than the stated time period. It is wise to check the Technology Alert List before making travel plans; sometimes students and scholars are surprised to discover that their field is on the list.

Passport Expiration

If a student’s passport has expired or will expire within his/her time of study in the United States, he or she must renew it at his/her embassy/consulate in the United States or appropriate government office in the home country before returning.

Please note that passports are required to be at least six months into the future on the day you return to the U.S. from your trip abroad.

Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record)

At the port of entry into the US, the immigration officer issues a Form I-94 to every nonimmigrant. Often the Form I-94 is handed out on the plane shortly before landing. The Form I-94 indicates your non-immigrant classification and any endorsements made by the immigration officer. The Form I-94 indicates the place and date of entry of your admission to the United States and the initial period of authorized stay.

Noted on the Form I-94 for students and their dependents is D/S, for Duration of Status. For F-1 students, D/S means the period during which you are pursuing a full course of study at the educational institution, which issued the visa certificate. You may remain in the United States as long as you maintain lawful F-1 student status until the end date on Form I-20 or completion of program whichever occurs first.

Travel While On Optional Practical Training (OPT)

F-1 students in lawful status are eligible to leave and re-enter the U.S. while on F-1 OPT if you are coming back to resume employment and continue to meet all other eligibility requirements (valid passport, valid F-1 visa stamp, valid EAD, recently endorsed I-20, can provide nonimmigrant intent and are unlikely to become a “public charge”). It is strongly recommended that you NOT leave the country while the OPT application is pending at USCIS. Any trips abroad should be made before your completion of studies or after you have your EAD card for employment.

J-1 Student Travel 
    
Re-entry to the United States

A student in valid J-1 status needs the following documents to reenter the U.S. after a temporary trip outside the U.S.:

  1. A valid passport
  2. A valid visa (U.S.)
  3. A valid Form DS-2019 endorsed by an ISSO Advisor or Program Sponsor (if NCA&TSU did not issue the DS-2019)

F-1/J-1 Dependents Travel  

F-2 and J-2 dependents require the same visa documents to reenter the U.S. as the F-1 and J-1 student: 

  1. A valid passport
  2. A valid F-2/J-2 visa (U.S.)
  3. A dependent's endorsed Form I-20 or DS-2019


Travel to Canada and Mexico 
  
Those students and scholars who are interested in travel to Canada or Mexico (or an adjacent island) should contact the appropriate consular/embassy for entry requirements. Please read the linked sections identified below carefully.

Visiting Canada 
     
If you are a U.S. Citizen or a Permanent Resident of the U.S., please consult the U.S. State Department website or the Travel Canada website for information about entry requirements. If you are not a U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident, you may need a visa even for a one-day trip. Please read the following information carefully.

Entry to Canada

For those interested in visiting Canada, you may need to apply for a visitor’s visa to enter Canada. For more detailed information concerning visitor’s visas, please refer to the following links:

Please make sure you know what documents you need to carry before departing the US.

Returning to the United States

When traveling outside the United States, you need to have the proper documents to return. If your dependents (F-2/J-2) in the U.S. will travel without you, they will need their own travel documents.

Special Notes for F-1/J-1 Students and J-1 Scholars

  • ISSO will not be able to endorse your Form I-20/DS-2019 (nor your dependents’ I-20/DS-2019) if you have completed your program (e.g. degree, Academic Training, Optional Practical Training, Research, etc.) and would like to travel to Canada during your grace period.
  • An F-1 student in OPT following completion of studies who travels to Canada temporarily (less than 30 days) can be admitted to resume employment for the remainder of the authorized training period, provided the student presents the endorsed I-20 and an unexpired EAD. (See visa renewal and passport sections)


Travel and Consular Updates 
     
Note: After September 11, 2001, re-entering the United States has become more difficult. If you are obtaining a new visa while you are abroad, you should expect longer than usual processing times. It is recommended that you check the U.S. Embassy website regarding current procedures, nonimmigrant visa services, and operating hours before making travel plans. It is also suggested that you contact the consular post directly before mailing documents or going to the post. As a result of heightened security, it is expected that consular and immigration operations abroad and in the United States will require that documents be scrutinized more closely. It is your responsibility to review the contents of your documents before presenting them to a consular officer or immigration inspector.

Automatic Visa Revalidation

Effective August 18, 2003, the Department of State adopted as final an interim rule published in the Federal Register on March 7, 2002, amending the regulation pertaining to Automatic Visa Revalidation.
The rule was proposed in order to allow increased screening of visa applicants, in light of the September 11 attacks. The rule limits the accessibility of automatic revalidation and is no longer available to those applying for a new visa while traveling temporarily to an area covered by the automatic revalidation privilege. It is also no longer available to nationals of countries listed as state sponsors of terrorism.
In general, automatic revalidation is no longer an option on an expired nonimmigrant visa. Students and scholars in lawful nonimmigrant status may no longer travel to contiguous territory and/or adjacent islands and re-enter the U.S. on an expired nonimmigrant visa. Students and scholars whose visas have expired must now travel to the home country in order to update the visa stamp. You can no longer travel to Canada or Mexico to attempt automatic revalidation.

Important Note: If a student or scholar attempts to apply for a nonimmigrant visa at a US Consulate or Embassy in either Canada or Mexico and the nonimmigrant visa is denied, he/she will not be able to return to the US using automatic revalidation. The student/scholar (and dependents) will be required to return to his/her country and apply for a new visa stamp.

Revalidating (or Renewing) Visas in the U.S.

The Revalidation Division is discontinuing its domestic visa revalidation (or reissuance) service. Notification of the discontinuation of domestic visa revalidation services was published in the Federal Register on June 23, 2004. 

Security and Background Checks

When applying for a visa to the United States, you may also be subject to additional security and background checks. Though the State Department has provided only limited information on the circumstances that will prompt the checks, the following may trigger additional screening:

Involvement in High-Technology Fields

If you work in high technology, engineering, or the sciences, you should be prepared to be questioned closely about the details of your job. Visa delays may result as consular officers seek security advisory opinions from federal agencies on your work background. In particular, for those conducting research in certain technologically sensitive fields on the Technology Alert List, the Department of State is required to conduct a security clearance prior to issuing an initial U.S. entry visa or extension of visa through a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. Clearance may take one month to several months or more.

Citizenship, Nationality or Country of Birth

Citizens of certain countries may be subject to increased scrutiny. Although the State Department has declined to release the list of countries on national security grounds, it is thought to include Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Nationals or citizens of Cuba and North Korea are being subjected to increased scrutiny as well.

U.S. Visitor and Immigration Status Indication Technology (US-VISIT) 
The Department of Homeland Security has implemented the U.S. Visitor and Immigration Status Indication Technology System (US-VISIT) effective December 31, 2003.

US-VISIT, described as a “check-in/check-out system”, will collect biographic information and biometric identifiers on all foreign nationals entering the United States, to determine whether an individual is eligible to enter the United States or should be prohibited from entering because of security risks such as past visa or criminal violations or terrorist connections.

During its initial phase, the system will be implemented at international air and sea ports of entry. Upon arrival, the foreign national’s travel documents will be taken. Border officers will then collect comprehensive information on the visitor, including name; date of birth; citizenship; sex; nationality; immigration status; passport number and country of issuance; country of residence; U.S. visa number, date of issuance, and alien registration number, where applicable; and complete address in the United States. The visitor will be checked against various national security and law enforcement databases to determine eligibility.

Upon departure, the foreign national’s identity will again be verified and departure information will be collected. The system is also intended to track changes and extensions to the foreign national’s U.S. immigration status.

SPECIAL REGISTRATION PROGRAM (National Security Entry-Exit Registration System [NSEERS])

If you are a citizen or national of certain countries, you are required to be registered in NSEERS at the port of entry when you arrive in the United States. This involves being fingerprinted and interviewed. Note: An immigration or consular officer has the authority to register a foreign national at the port of entry if the officer believes that an individual warrants further monitoring for national security reasons.

In addition, males age 16 or older who are nationals or citizens of the following countries are likely to be registered at the port of entry: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, Eritera, Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. If you are required to register, you must then comply with the program’s regulations on departure from the U.S.

Departure Control for Special Registrants

If you are required to follow “special registration” or NSEERS procedures you must comply with the departure control rules. As an NSEERS registrant, you may depart the United States only through a port that has been authorized for departure control. At the authorized port, you must report to a special departure control office, where your departure will be verified and your registration will then be closed.

Be aware that departure control offices may have limited hours of operation and may not be conveniently located to your airline. If you do not do this it may be difficult or impossible for you to re-enter the US. Be sure to allow enough time at the airport for this procedure so that you will not miss your flight.