Travel – U.S. Departure and Re-entry
International students must have a valid travel signature on their immigration Form I-20 or DS-2019 to re-enter the United States. Immigration forms may only be signed by an approved DSO (Designated School Official) or RO (Responsible Officer) in ISSS (International Student and Scholar Services). Academic advisors and faculty members may not sign immigration documents.
My Travel Signature
Where is it?
- On form I-20, travel signatures appear at the bottom of page 3.
- On form DS-2019, travel signatures appear at the bottom of page 1.
When does it expire?
- The immigration document states “Each certification signature is valid for one year.” However, we know from experience that signatures near expiration have caused problems at U.S. re-entry.
- Therefore, ISSS recommends a new (updated) travel signature if the current one will be more than 6 months old at the time you re-enter the U.S.
How do I get it updated?
- Be registered for the current semester and next semester if registration is open.
- Log into iStart
- If you are unfamiliar with iStart, see the “Welcome to iStart” webpage and video here.
- In iStart, click on “F1 Student Services,” then “Travel Signature Request.”
- The e-form will be reviewed by your advisor. If approved, you will receive an automatic email notification from ISSS of the approval.
- Then, bring your current I-20 or DS-2019 to ISSS for immediate signature at the front desk.
- Normal processing time is at least 2 days.
Important Reminders To Know:
- Grace Period: If you are in a post-completion (you graduated) grace period, and you depart the U.S for any reason, such as a cruise, the grace period automatically ends. You cannot re-enter the U.S.
- 5 Month Rule: If you will be outside the U.S. more than 5 months, your I-20 will automatically expire, regardless of the date of the travel signature. You will need a new SEVIS fee and new I-20.
- Forgot your Immigration Form: If you arrive back in the U.S. without your I-20 or DS-2019, you will not be allowed immediate entry. You will go to secondary inspection (a waiting area for further questioning that can take several hours), or possibly refused entry to the U.S.
- Questions or Concerns: Please see your international advisor if you have questions or concerns before traveling. Normal processing time is 2 days, except in emergency cases.
Canadians must carry a valid passport, I-20 or DS-2019 and a NEXUS card (if applicable) to enter the U.S. If you do not show your I-20 or DS-2019, you will be admitted as a tourist in the B Visa category, which does not allow study in the U.S. .
Other Common Travel Questions
If you plan to travel to obtain, renew or change status to an F1 or J1 visa, ISSS advises you to return only to your home country. Attempts to obtain a student visa in a 3rd country outside your own is very risky. You could be denied the visa and denied re-entry to the U.S. ISSS has no control over this process.
Please speak with ISSS before considering this travel situation.