Travel: U.S. Departure and Re-entry
|Due to Executive Order 13769, new restrictions have been placed on some individuals traveling to the United States. While the Executive Order has been temporarily suspended, the situation is quite fluid and subject to rapid change. Please carefully consider the possible consequences of travel outside the U.S at this time. If individuals must travel, please be aware of the increased risks. For the most recent updates, please see the NAFSA Executive Order Resource Page. In addition, see “Know Your Rights” below in the Important Reminders section.|
Travel Document Checklist
If you plan to depart and re-enter the U.S., please be prepared to show the following documents at your U.S port of entry upon re-entry. Remember: do not pack these items in checked luggage as you may need them at the border before you can access your luggage.
- Passport valid for at least 6 months into the future
- Valid F or J visa to re-enter the United States
- I-20/DS-2019 for current or new program of study with a valid travel signature (see below).
- GSU transcript or enrollment verification
- OPT Students Only: EAD card and letter of employment on company letterhead
My Travel Signature
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. Academic advisors and faculty members may not sign immigration documents.
Where is the Travel Signature?
- On form I-20, travel signatures appear on page 2.
- On form DS-2019, travel signatures appear at the bottom of page 1.
- Only a DSO (Designated School Official) may sign the I-20, and only an ARO (Alternate Responsible Officer) may sign the DS-2019.
When does my Travel Signature Expire?
- The immigration document states, “Each certification signature is valid for one year.” However, we know from experience that signatures near expiration can create issues 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 my travel signature updated?
- Log into iStart
- If you are unfamiliar with iStart, see the “Welcome to iStart” webpage and video here.
- Click on “F1 Student Services,” then “Travel Signature Request.”
- Your ISSS advisor will review your e-form and email you, once approved.
- Then, bring your current I-20 or DS-2019 to ISSS for immediate signature at the front desk.
- Normal processing time is 3-5 business days.
- Know Your Rights at the Port of Entry: The American Civil Liberties Union publishes a helpful pamphlet called “Know Your Rights,” which contains information about your rights in case you come into contact with law enforcement at the airport or other ports of entry to the U.S. We encourage you to review this information, especially before international travel into the U.S. It contains useful questions and answers, and a list of other resources and referral contacts should you ever need them.
- Grace Period: If you are in a post-completion 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 travel signature date.
- 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 contact your international advisor if you have questions or concerns before traveling.
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.