Travel: U.S. Departure and Re-entry
Updated February 21, 2020:
Pursuant to Executive Orders 13780 from 2017 and 9983 in Jan. 2020, thirteen countries are subject to partial or full restrictions for entry to the United States. The restrictions are country specific and tailored to the situation in each of the following countries: Chad, Eritrea, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Myanmar, Nigeria, N. Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Venezuela, and Yemen. Please see the NAFSA Executive Order Travel Ban Resource page for the most recent updates, in addition to “Know Your Rights” in the Important Reminders section below.
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.
Valid Travel Signature Requirement
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.
How Long is a Travel Signature Valid?
- The immigration document states, “Each certification signature is valid for one year.” However, we know from experience that signatures near expiration can cause 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.
Where is the Travel Signature?
- On form I-20, page 2.
- On form DS-2019, bottom of page 1.
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. For students who are continuing their program by conducting research outside of the U.S., please note that you must obtain documentation from your department prior to departing the country that explains your stay outside the U.S for this time period. You are required to visit the ISSS office before you depart.
- 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. .
Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q)
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.