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Travel Signature

Prior to traveling outside the U.S., please check to ensure that you have a valid travel signature as you may be denied re-entry to the U.S. or only given temporary status in the U.S. requiring further action to extend your status if you do not have a current travel signature.

  • F-1 /F-2 Status: the bottom of page 3 of your I-20

  • J-1/ J-2 Status:  the lower right-hand corner of your DS-2019

A travel signature is valid for re-entry to the U.S. for up to one year from the date that it is provided or until the end of your program, whichever is shorter. Exception: If you are on Optional Practical Training, a travel signature is only valid for 6 months.

If your travel signature is no longer valid, you must obtain a new signature by:

  • Scheduling an appointment to meet with the ESF Coordinator of International Education

You must bring the following documents to the appointment in order to obtain a signature:

  • I-20 or DS-2019

  • Passport

  • Visa

  • I-94 card

  • Proof of current health insurance and medical evacuation & repatriation coverage

Required Travel Documents

Travel should be less than five months or for authorized study/research abroad; an absence beyond 5 months will require a new I-20/ DS-2019 and visa.

  • If you are on OPT, Employment Authorization Document (EAD Card) and a job offer letter.
    You must prove that your reasons for re-entering the US is to resume employment.
  • If you are on Academic Training, Academic Training Authorization Letter and job offer letter.

Customs and Border Protection Also Recommend that Students Carry the Following Documentation

Travel And Re-Entry While Authorized for Post-Completion OPT

OPT is a benefit of maintaining F-1 status. Thus, individuals authorized for post-completion OPT remain in F-1 status while engaging in OPT despite the fact that they have completed their degree program.

F-1 students who are authorized for post-completion OPT and travel outside the US (i.e., less than 5 months) are required to present the following documents in order to re-enter the US in F-1 status:

  • I-20 with travel signature obtain within 6 months of the anticipated date of re-entry to the US
  • Valid passport valid at least 6 months beyond your date of re-entry (exception).
  • Unexpired EAD card
  • Current job offer letter
  • US Visa
    Travel to Canada, Mexico, and the Adjacent Islands (excluding Cuba): There is an automatic visa revalidation program in place that will allow qualifying travelers whose absence is less than 30 days to re-enter the U.S. with an expired visa if they meet the eligibility requirements.
    Travel Beyond Canada, Mexico, and the Adjacent Islands: Your student visa must be valid in order to gain re-entry to the U.S. If your visa has expired, you must apply for a new visa outside the U.S., preferably in your home country
  • I-94 Card
    Travel to Canada, Mexico, and the Adjacent Islands (excluding Cuba): As long as you are not an individual seeking a visa renewal; you have maintained your lawful non-immigrant status in the U.S.; and intend to resume that status upon your return to the U.S., you should keep your I-94 card provided it is valid beyond the time of expected return to the U.S. in order to re-enter the U.S under the automatic visa revalidation provision.
    Travel Beyond Canada, Mexico, and the Adjacent Islands: You must surrender your I-94 card (to the airline upon check-in) when you exit the U.S.; failure to do so may affect your ability to re-enter

Temporary 30-Day Admission with Form I-515

Students who travel outside the U.S. and do not have all the required documentation listed above may be denied entry to the U.S. However, Customs and Border Protection has the authority to admit F-1/ J-1 students (and accompanying dependents, if applicable) admission to the U.S. for 30 days with all of the benefits of their status on the Form I-515A (Notice to Student or Exchange Visitor), if they are otherwise eligible for readmission but have some documentary deficiency. Please note that it is not guaranteed that you will be issued a Form I-515A, so please be sure to review your travel documents to ensure that you have all required documents and that all endorsements and documents are valid and accurate to avoid the possibility of denial.

A student issued the Form I-515A, will be given a date specific I-94 (with a 30 day validity period).

To convert the admission to D/S, the student must submit the following to DHS, before the 30-day expiration date recorded on Form I-94:

  • Form I-515A
  • Original Form I-20/ DS-2019 with new travel signature
  • Original I-94 Card
  • Photocopy of F-1 visa stamp and passport identification pages
  • Dependent family member documentation if they were admitted on an I-515A in F-2 status
  • Any other documentation listed on the Form I-515A as being required

Be sure to make copies of the documents you are submitting as you are sending originals. Documents should be mailed to the address indicated on the Form I-515A. It is recommended that you use a receipt-based mailing option such as certified mail, so that you will have evidence that the documents were received by the government before the 30-day expiration period.

Additional Information: