F-1/J-1 Travel

The policies and procedures described below are for travel outside of the United States.

If you plan to travel to Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, or Northern Mariana Islands, please review the Travel Re-Entry page of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement website, and select the appropriate question.

Required Documents for re-Entering the U.S.

All F-1 Students

Both F-1 students and their F-2 dependents must have the following documents to re-enter the United States:

  1. Passport that is valid for six months beyond entry date to the U.S. or valid passport from a country on the passport agreement list. When you click on the link above, look for and click on the question: "What if I have an expired passport or one that will expire in less than six months?" The list of countries should appear once you click on this question.
  2. Valid F-1 or F-2 entry visa.
  3. Properly endorsed and valid SEVIS I-20 (endorsement valid for up to six months for students on F-1 OPT).
  4. Highly recommended: Documents proving your funds as listed on the SEVIS I-20.

Additional Documents for F-1 Students on OPT/OPT STEM

  • Employment Authorization Document (EAD). In certain cases, the Notice of Action may be shown at the Port of Entry (please consult with ISSS).
  • Highly recommended: Job offer letter/proof of employment, if you are engaged in OPT after completion of studies.

Obtaining a Travel Signature

Take the above-mentioned documents to ISSS at least one full week before you depart Champaign-Urbana, to obtain a travel signature. In some cases, an ISSS advisor will be able to endorse your I-20 to travel; in others it may be necessary to prepare a new I-20 for you.

Citizens of Canada do not need a U.S. entry visa.

All J-1 Students

Both J-1 students and their J-2 dependents must have the following documents to re-enter the United States:

  1. Passport that is valid for six months beyond entry date to the U.S. or valid passport from a country on the passport agreement list. When you click on the link above, look for and click on the question: "What if I have an expired passport or one that will expire in less than six months?" The list of countries should appear once you click on this question.
  2. Valid J-1 or J-2 entry visa.
  3. Properly endorsed and valid DS-2019.
  4. Highly recommended: Documentation of funding as it appears on the DS-2019.

Obtaining a Travel Endorsement

If your DS-2019 was issued by Illinois, you should bring the above-mentioned documents to International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) at least one full week in advance of your departure from Champaign-Urbana. In some cases, an ISSS advisor will endorse your DS-2019 to travel. In others, we will need to prepare a new DS-2019, especially if the information on your current DS-2019 is no longer valid, or if your dependents will travel separately from you.

If your DS-2019 was issued by a sponsoring agency, you should contact your program sponsor well in advance of your travel for instructions and assistance regarding your travel.

Citizens of Canada do not need a U.S. entry visa.


Travel with an expired U.S. entry visa

In some cases, a new entry visa is required to re-enter the U.S.; in other cases, it is not.

Once the program end date on your I-20/DS-2019 document has passed, you will NOT be able to travel outside of the US and re-enter in your current status during your 60-day grace period. This includes travel to automatic revalidation countries.

Travel of less than 30 days to Canada, Mexico, Caribbean Islands (other than Cuba)

You do not need to apply for a new U.S. entry visa if you plan to travel to a contiguous territory for less than 30 days, provided that you have the required documents for re-entry to the United States. This is known as "automatic revalidation". Do not surrender your I-94, before you leave the U.S.; if you do so, you must obtain a new visa to return. If you received an electronic I-94 then prior to your trip print out your electronic admission record from www.cbp.gov/i94 and secure it with your other immigration documents.

Citizens of Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Libya, Sudan, Syria, and Cuba are not eligible for automatic revalidation. Individuals with cancelled visas are not eligible for automatic revalidation and also individuals with single entry visas may not be eligible for automatic revalidation, as a single entry visa may be presumed cancelled.  Finally, if you apply for a new U.S. entry visa in a contiguous territory, you may not re-enter the U.S. using automatic revalidation.

Travel to any other country

You must apply for a new entry visa at a US Embassy or Consulate General. Please contact the specific Embassy or Consulate where you plan to apply for your U.S. entry visa for additional details about the documents that you will be required to present at your interview.

F-2/J-2 dependents will have additional requirements and should consult the Embassy/Consulate where they will apply for their visa for a complete list of required documentation.

Special cautions for U.S. entry visa renewal

If you need a new entry visa to return to the U.S., you should be aware that there is never a guarantee that one will be issued. Certain factors may complicate your visa application. Following is a list of some of the more common potential pitfalls:

  • Students whose field of study or research appears on the Department of State Critical Fields List may experience visa issuing delays of at least 30 additional days while a Security Advisory Opinion is sought.  There is no way to expedite this process.  Make your travel plans accordingly.
  • It may be more difficult to obtain a renewal of your entry visa if you are engaged in practical training after completion of studies. You should be prepared to document strong ties to your home country.
  • It can be more challenging to obtain a new U.S. entry visa outside of your country of citizenship or permanent residence. You may be asked to apply for the visa in your home country. If you decide to apply for a U.S. entry visa outside of your home country, you should contact the US Consulate or Embassy where you will be applying to find out if you need to provide any extra documentation.
  • You must have an appointment to apply for a visa in an U.S. Consulate in Canada or Mexico. It may take several weeks to get an appointment. Be sure to check with the Canadian or Mexican Consulate to see if you need a visa to enter either country. Keep in mind that it may be difficult to get a U.S. entry visa in either country. If you apply for a U.S. entry visa in Canada, Mexico, or one of the adjacent Caribbean islands, you may not re-enter the United States using the "automatic revalidation" benefit.
  • You may need an entry visa for countries other than your own, even if you are passing through in transit. Please contact the Consulate or Embassy for the country or countries that you will be visiting for more information.

Non-Immigrant Visa

Visit the Keys to Maintaining Status page for a list of points to remember when applying for a non-immigrant visa.