As an international student, you may travel freely within the U.S. at any time. You may leave the U.S. at any time; however, you may need a visa to enter other countries. Please check with the relevant embassy to determine entry requirements for any country you are planning to visit during your travels. If you re-enter the U.S., you must have all necessary documents with you. You should carry your I-20/DS-2019 and passport with you whenever you travel.
Necessary documents for international travel and re-entry
The following requirements apply to all F-1 and J-1 students and their dependents.
- Passport, valid for at least six months beyond the date of re-entry
- Valid U.S. visa for your current status (may not be necessary when returning from Canada, Mexico and most Caribbean islands if you have been gone for less than 30 days; see Department of State website for more information about automatic visa revalidation)
- I-20 or DS-2019, signed for travel
- Travel signatures are technically valid for one year, but it is recommended that your travel signature be no more than six months old at the time you re-enter the U.S.
- Obtain your travel signature from International Student and Scholar Services during walk-in advising or special travel signature sessions at the end of each semester (check the calendar for upcoming sessions)
- If you are transferring to a new school, you must re-enter the U.S. on immigration documents issued by your new school.
- Financial documentation
In general, your passport is valid as long as it has not expired; do not let your passport expire while you are in the United States. If your passport is nearing its expiration, contact your country’s embassy/consulate for instructions on how to renew it. This process can take three to six months, so plan accordingly.
The visa in your passport may expire while you are in the U.S., but it must be valid when you re-enter the United States. To renew your visa, you will need to submit the appropriate documents at a U.S. embassy/consulate. For additional information about your specific visa type, see the Department of State website.
Last minute travel information
If you have a travel signature, your I-20/DS-2019 will be signed in the section labeled “travel endorsement” (I-20) or “travel validation” (DS-2019). Travel signatures are only valid for six months.
A travel signature is not required to leave the United States. However, if you do not have a travel signature before you leave, you may receive a Form I-515A upon re-entry to the U.S. from Customs and Border Protection.
If you receive this document upon re-entry, you must follow these steps to remedy the issue.
- Alert your MU international student adviser that you have received an I-515A.
- Review with your international student adviser the reason why the I-515A was issued. For example, your I-20/DS-2019 is not signed for travel.
- Work with your international student adviser to gather the documentation listed on the I-515A.
- Submit your paperwork to SEVP within 30 days of your entry date.
If you fail to complete any required action or to send all of the necessary documents to SEVP within 30 days of your entry day, your SEVIS record may be terminated.
If your visa is expired, you can leave the United States. However, you will need to renew it before you can re-enter the United States. The application process for visa renewal is the same as applying for a new visa.