Travel Signature on I-20
Make sure your I-20 (for F-1 and F-2 status) has been signed in the travel authorization section by an ISSS adviser within 12 months of your expected return to the U.S. (and within 6 months if on F-1 OPT). Travel signatures are valid for 12 months or until the completion of your program, whichever comes first. If there have been changes in your situation (degree level, major, or source of financial support) that is not reflected on your current I-20, please see an ISSS advisor so that we can update your I-20 appropriately.
To request an updated travel signature on your I-20, or replace a missing I-20, please visit ISSS Zoom and In-Person Walk-In Hours. During the 2021-2022 academic year, ISSS is permitted by three US Government agencies to share your immigration document in a digital format. However, during your travel you must present a paper document printed in color and signed. The US officials will deem a document presented on an electronic device invalid and you may be denied entry to the U.S.
The United States requires foreign visitors to maintain passports that are valid for at least six months into the future. This is because the U.S. wants some form of assurance that the visitor will be able to return to his/her own country once the stay in the U.S. ends or is terminated. Some persons with passports that are expired, or that will soon expire, could face difficulty being admitted into the U.S. Be sure your passport has not expired AND that it will still be valid at least six months after the date you plan to re-enter the U.S. If you need to renew your passport, contact the consulate or embassy representing your home country in the U.S. or the appropriate authorities in your home country. Please note, however, that the U.S. has made agreements with several countries whereby the passport is considered to be valid for 6 months beyond the expiration date. To check which countries have passports considered valid for 6 months beyond the expiration date, visit the U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual. However, ISSS has found that immigration officers at Ports of Entry do not always remember that such agreements exist. For this reason, it may be helpful for you to print and take the list of countries in case you encounter a problem at the Port of Entry.
Be sure that the visa in your passport (1) will still be valid on the date you plan to re-enter the U.S., and (2) still has entries remaining (either has an "M" for the unlimited multiple entries or at least "1" entry left). If you must renew your visa while outside of the U.S., see the section on Visa Renewal Information. If you are traveling to Canada, Mexico, or a country in the Caribbean and your visa has expired, please also review Automatic Visa Revalidation. Exception: Students from Canada and Bermuda are not required to have a visa.
NOTE: If your visa expired during your studies in the U.S., AND you properly maintain your immigration status (have a valid I-20), travel to your home country in order to renew visa is not required. Holders of non-immigrant visa can remain in the US legally after their visa expired, and while they maintain their immigration status. Visa is primarily required for entry to the U.S. However, if the F-1 student travels to their home country AFTER visa expiration and they need to return to the US to continue in their studies, they must obtain new visa either through renewal, or by applying for a brand new visa, whichever applies to their specific situation. Consult ISSS with any concerns, questions in this regard and prior to your travel.
Visas for Other Countries
Be sure you have any visas needed to enter countries other than your own that you plan to visit. Go to the embassy website of the country you would like to visit to see if you might need a visa to enter the country to which you are traveling.
Returning to the U.S. After Classes Begin
You could encounter problems at the Port of Entry, and be questioned by the immigration officer about your reason for arriving late. If you believe you must return late after the start of classes, you are advised to get a letter from your department indicating it is acceptable for you to be returning late to your program. ISSS does not advise you to arrive late for the start of classes.