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Travel Information

You may travel within the United States or outside the country, provided you are currently maintaining your immigration status and present the appropriate documents at the Port of Entry. You should carry your original immigration documents (I-20 or DS-2019, passport, U.S. visa, and I-94 Arrival/Departure card--see note about I-94 automation below) with you whenever traveling outside the United States or when visiting a state or federal government building. In most cases, you do not need to report to an advisor before you leave the United States.

If, after reading the following travel information, you still have questions or concerns related to your travel, come speak with an International Student Advisor during walk-in hours.

Travel within the United States

You may travel freely within the United States including Alaska, Hawaii, and U.S. territories while you are in valid immigration status. You should have photocopies of the following documents with you when traveling:

  • Form I-20 or DS-2019 issued by DU
  • Unexpired passport valid for the next six months
  • U.S. visa
  • I-94 arrival/departure card (see note about I-94 automation below)

Travel outside the United States

You may leave the United States and return at any time during your program, provided you are still in valid immigration status when you return and you have been absent from the country for less than five months. With the exception of travel to Canada or Mexico and adjacent islands, you must present an unexpired U.S. visa to request entry back into the country. When re-entering the United States after traveling abroad, you must present the following at the Port of Entry:

* If you are traveling to Canada, Mexico, or certain contiguous territories for less than 30 days, and you are not a foreign national of certain countries designated by the Department of State, you may be permitted to re-enter the United States with an expired visa. For more information, review the Automatic Revalidation of Visa Validity section of our page about travel to Canada and Mexico.

F-1/J-1 Travel Handout
Planning to Take A Cruise?

Travel Signature

Your I-20 or DS-2019 must have an unexpired travel signature in order for you to request re-entry into the United States. The travel signature is valid for one year from the signature date, unless you are on F-1 Optional Practical Training, in which case it is valid for six months. We recommend requesting a new travel signature every nine months, even if you do not plan on traveling.

To help determine if you need a travel signature, you can use this chart as a guide. Please visit our office if you still have any questions.

We ask that you obtain a travel signature by bringing your I-20 or DS-2019 to the International House during walk-in hours. Only under special arrangements with ISSS may you leave it to be signed and picked up later. Please send a request to isss@du.edu if you are unable to come in person during walk-in hours for the signature.

I-94 Automation

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has implemented an automated Form I-94 process at U.S. air and sea ports of entry. The implementation began April 30, 2013 and is now in place at all U.S. airports and sea ports of entry.

Paper I-94s will no longer be distributed upon arrival at U.S. air and sea ports. Instead, CBP will scan a traveler's passport, generating an electronic arrival record. Travelers will also receive an admission stamp in their passport indicating their arrival date, non-immigrant status (F-1 or J-1), and admitted until date (D/S). Please ensure that you receive this stamp and that the information is recorded correctly.

The electronic I-94 can be printed from the following website: www.cbp.gov/i94. A printed, electronic I-94 will be required for immigration and public benefit applications (e.g., social security number, driver's license, employment authorization).

A paper Form I-94 will still be issued at U.S. land border ports of entry.

Travelers exiting the U.S. will follow the same procedures they do currently.

  • Travelers issued a paper Form I-94, should surrender it to the commercial carrier or CBP upon departure in order for the departure to be recorded.
  • If travelers did not receive a paper Form I-94 and the record was created electronically, CBP will record their departure using manifest information obtained from the air or sea carrier.

Additional information about I-94 automation is available online.

Travel and F-1 Post-Completion OPT

Once a student's academic program is completed, it is still possible to travel and reenter the United States as an F-1 student if returning to use the Optional Practical Training benefit.

OPT Application Pending with USCIS

Due to the length of time it takes USCIS to process EADs as well as the student's choice to request an OPT start date up to 60 days after their program ends, some students will travel to their home countries to visit family and friends while their Form I-765 EAD application is pending with USCIS. Federal regulations allow these F-1 students to reenter the United States to start a job or to look for employment.

When reentering the United States while their OPT application is pending, the student should be prepared to present the following documents:

  • Form I-20 issued by DU with OPT remark on Page 3 AND with valid travel signature less than 6 months old
  • Unexpired passport valid for the next six months
  • Unexpired F-1 visa *
  • I-94 arrival/departure card (see note about I-94 automation above)
  • I-765 receipt notice (Form I-797) †

Approved

Students in F-1 status who have been approved for Optional Practical Training are allowed to travel and reenter the U.S. to resume employment. They should be prepared to present the following documents when seeking to reenter the United States:

  • Form I-20 issued by DU with OPT remark on Page 3 AND with valid travel signature less than 6 months old
  • Unexpired passport valid for the next six months
  • Unexpired F-1 visa *
  • I-94 arrival/departure card (see note about I-94 automation above)
  • Valid EAD Card
  • Evidence that you have a job or a job offer in the United States ‡

* If you are traveling to Canada, Mexico, or certain contiguous territories for less than 30 days, and you are not a foreign national of certain countries designated by the Department of State, you may be permitted to re-enter the United States with an expired visa. For more information, review the Automatic Revalidation of Visa Validity section of our page about travel to Canada and Mexico.

† Students who are applying for the 17-month extension of OPT for STEM majors should NOT travel while their STEM extension application is pending if they plan on reentering the U.S. after the expiration of their current EAD card.

‡ Students with a valid OPT EAD who do not have a job or job offer will likely be allowed to reenter the United States. However, there is some risk since federal guidance states that only F-1 students on OPT who have a job or job offer are admissible.

Entry Visas for Travel Abroad

Before you visit a country outside the United States, including Canada or Mexico, visit that government's consular website to determine if you must apply for an entry visa. Your U.S. visa is not a valid document to request entry into other countries. Some visa applications may take several weeks to process, so apply as early as possible.

Study Abroad and Overseas Courses/Internships

If you intend to participate in a study abroad program, pursue overseas courses, or engage in an internship abroad, please meet with an international student advisor at least one month before you leave the United States. You should bring your current immigration documents with you so an advisor can verify whether you have the documentation necessary for you to re-enter the United States in F-1 or J-1 status.