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International Student and Scholar Services

Visa & Immigration

Travel

Traveling to the U.S. 

Since COVID travel restrictions can change from day to day, it is our recommendation that if you will be travelling internationally that you frequently check for information from your airline as well as this resource from NAFSA: Association of International Educators.

 

Current Requirements for All Travellers to the U.S.

 

The country specific restrictions, the validity of National Interest Exceptions (NIE) for J exchange visitors, automatic National Interest Exceptions (NIE) for F-1 students and F-2 dependents have expired. Instead, the U.S. will require COVID-19 vaccination with certain vaccines. There are some exceptions for travelers from countries with low COVID-19 vaccine rates.  
 
Use the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) tool to determine eligibility to enter the U.S.
Accepted COVID-19 vaccines
CDC list of countries with vaccination rates under 10%, see Table 4.  

 

Documents required to enter the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 status
  1. Valid passport
  2. Valid F-1 or J-1 document
    1. I-20 for F-1 students
      1. The program end date in the Program of Study section on page 1 must be in the future
      2. The signature in the Travel Endorsement section on page 2 must be less than 1 year old
    2. F-1 students on OPT or STEM OPT:
      1. Review the Travel and F-1 Post-Completion OPT section below for required documents while OPT is pending and when it is approved.
    3. DS-2019 for J-1 students
      1. It must be an original document with an original signature in #8
      2. The end date in #3 must be in the future
      3. If you are a returning student, the travel validation in the lower, right-hand corner must be less than one year old.
  3. F-1 or J-1 entry visa (Canadian and Bermudan citizens are exempt)
    1. The visa must be valid on the day you enter.
    2. There is an exception which may allow you to enter using an expired entry visa under very particular circumstances using automatic visa revalidation. Visit the Automatic Revalidation of Visa section on our Visa Renewal webpage.
Electronic I-20s

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued guidance on October 12, 2021 which authorizes DSOs to digitally sign and electronically transmit I-20s. 

  • Students must print out the Form I-20, sign and date it. They must carry the paper I-20.
  • The digitally signed I-20 is valid until students need an updated I-20.
F-1 or J-1 Entry Visas

Students who do not have an F-1 or J-1 entry visa that will be valid on the day they enter the U.S. and who do not qualify for automatic visa revalidation and are not Canadian or Bermudan citizens must apply for an entry visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate. Visa services are slowly resuming. Check the website of the embassy or consulate where you will apply for the latest information. 

International Student Orientation

Details for upcoming Orientations.

Campus Return Protocols

ALL students returning to campus will be required to follow DU's testing and quarantine guidelines.

The University of Denver has a comprehensive COVID-19 website as a resource.

TRAVEL

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 Number printout 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 or by scheduling an appointment (here).

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. entry visa
  • Form I-94 Admission Record (Print from CBP website)
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:

  • Form I-20 or DS-2019 issued by DU with valid travel signature
  • Unexpired passport valid for the next six months
  • Unexpired U.S. entry visa *

* 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 section.

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. 

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

Travel signatures can be requested through the ISSS Portal. In the Control Center, choose the Travel Signature Request. ISSS will generate a new I-20 or DS-2019 instead of signing your existing document.

Register your Travel with DU

All DU international students, faculty, and staff traveling for University-related academic and business activities abroad (including home country) are required to register their travel in DU Passport at least two weeks prior to departure.

University-related activities include but are not limited to:

  • Academic research
  • Conference or workshop attendance
  • Participating in an internship
  • Externship or practicum
  • Study abroad, faculty-led, or student-led program
  • Travel for athletics

By registering in DU Passport, the University can assist in an emergency situation abroad, provide important travel resources prior to departure, and better track international efforts of all DU members.

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 who have applied for OPT want travel to their home countries while their Form I-765 application is pending with USCIS.

Students should be aware that this may cause problems:

  • USCIS may send a request for more information while the student is outside the U.S. and the student may not be able to respond
  • The U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer may not allow the student to reenter without an EAD
  • If the I-765 is approved while the student is outside the U.S., the student must make arrangements to receive the EAD and use it to return to the U.S.


Students who choose to reenter the United States while their OPT application is pending should be prepared to present the following documents:

  • Form I-20 issued by DU with OPT remark on Page 2 AND with valid travel signature less than 6 months old
  • Unexpired passport valid for the next six months
  • Unexpired F-1 entry visa *
  • I-765 receipt notice (Form I-797) †

OPT 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 2 AND with valid travel signature less than 6 months old
  • Unexpired passport valid for the next six months
  • Unexpired F-1 entry visa *
  • 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 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.

Travel during a leave of absence

 If you intend to leave the United States on a leave of absence, you should meet with an international student advisor before your departure to determine whether you will be eligible to return in F-1 or J-1 status in the future. Depending on the duration of your absence from the country, new immigration documents may need to be issued to you to resume your studies.

Absence of more than 5 Months

If you will be absent from the country from more than five months, an international student advisor must report your departure to Immigration and Customs Enforcement by terminating your SEVIS record. You will need to be issued a new I-20 or DS-2019 before you can return to the United States. You will need to pay the SEVIS fee again and apply for a new F-1 or J-1 visa before your return.

Eligibility for Employment Benefits

If you are issued a new I-20 or DS-2019 to resume your studies after an absence of five months or more, you will need to be enrolled full-time for one academic year (three quarters) before you are eligible to apply for Curricular Practical Training and Optional Practical Training off-campus employment benefits.