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International Student and Scholar Services

Visa & Immigration


Traveling to the U.S. for Fall 2020

The situation for students planning travel to the U.S. to study for the fall term has been confusing and concerning. Many things have changed over the last 4 months. Here is what ISSS understands as of July 31, 2020.

Documents required to enter the U.S. in F-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. 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 allows you to enter using an expired entry visa under very particular circumstances. See the ISSS web page on automatic visa revalidation
  4. ISSS recommends you carry the letter which explains the university's plan for fall.
Electronic I-20s:

Because of COVID-19 SEVP the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) allows schools to send I-20s to students via email.

  • Students must print the electronic I-20, sign and date it and carry it.
  • The digitally signed I-20 is valid until students need an updated I-20.
  • SEVP coordinated with the U.S. Department of State which issues entry visa and CBP whose officers work at U.S. ports of entry (airports, land crossings, etc.)
  • SEVP does not require students to have I-20s with a note that their school is not completely on-line. This broadcast message was rescinded on July 15, 2020.
  • Proof of this is in FAQs published by SEVP that student can carry with them. See pages 6-7 regarding Electronic form I-20 Issuance in the July 15 FAQ and #8 in the July 24th FAQ.
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.

Presidential Proclamations restricting entry to the U.S. from certain countries

The U.S. president has issued 5 proclamations which govern the entry by F-1 and J-1 student (and others) to the U.S. F-1 and J-1 students who have spent any part of the 14 days before entering the U.S. in the countries listed below cannot enter the U.S. unless they have a National Interest Exception (see below).

  • China
  • Iran
  • European Schengen Area Countries (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland)
  • Ireland
  • United Kingdom and Ireland
  • Brazil

National Interest Exceptions (NIE)

  • Entering from Schengen Area countries per the USDOS website
    • F-1 students with valid visas entering from Schengen Area countries, Ireland and the United Kingdom do not need to contact a U.S. embassy or consulate for an individual exception.
    • Students applying for a new F-1 entry visa will automatically be considered for a national interest exception.
    • Students with a J-1 entry visa or those applying for a new J-1 entry visa must contact the U.S. embassy or consulate to request an NIE.
  • Entering from China, Iran and Brazil
    • F-1 and J-1 students must contact a U.S. embassy or consulate regarding an NIE.
    • Without an NIE, students can consider spending 14 days in a non-restricted country before entering the U.S. Please note that students must follow that country's rules for entering including possibly needing an entry visa.

There are reports of embassies and consulates issuing visas with the following notation, NIE under PP on Novel Coronavirus, or issuing a letter regarding the NIE.
ISSS recommends that students carry proof of an NIE or the USDOS website notice for exceptions for Schengen area countries, the UK, and Ireland.

Designated U.S. Airports

Anyone who within the last 14 days traveled from, or were otherwise present within, one of the countries designated in the Presidential Proclamations is required to land at one of the following airports. Check with your airline regarding this requirement.

  1. John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), New York
  2. Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD), Illinois
  3. San Francisco International Airport (SFO), California
  4. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), California
  5. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), Washington
  6. Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL), Hawaii
  7. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Georgia
  8. Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), Virginia
  9. Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), New Jersey
  10. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), Texas
  11. Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW), Michigan
  12. Boston Logan International Airport (BOS), Massachusetts
  13. Miami International Airport (MIA), Florida
  14. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL), Florida
  15. George Bush Intercontinental/Houston Airport (IAH), Texas
Entry via land ports of entry from Canada or Mexico

The essential travel restrictions in place until August 20, 2020 for land entry (including passenger rail and ferries) include an exception for students entering the U.S. The deadline has been extended several times and may be extended again. The restrictions do not apply to air travel.

International Student Orientation

Orientation will be Thursday, September 3, and Friday, September 4. It will be virtual, and students can attend from in or outside the U.S. The required parts will be available asynchronously for students who cannot attend live sessions. Students will receive more information in early August.

Quarantine at DU & Travel Guidance for International Students

Quarantine and Travel Guidance

Students returning to campus in the fall from their residence abroad will self-quarantine for 14-days in the their home residence while symptom monitoring. They will travel with all adequate protection to safeguard themselves and others including wearing masks, attention to social distancing, and personal hygiene of themselves and the spaces they occupy. They will conduct symptom monitoring throughout the travel. They will be tested at the DU campus upon arrival and quarantine in their housing until results are provided. They will conduct daily symptom monitoring and upon a negative test result will be allowed to come to campus. The University may then additionally require these students be retested at 7 days mark to ensure they remained negative after travel.

For students housing in DU residence halls, we ask that the student quarantine while awaiting results in a nearby hotel. Currently test results are received in approximately 24 hours. Please see link below for hotels options which offer DU rates:

Information about travel to the U.S. including visa and travel restrictions are in the Travel section of the FAQs on the ISSS home page .


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 Validity section.

F-1/J-1 Travel Handout

Planning to Take A Cruise?


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 if you are unable to come in person during walk-in hours for the signature.

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.


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) †


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.