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Traveling Outside of the United States:

When reentering the U.S. after traveling outside of the country, you must be prepared to show the Border Patrol the following documents:

Continuing/Currently Enrolled Students Students on Post-Completion OPT/STEM
Original I-20 signed for travel within the  last 12 months* Original I-20 signed for travel within the  last 6 months*
Passport  (Valid 6-month into Future) Passport  (Valid 6-month into Future), with valid  F-1 Visa  Stamp (if applicable)
Valid  F-1 Visa  Stamp (if applicable) Current and valid  EAD Card  
Proof of Enrollment Proof of Employment  (Offer Letter / Recent Pay Stubs)

*Travel signatures are endorsed on page 2 of your I-20.

In order to reenter the US after traveling outside of the country you must have a travel signature on your I-20. For continuing students, the travel signature is valid for 12 months and confirms that you are a full-time student maintaining lawful status.

To request a travel signature, you must submit the Travel Signature Request form in accessVIS. Within the request, you will indicate how you wish to receive an I-20 endorsed for travel (i.e. Direct Document Download, Express Mail (UPS/FedEx), Collect from VIS, Authorize Friend to Collect from VIS). If approved, you will receive an email with instructions based your document delivery preference indicated on the request form. 

Important Reminders for F-1 Travelers:

  • F-1 students with expired U.S. visas who are traveling to Canada, Mexico or adjacent islands for up to 30 days, who will not be applying for a new U.S. visa while there, AND who will be resuming their studies upon their return should NOT surrender their I-94 card (if applicable).  Discuss your eligiblity for Automatic Revalidation with an International Student Adviser before traveling.
  • Canadian or Mexican nationals returning to their home country should surrender their I-94 card as they enter their country, and obtain a new I-94 card when reentering the U.S.
  • Canadian nationals should be sure to carry with them their financial documentation that verifies the information on their SEVIS Form I-20 when returning to the United States.
  • Absence from the United States for more than five months requires a new SEVIS Form I-20 and F-1 Visa for reentry. Be sure to notify your Visa and Immigration Advisor no less than 45 days prior to return to the U.S. of your intention to return.
  • Click here for travel tips for F-1 Students on OPT or those planning a change of status to H-1B.

Traveling Within the U.S.:

If you are planning a trip within the United States it is important that you have your I-20, passport, visa and Stony Brook ID card with you for ALL distance travel, even travel within New York State.

You and your dependents may be surprised to learn that federal law requires that you carry "registration" documentation at all times. This includes a basic identification documents such as a passport, current I-20 and I-94. For day-to-day purposes, we suggest you keep these documents in a secure location, such as a fire-proof deposit box. However, if you are traveling within the U.S. you should carry these documents with you, as proof of your status may be required before boarding when traveling by air, train, bus, or ship. 

If you are applying for a change of non-immigrant status, have an immigration petition or EAD card application pending, be sure to carry your U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) receipt notice (green Form I-797). This notice proves that you have an application pending with USCIS.

Automatic Visa Revalidation - Travel to Canada & Mexico:  

If you are only traveling to Canada or Mexico for a period of less than 30 days, you may be eligible to re-enter the US on the basis of an expired visa in your passport under a process called “automatic visa revalidation.”

In order to take advantage of Automatic Revalidation all of the following must apply:

  • The visit is ONLY to Canada or Mexico and you may NOT travel to any other country.
  • You did not apply for a new US visa stamp while in Canada/Mexico.
  • Your passport must be valid for at least six months from your date of re-entry to the U.S., unless your country is a member of the so-called “six-month club.”
  • You must possess an unexpired I-94 record* or admission stamp.
  • You must apply for readmission to the U.S. within the authorized period of your immigration status.
  • You must have maintained and intend to resume your non-immigrant status.

NOTE: When exiting the U.S. for Automatic Revalidation do not surrender your I-94—you will need it for reentry.

Automatic revalidation is not available to nationals from countries identified as   state sponsors of terrorism. Individuals who apply for a new visa in Canada and/or Mexico, but are denied such a visa, are also not eligible to benefit from the automatic visa revalidation option.

We recommend that individuals planning to re-enter the US under the automatic visa revalidation process carry with them the  CBP article  on automatic visa revalidation. In addition, please print   the relevant regulations .

Travel and Re-Entry for F-2 Dependents:     

F-2 dependents are not required to travel with the primary F-1. However, the F-2 dependent must carry the following documents required for re-entry to the US:

  1. Valid passport (valid for at least 6 months beyond the date of the re-entry to the US)
  2. Valid F-2 visa in passport (except for dependents from Canada
  3. Form I-20 with a valid travel signature 
    • Valid for one year if F-1 is currently enrolled student
    • Valid for six months if F-1 is currently on approved post-completion OPT or STEM OPT Extension
  4. Copies of these F-1 primary documents:
    • I-20, passport, F-1 visa, I-94 Arrival/Departure Record
    • If F-1 is on approved post-completion OPT or STEM OPT Extension, also include OPT I-20, EAD card, and proof of current employment or offer letter

F-2 dependents are able to remain in the US without the F-1 as long as the F-1 maintains status and will return to the U.S. after a temporary absence using the same SEVIS ID number.

F-2 dependents who need a travel signature on their I-20 should have their F-1 submit the travel signature request in accessVIS.

Frequently Asked Questions: