Students and scholars wishing to reenter the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 status after travel abroad must present the following to Immigration:
- Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 endorsed for travel by the ISO during the semester that the international travel occurs.
- A valid visa stamp. In general, a valid visa stamp is required for nonimmigrants returning to the U.S. after travel abroad. An exception to this rule exists when traveling only to Canada or Mexico (and in some circumstances, certain adjacent territories) with automatic visa revalidation
- A valid passport at least 6 months beyond the date of readmission to the U.S. (See the Department of State's website for exceptions).
If on post completion Optional Practical Training (OPT), in addition to the requirements cited above:
- Valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD card)
- Proof of employment
How Often Should I Get my I-20 or DS-2019 Signed?
The ISO recommends a travel signature at least once every semester in which you travel, and close to the date of departure. If on F-1 OPT, we recommend a travel signature at least within 6 months of the date of departure, though once per semester is strongly recommended.
Disregard the notation on the I-20 which states that the travel endorsement is valid for one year. Many CBP officers will look for and require a more recent travel signature.
Dependents wishing to return to the U.S. in F-2 or J-2 status must comply with the same conditions including a travel endorsement on their I-20 or DS-2019.
How Do I Get a Travel Signature?
Visit the ISO during advising hours to obtain a travel endorsement on Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 approximately two weeks before any planned travel abroad.
When applying for a travel endorsement, you must submit all of the following:
- Your current Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 (and forms of any traveling family members)
- Travel Request Form
- Passport for yourself and any traveling family members
Students and scholars should be aware of potential delays in visa processing due to possible security checks, which the State Department refers to as "administrative processing." You should discuss supporting documentation with the ISO prior to travel, and include the possibility of significant delays in your travel. Once the decision to undergo admiistrative processing is made by the U.S. Consulate, there is nothing the University can do to accelerate the process.
Never enter the U.S. on a Tourist Visa (B-2 or B-1/B-2) or the Visa Waiver Program (WB or WT) throughout your period of F-1 or J-1 status, including an approved period of F-1 OPT or J-1 Academic Training. This includes summer and holiday travel while you are still actively an F-1/J-1 student/scholar or on OPT or academic training. Entry to the U.S. as other than F-1 or J-1 will constitute a change of status, and F-1 benefits will be abandoned., including the ability to enroll at UVA.