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Traveling in the U.S. & Abroad

Travel for international students

As an international student, you may occasionally want to travel within the United States or abroad. There are so many interesting places to explore in the world. Before you travel, though, it's important to make sure you have the appropriate documentation.

What you need to know about:

Travel within the United States

You should carry the following documents with you while traveling within the United States:

These are your legal documents detailing your ability to remain in the U.S. and you may be asked to present them to an official if asked.

Travel to another country

If you are travelling to another country, contact the consulate of that country to find out if you need a visa.

If you are travelling to Canada, contact the Canadian Consulate to see if you require a visa for entry.

Travel after program completion

After you have completed your academic program and you have not applied for OPT, you are permitted to travel within the U.S. and prepare for departure during your 60-day grace period. You are not allowed to re-enter the country with your I-20 during this grace period.

Travel and re-entry

If you would like to travel during semester breaks or holiday breaks, you need the following to re-enter the U.S.:

  • Passport (valid six months into the future at all times)
  • Valid visa
  • I-20 (with valid travel signature)

Travel signatures are valid for 12 months from the date in which they were signed.

Form I-515A

If you arrive at a port of entry and you do not have the correct documentation (I-20, travel signature, unpaid SEVIS fee), the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer may issue you a Form I-515A.

This document allows you to have temporary admission to the United States for 30 days. To maintain your current status, you must address the issues listed on the Form I-515A.

If you receive this form, report it to your Designated School Official (DSO) immediately so you may work together to correct your status.

Automatic visa revalidation

Travel to Canada or Mexico and Automatic Revalidation

If you make a trip to Canada or Mexico for less than 30 days and your entry visa (F-1) is expired, you can normally return to the U.S. without applying for a new visa because of a regulation called Automatic Revalidation. Individuals in F-1 status are also eligible for Automatic Revalidation when traveling to adjacent islands of the U.S.

To qualify for Automatic Revalidation you must:

  • Have your I-94 in hand
  • Have a signed I-20
  • Have an expired entry visa with you, even if it is in an old passport
  • Return to the U.S. from Canada, Mexico, or adjacent island other than Cuba within 30 days
  • Have maintained and intend to resume nonimmigrant status

Exceptions to Automatic Revalidation:

  • Automatic Revalidation can no longer be used by individuals who are applying for a visa in Canada or Mexico. You cannot reenter the U.S. while waiting for your visa, and if the visa is denied you will need to depart Canada and return home to apply for a visa
  • Nationals of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, and Cuba are not eligible for Automatic Revalidation
  • Automatic Revalidation does not apply if you intend to return to the U.S. in a different status. In this case, a new visa must be obtained

If you plan to travel using Automatic Revalidation, contact your DSO.

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