Travel and Re-Entry

Traveling Outside of the U.S. (With Exit and Reentry)

If you plan to travel outside the U.S., you will need to request a travel signature on your I-20/DS-2019 and be aware of important immigration and security regulations to ensure that you can leave and re-enter the U.S. When you re-enter the United States after traveling, you should expect thorough screening procedures at airports and other ports of entry. Your identity and the validity of your visa and immigration documents will be checked against U.S. law enforcement databases.

You may also be subject to in-depth questioning about your immigration status, travel history, the purpose of your visit, background, and other issues, and, potentially, inspection of personal belongings and luggage, photocopying of documents, etc. You may be delayed by a “secondary inspection” if you do not have proper documents, had some previous immigration problem or error, or if you simply fall under certain criteria or circumstances.

The following resources provide detailed immigration information to prepare you before you leave the U.S.:

U.S. Department of State visa wait times

Provides the latest information on U.S. Department of State visa wait times.

U.S. Department of State's Web Sites of U.S. Embassies, Consulates, and Diplomatic Missions

Provides an official listing of U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide.

U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement FAQ for F-1 Nonimmigrant

Provides important information on what to expect when arriving at a U.S. port of entry.

Important Notes Regarding Pending and Approved OPT:

If your post-completion OPT has been approved (EAD card has been issued by USCIS) and you have a job or a job offer, you may leave and re-enter the U.S. in order to begin or resume employment. If your post-completion OPT has not yet been approved, it is generally permitted (with the appropriate travel documentation) to leave and then re-enter the US, even if you do not yet have a job or job offer. However, the Office of International Education and Global Engagement does not recommending traveling outside the U.S. with a pending OPT status for the following reasons:

  • Re-entry to the U.S. is always at the discretion of the officer at the U.S. port of entry. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers are not always consistent in determining which documents are required for re-entry with a pending or approved OPT application.
  • There are increased risks associated with a pending OPT application. For example, if your OPT is approved while you are outside the U.S., CBP may request evidence of the EAD card as a condition for re-entry after your I-20 end date.
  • If you need to apply for a new F-1 visa while out of the country, there could be a risk you will be denied the new F-1 visa if you cannot document you have both a pending (or approved) OPT application and a job to start (or return to) after being admitted to the U.S.

Visa Validity:

Your passport must be valid for a minimum of 6 months beyond the date of entry. There are come countries that have an agreement with the U.S. allowing entry with a passport until the date of expiration; a full list can be found here. If the visa is not valid for travel, you will be required to renew your visa before you re-enter the U.S. Use the resources provided in the chart above to determine the closest U.S. embassy or consulate and visa wait times. 

To re-enter to the U.S. you will need to present the following documents:

  • A valid passport.
  • A valid F-1 visa stamp in your passport (except Canada and Bermuda Citizens).
  • Your current I-20 with a travel signature.

    Traveling Within the U.S. (Without Exit and Reentry)

    An immigration regulation exists which says that international visitors to the U.S. must carry their “registration document” with them. The “registration document” for F-1 students and J-1 students and scholars is the Form I-94. 

    When you are in the Kutztown and southeastern Pennsylvania area we do not advise carrying your passport and I-20/DS-2019 with you. Store these documents in a safe and secure location to avoid loss or theft. You should keep with you a printed Form I-94, which you can downloaded from this website:

    When you are traveling in the U.S. (some distance from Pennsylvania), you should bring the following original documents on your trip:

    • Passport
    • I-20 or DS-2019
    • Print copy of your most recent Form I-94
    • To Obtain a Travel Signature on Your I-20/DS-2019:

      Step 1: Check the validity of your passport. 

      Step 2: Gather the following documents:

      • Passport
      • Most recent I-20/DS-2019

      Step 3: Schedule a 15 minute appointment with a DSO by emailing Bring all documents with you to your appointment. The DSO will check that you meet the following criteria before providing the travel signature:

      • Meet immigration requirements of full course-load (If a student). 
      • Be in good standing if you are student (If a student). 
      • Have health insurance. 
      • Have updated contact/address information on file.