Top Ten Travel Tips

  1. Make sure you have a signed, valid passport and visa, if required. Your I-20 and DS-2019 also need to be signed. Before you go, fill in the emergency information page of your passport!
  2. Read the Consular Information Sheets (and Public Announcements or Travel Warnings, if applicable) for the countries you plan to visit.
  3. Leave copies of your itinerary, passport data page and visas with family or friends at home, so that you can be contacted in case of an emergency. Keep your family or host program informed of your whereabouts.
  4. Make sure you have insurance that will cover your emergency medical needs (including medical evacuation) while you are overseas.
  5. Familiarize yourself with local laws and customs of the countries to which you are traveling. Remember, while in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws!
  6. Do not leave your luggage unattended in public areas and never accept packages from strangers.
  7. While abroad, avoid using illicit drugs or drinking excessive amounts of alcoholic beverages, and associating with people who do.
  8. Do not become a target for thieves by wearing conspicuous clothing and expensive jewelry and do not carry excessive amounts of cash or unnecessary credit cards.
  9. Deal only with authorized agents when you exchange money.
  10. When overseas, avoid demonstrations and other situations that may become unruly or where anti-American sentiments may be expressed.

Have you been maintaining the conditions of your non-immigrant status?

If you are an F-1 or J-1 student, this means maintaining full time registration each semester at the school you are authorized to attend, not letting your I-20 or DS-2019 expire, refraining from unauthorized employment, and following the appropriate procedures for school transfer and extensions. As a J-1 you are also required to have health and accident insurance for both yourself and your J-2 dependents, and the insurance must include a repatriation and medical evacuation benefit. If you think you may have violated the conditions of your status, be sure to speak to staff in the International Student and Scholar Services Office BEFORE departing the U.S., as you may risk being denied re-entry into the United States.

Can I travel in the US or abroad?

There are no restrictions on travel within the U.S. You should always have copies of all immigration and other important documents in case something happens to the originals. These copies should be kept at home in a safe place. When you travel long distances from Albany, even within the US, take with you the I-20 or DS-2019, passport and proof of financial support.

Are you outside the Albany area and need a travel signature?

In order to get a new I-20/DS-2019 with a travel signature when you are outside the Albany area or outside the U.S., please send the

ISSS Request for Document Processing via our office email account isss@albany.edu.  For shipment of the replacement I-20/DS-2019, International Student and Scholar Services Office can send the new I-20/DS-2019 to you by regular mail, which will take 4 – 6 weeks to reach you, or you may wish to have the new I-20/DS-2019 sent via express mail. In that case, International Student and Scholar Services uses an express mail service that will allow you to receive your I-20/DS-2019 through UPS or FedEx in 3-5 days. For instructions on processing the shipment of your documents, please see this page: Express Mail Shipping.

What documents are required for travel?

  • Passport valid at least 6 months into the future.
  • Most recent I-20 or DS-2019 including up to date information and a valid travel signature less than one year old (unless on OPT – then please refer to the OPT section).
  • Unexpired F-1 or J-1 visa stamp – (Citizens of Canada and Bermuda are exempt from the visa requirement). You need this in order to re-enter the United States.
  • If the country you are traveling too requires that you have a visa to enter that country, you will need to go through the process of applying for that visa. You will need to check with that country’s Department of Immigration.
  • Proof of Enrollment or transcript at the University at Albany
  • Proof of funding – Verifying the funding shown on your I-20 or DS-2019. Examples include personal or family bank statements, affidavit of support, and copy of scholarship, assistantship, or fellowship letter.
  • For J-1 students, it is a good idea to carry proof of health insurance as well.
  • I-94:
    • Non-immigrant students entering the US by air or sea will be issued an electronic I-94 upon entry to the US. Visit http://www.cbp.gov/I94 to access your electronic I-94 record. Make sure that your I-94 record states the correct visa status (F-1/J-1) and the Admit until Date is "D/S". Print a copy for your records and send a copy to isss@albany.edu so we can update your file. You should access your I-94 after every new entry into the US.
    • Non-immigrant students entering the US through a land border will continue to receive a paper I-94 card. If you have a paper I-94 card stapled in your passport, you will need to surrender the I-94 card upon your next departure from the U.S. SPECIAL NOTE: F-1 and J-1 students with expired U.S. visas who are traveling to Canada, Mexico or adjacent islands for up to 30 days who will be resuming their studies upon their return should NEVER surrender their paper I-94 card. *Canadian or Mexican nationals returning to their home country should surrender their paper I-94 card the next time they leave the United States.

Travel to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean Countries:

As an F-1 or J-1 student you can re-enter the U.S. from Canada, Mexico and adjacent islands with an expired U.S. Visa stamp. This is called Visa Revalidation. Please consult https://www.ice.gov/sevis/travel for the list of adjacent islands.

  • To qualify for visa revalidation, you must:
  • Presently be in valid F-1 or J-1 student status
  • Be carrying a valid I-20 or DS-2019
  • Have a printout of your unexpired I-94 record with you (do not surrender it when you depart the U.S.)
  • A valid passport
  • Be in Canada, Mexico, or the adjacent islands for less than 30 days
  • Not apply for the re-entry visa stamp during those 30 days

This does not apply to students who are citizens of Mexico or the Caribbean countries. These students must apply for the visa stamp when travelling to their home country. It also does not apply to students from Iran, Syria, Sudan, or Cuba. In this case, students must apply for the new visa stamp for re-entry.

When planning a trip to Canada, you should first check whether you will need to obtain a visa to enter Canada.

List of countries whose citizens require Canadian visas: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/visas.asp.

How to apply for a Canadian visa: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/information/applications/visa.asp

Canadian Citizens and Landed Immigrants: Canadian citizens do not require a visa stamp to enter the U.S. However, landed immigrants are required to have the visa to enter the United States. Both must carry the remaining required documents for travel.

My F-1 or J-1 Visa Stamp is expired. What do I need to do to apply for a new one?

You will need to apply for a new visa stamp from a U.S. Consulate/Embassy. It is not possible to obtain the visa stamp in the U.S. It is best to apply in your home country. Please refer to our “Guidelines to Renew your Visa in your Home Country.”  If you apply in a third country we recommend you consult with an Advisor in International Student and Scholar Services. Applying in a third country could result in delays in obtaining the visa. Please keep in mind that while you are in the United States and NOT planning to travel outside the United States, it is ok if the visa stamp in your passport expires. What CANNOT expire is the end date on your I-20/DS-2019.

What is a Transit Visa?

Effective as of March 19, 2002 European Community countries began requiring “airport transit visas” from nationals of certain countries. Other countries may also require transit visas. It is crucial that you check the relevant web site of the embassy for each country that you are traveling through BEFORE YOU DEPART the U.S. Please note that you must obtain this visa transit BEFORE you travel.

Security Clearances and Delays

Please note that when you apply for a student visa, you may be subject to a security clearance that can cause delays of weeks or even months in the issuance of your visa and your travel to the U.S.

The following are two common types of security clearance that you might encounter:

Field of Study: If a visa applicant's area of study is on the U.S. federal government’s “technology alert list,” which includes many of the science and technology fields, the U.S. consulate may seek a security clearance prior to granting the visa. This process may delay your visa application by anywhere from one to three months. There is no way to know for certain ahead of time whether you will be subject to this type of clearance. If you work in one of the science or technology fields and are returning to the U.S. to resume your studies or research, we advise you to ask your supervisor or chair to write a letter that briefly describes the specific area of your research in layperson’s terms. We also recommend that you carry with you a copy of your CV and one or two of your publications, if you have any. These materials will not necessarily deter a security clearance, but they may expedite the clearance.

Country of Citizenship, Nationality or Birth: A security clearance may also be required by the U.S. consulate if a visa applicant was born in or is a citizen or national of certain countries. The list of countries is not published, but seems to include the following: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, and the territories of Gaza and West Bank.

If you have applied for a visa and believe that a security advisory opinion will delay your travel to the U.S., please contact your degree program or department immediately so that they can arrange to defer your degree program start date and/or to cover your teaching or research duties. If you have been waiting for more than one month for the results of a security advisory opinion, please contact International Student and Scholar Services to inform us of the delay.

Contacting a U.S. Consulate

If you have questions about visa application procedures or required documents, please contact the particular U.S. embassy or consulate where you plan to apply.

The State Department's Visa Office and many of the U.S. consular posts overseas have their own web sites that provide information on visa application procedures specific to the individual posts. Information on consular post policies, procedures and documentary requirements can be obtained via these web sites.

These sites may be accessed from http://www.usembassy.gov/.  One feature that a number of the consulates have is an e-mail option. This may be used to ask specific questions of the consulate.

I am an F-1 student on Post-Completion OPT. What should I travel with?

  • Check with an International Student Advisor before traveling. When traveling on OPT (any time after the program completion date on the I-20), you should travel with the following documents:
  • Passport valid at least 6 months into the future.
  • Unexpired F-1 or J-1 visa stamp – (Citizens of Canada and Bermuda are exempt from the visa requirement). You need this in order to re-enter the United States.
  • Most recent I-20 or DS-2019 including up to date information and a valid travel signature less than 6 months old
  • EAD card
  • Proof of Employment such as a letter from your employer starting your job title, job description, begin and end-dates within OPT, and verifying that your employer expects you to return to resume employment.