This page is intended to provide basic information to F-1 and J-1 student before they travel outside the United States. For specific questions, please contact ISSS, as individual cases may vary.
Students who may be impacted by the recent Executive Orders and ongoing legislation should view our Executive Order Updates page here for further information.
Required Documents to Re-enter U.S. After Travelling:
Students are required to carry the following:
• 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. For most current full-time students, the travel signature is valid for one year. For students on OPT, it is valid for 6 months. If your travel signature is older than 6 months, check with ISSS before travelling to find out if you need a new one.
• 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.
• Students on OPT: Students on OPT must additionally carry a valid EAD card, I-20 signed within the past 6 months for travel, and proof of ongoing employment (i.e. contract or letter from employer). Consult ISSS before travelling while on OPT.
Students are recommended to also carry the following:
• If the country you are traveling to 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. If you are transiting through a country, check to see if you need a transit visa for that country.
• 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.
Top Ten Travel Tips
1. Before travelling, make sure your passport, visa, and I-20/DS-2019 are all still valid (and will be valid on the date you plan to re-enter the United States). Your I-20/DS-2019 must also have a valid, recent travel signature. For most current full-time students, the travel signature is valid for one year. For students on OPT, it is valid for 6 months. If your travel signature is older than 6 months, check with ISSS before travelling to find out if you need a new one.
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 avoid 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.
Travel in the United States
If you are travelling in the United States you will not need to cross a border and be admitted. However, it is still a good idea to carry all your documents with you, including passport, visa, I-20/DS-2019, and I-94 (https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov). Puerto Rico and Guam are territories of the United States and therefore considered to be part of the United States.
Have you been maintaining the conditions of your non-immigrant status?
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. If you are an F-1 or J-1 student, maintaining status includes maintaining full time registration each semester, not letting your I-20 or DS-2019 expire, refraining from unauthorized employment, following the appropriate procedures for school transfer and extensions, and not violating any local, state, or federal laws. 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.
Travel to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean Countries:
F-1 or J-1 students meeting certain requirements may be able to travel to Canada, Mexico, or a qualified adjacent island for 30 days or else and re-enter the United Statea under an expired visa. This is known as automatic 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 that has been signed for travel
• Have a printout of your unexpired I-94 record with you (do not surrender it when you depart the U.S.)
• Have 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. It also does not apply to students from Iran, Syria, Sudan, or Cuba. In these cases, students must apply for the new visa stamp for re-entry if their current visa stamp is expired. If you think you qualify for automatic visa revalidation, please confirm with an ISSS advisor before travelling.
When planning a trip to Canada, you should first check whether you will need to obtain a visa to enter Canada. Find out if you require a Canadian visa, here http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/visas.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.
Renewing Your Visa
If your F-1 or J-1 visa will have expired before you plan to re-enter the United States after travelling, 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 is ISSS first. Applying in a third country could result in delays in obtaining the visa. Please keep in mind that if you are in the United States and NOT planning to travel outside the United States, it is ok if the visa expires, as long as your passport and I-20 or DS-2019 are still valid.
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.
The information contained in this web site/form is provided as a service to international students, faculty and staff at the University at Albany. It does not constitute legal advice. We try to provide useful information, but we make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to this web site or any associated site or form. Neither the University at Albany nor ISSS is responsible for any errors or omissions contained in this website, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. Nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel; students may wish to consult an immigration attorney on the specifics of their case as needed.