Travel & Re-Entry

Traveling within the United States

ISSS recommends that you carry your passport, visa, I-20/DS-2019, and your most recent I-94 admission record. These documents can be used for identification and as a confirmation of your immigration status in the U.S.

Traveling Abroad

Re-entering the United States

Current students with multiple visas in their passport must present their unexpired F-1 or J-1 visa at the port of entry as they re-enter the country to resume their academic study. It is prohibited to pursue academic study in the United States on a B-2 tourist visa or visa waiver.

ISSS recommends that you save a copy of your most recent I-94 admission record for your own records every time you re-enter the country as proof of admission into the U.S. under the F-1 or J-1 status.

For the latest information on travel restrictions and requirements, you may review our “International Student FAQ” page.

See below a list of documents to carry with you on the plane when returning to the U.S.

Required Documents for Re-entry:

  • Unexpired passport with an expiration date of at least 6 months after the date you will arrive in the U.S
  • Unexpired F-1 or J-1 visa
  • Unexpired I-20 or DS-2019 with unexpired travel signature.
    • Travel signatures are valid for one (1) year for currently enrolled students with an unexpired I-20 or DS-2019 and six (6) months for students on OPT/STEM OPT. Travel signatures may be used for multiple re-entries into the U.S.
  • To request a travel signature:
    • F-1 Students: Request an electronic travel signature. Please log in to iEagle and submit the "Travel Signature Request" e-form under the "Current Student" menu. 
    • J-1 Students: Schedule a "Document Pick-up" appointment to come in person to the ISSS office with your most recent DS-2019 to receive a "wet” travel signature.
  • Original Employment Authorization Document (EAD) Card if on OPT/STEM OPT
  • Official employment letter if on OPT/STEM OPT

Recommended Documents for Re-entry:

ISSS strongly recommends carrying these additional documents with you.

Frequently Asked Questions

No. F-1 and J-1 students are required to show an unexpired travel signature on their unexpired I-20 or DS-2019 upon their re-entry to the U.S. as they go through immigration and customs at the airport.

Countries have their own entry and exit requirements. We suggest contacting their embassies or consulates in the D.C. area to learn more about these requirements before finalizing your travel plans.

No. Travel signatures are valid for one (1) year for currently enrolled students with an unexpired I-20 or DS-2019 and six (6) months for students on OPT/STEM OPT. Travel signatures may be used for multiple re-entries into the U.S.

 

Often problems with the I-94 are caused by a typo that was entered by the immigration officer when typing your information in the immigration system.

If you are unable to retrieve your most recent I-94 with the correct information, please try entering the following:

  1. Different versions of your name as they appear on your passport, U.S. visa, airline ticket, or boarding pass.
  2. Different combinations of your name.
  3. Misspellings of your name.
  4. Eliminating space between your name.
  5. Truncating the last few letters if your name is long.
  6. Inverting the month and day of your birth date.
  7. If your passport number contains zero or the letter O, try entering both.

If after multiple attempts you still cannot access your most recent I-94, please refer to this information from Customs and Border Control: https://help.cbp.gov/s/article/Article-1696?language=en_US

If still not successful, the last available option is to go to the Deferred Inspection Unit either at the Dulles International Airport (IAD) or the Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) to have the issue corrected. Please contact ISSS for more information before going to a Deferred Inspection Unit.

Your most recent I-94 should always show “F-1 or J-1” under “Class of Admission” and “D/S” under “Admit Until Date”. If your I-94 indicates you were admitted into the United States under a different visa category or you have a specific date for "Admit Until Date", please contact ISSS immediately for advice.

Please contact ISSS immediately for advice. Form I-515A gives you temporary admission to the U.S. for 30 days. To maintain F-1 or J-1 status, you must respond to the Form I-515A request with the assistance of ISSS within 30 days. Failing to respond will lead to the loss of your F-1 or J-1 status.

If you arrived in the U.S. using an initial I-20 or DS2019, you must first submit your required immigration registration in iEagle, have your immigration record activated in SEVIS, and receive a travel signature before you can depart the U.S. ISSS does not recommend departing the U.S. as soon as you initially arrive using your initial I-20 or DS2019 unless there is an emergency. 

We recommend returning to the U.S. prior to your last day of classes to preserve immigration benefits associated with your F-1 or J-1immigration status.

If you travel abroad during your 60-day grace period (F-1 students) or 30-day grace period (J-1 students) after your program completion, you may not return to the U.S. using your F-1 or J-1 status.

If you applied for Post-completion OPT (F-1 students), it is not recommended to travel abroad until after your OPT has been approved and you have received your EAD card in hand and secured employment.

If you applied for Post-completion AT (J-1 students), it is not recommended to travel abroad until you receive your updated DS-2019 showing the AT employment authorization.

 

Please review the travel FAQ at the bottom of our OPT webpage.

You can provide a letter of purpose and a copy of your enrollment or graduation certification to each person to improve the chances of your relatives obtaining tourist visas. More information can be found in the “Inviting Relatives on a B-2 Visa” handout under the “Related Links” section on this page.

ISSS cannot provide any documentation to assist with this process.

Problems Re-Entering the United States?

If you had problems entering the U.S. you may file a complaint using DHS Trip, a service of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  

DHS Trip