Preparing for travel outside the U.S.:
International students may leave the U.S. for a short time period (5 months or less) and reenter to continue their program if they hold the appropriate travel documents. These documents are:
- An unexpired I-20 (F-1 students), endorsed for travel on page 2 of the newest version of the I-20 or page 3 of the older version of the I-20. The travel signature must be less than one year old at the time of re-entry to the U.S. Students on OPT must have a travel signature that is less than six months old at the time of re-entry to the U.S.
- DS-2019 (J-1 students), endorsed for travel on page 1. The travel signature must be less than one year old at the time of re-entry to the U.S.
- Get a travel signature 2-3 weeks BEFORE you travel
- A valid passport
- A visa to the country visited (unless it is one's home country or a third country where there is no visa requirement -- see the Department of State's web page for details)
- Valid U.S. visa in passport to facilitate reentry
In addition, we recommend that you:
- Print a copy of your class ticket and university transcripts from Hokie SPA in case the Port of Entry officer wants to see that you currently are enrolled.
- If you are renting an apartment, and your name is on the lease agreement, you may also want to take a copy of the lease agreement. This shows that you have a place to live, and a legal obligation to fulfill the lease requirements.
- Be sure to take your funding documentation-assistantship agreement/ bank statements/ sponsor support letter--as proof of your ability to pay for your educational expenses.
If you fail to obtain a travel signature before you depart the U.S.:
If you arrive at a U.S. port of entry without all of your required documents or with unsigned I-20/DS-2019 or other missing information, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer may deny your entry into the United States. As an alternative, the officer has discretion to issue you a Form I-515A, which allows you temporary entry into the United States for 30 days, with the requirement to complete all documentation before the 30 days run out. Read more about this process at https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/what-is-a-form-i-515a.
Traveling while on OPT
If you are on OPT and wish to travel outside of the US, you need all of the items specified above, plus a job offer letter stating where you are working and for what period of time. If you fail to take an employer letter with you, you can be denied re-entry to the US, because you can't prove that you are working while on OPT.
If your form has no travel signature spaces remaining:
F-1 students will need a new travel signature page, which will be provided if all information on your valid form is still current. If you are applying for a new visa, or if information on your I-20 has changed, then your I-20 must be reissued. In that case, you must download an I-20 Request form and attach updated funding documentation covering at least two semesters of study.
J-1 students need to complete a DS-2019 Request form. If your funding source has changed, or if the amount of support has changed, then we need for you to provide updated and ORIGINAL funding documentation from your sponsor, covering at least two semesters of study. We will issue a new DS-2019 form and sign it for travel.