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Traveling Outside the U.S.

If traveling, you must always carry your immigration documents. Depending on your visa status, you may need specific documentation. Before you plan your trip, take the time to review what you will need.

If you have dependents traveling with you, they will need to have their immigration documents as well. They may also need valid travel signatures.

Valid Passport

Your passport must be valid at least six months into the future or more on the date that you plan to re-enter the U.S. If you need to renew your passport, you can do so in your home country or within the U.S. If you wish to renew your passport in the U.S., contact the consulate representing your home country in the U.S. for assistance. If the embassy issues you a new passport and you still have a valid student visa in the old passport, ask if you can carry both; thereby allowing you to use the visa. Otherwise, on your next trip outside the U.S., you will have to apply for a new visa stamp.

Valid Visa 

If traveling in the U.S., your visa may be expired or you may be in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program.

If traveling outside the U.S., your visa must be valid when you re-enter. If you have changed visa status, have an expired visa or you have used all your entries, you will need to apply for a new visa before you re-enter the United States.

Valid and Accurate I-20 or DS-2019 signed for travel 

Travel signatures need to be valid at the time you enter the United States. Please think about the day you are going to return to the US, then check your most recent I-20 (2nd page) or DS-2019 (bottom right corner). Your travel signature should be no older than these dates at the time of entry to the US:

Student Categories

  • F-1 and J-1 degree seeking students: 1 year
  • Non-degree J-1 exchange students: the length of your exchange program
  • F-1s on post-completion OPT or STEM extension: 6 months

Scholars and Interns

  • J-1 research scholars: 12 months, or until the end of the J-1 program, whichever is first
  • J-1 short-term scholars: 6 months, or until the end of the J-1 program, whichever is first
  • J-1 student interns: 12 months, or until the end of the J-1 program, whichever is first

For all categories, please make sure any dependents who are traveling with you have valid travel signatures according to the same guidelines as your own category.

If your travel signature will not be valid at the time of your return to the United States, please request a new travel signature on iTerp.

Additional Documentation Required for:

Enrolled F-1 and J-1 students have an in-person requirement to attend classes and be present in the US during the entirety of the required academic semesters. This includes students enrolled in research credits. DHS has ended all COVID-19 flexibilities for taking fully online or remote coursework. Enrolled students should minimize or avoid absences during the required semesters and plan any extended trips during official school breaks. If your trip will take you outside the US while classes are in session, please schedule an appointment with an advisor before finalizing your trip.

  • Valid I-20/DS-2019
    • The current form should be up to date. Check the expiration date and major field of study.
  • All Previous I-20s/DS-2019s
    • Carry all of your I-20s/DS-2019s with you when you travel. The Immigration Official at the port of entry may want to see your history. This is particularly important if you have transferred from one school to another, changed program levels, or extended your program.
    • Proof of Funding
      • This should be the same source of funding as is listed on your I-20/DS-2019. 
    • Proof of Registration

F-1 students on OPT/STEM: OPT and STEM OPT authorizations are for employment that is completed while physically present in the United States. USCIS guidelines note that time spent outside the United States while on approved OPT will count as unemployment time unless the student is on a period of leave authorized by an employer. Remote work arrangements outside of the United States may not be possible while on OPT or the STEM extension. We encourage you to discuss this information with your employer prior to planning any extended travel outside the US.

  • Your current I-20/DS-2019 with a travel signature (obtaining a travel signature while on OPT typically takes at least two weeks). Plan ahead
  • For F-1 on OPT: Your Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
  • For J-1 on AT: Your J-1 Authorization Letter
  • A letter from your employer indicating that you have a temporary job in your field of study and are returning to accept or continue employment
  • Your old I-20s/DS-2019s

If your visa stamp has expired, if you have not yet received your EAD or if you are not yet working, then see an ISSS advisor before traveling while on OPT.

  • Valid J-1 visa, unless using automatic visa revalidation
  • Signed original form DS-2019 with a valid travel signature
  • Proof of financial support: You must be able to verify that you have funds for the length of your program, e.g., bank statement, job offer, a letter from your foreign institution.
  • Invitation letter from your sponsoring department.
  • Valid original bottom portion of the I-797 Approval Notice and a copy of the entire I-797 H-1B Approval Notice
  • Two recent pay stubs

Original certified and signed Labor Condition Application

  • Mexican citizens are required to have a valid TN visa
  • Canadians are exempt from applying for a visa
  • I-797 Approval Notice or an original and signed TN Department Support Letter
  • Credentials: academic degrees, CV, licenses, or certificates
  • Request TN status for a “temporary stay”
  • Pay a fee of $50.00

Additional travel guidance and advisories

What should I expect when entering the U.S. Port-of-Entry? Arrival in US: Customs & I-94

  • F-2/J-2 spouses and children, whether traveling with the F-1/J-1 student or not, need certain documents to re-enter the U.S.:
    • An F-2 I-20 or J-2 DS-2019 with valid travel signature
    • Valid passport
    • Valid F-2/J-2 visa
    • F-2 visa holders are also eligible for automatic visa revalidation in Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean islands (see below).
  • H-4 Dependent spouses and children, whether traveling with the H-1B or not, need certain documents to re-enter the U.S.
    • Copy of the I-797 Approval Notice
    • Valid passport
    • Valid H-4 visa
  • E-3D Dependent spouses and children, whether traveling with the H-1B or not, need certain documents to re-enter the U.S.
    • Copy of the E-3 principal’s certified LCA, I-94 and visa or a copy of the I-797 Approval Notice
    • Valid passport
    • Valid E-3D visa
  • TD Dependent spouses and children, whether traveling with the H-1B or not, need certain documents to re-enter the U.S.
    Copy of the TN Principal’s I-94 and letter of employment or a copy of the I-797 Approval Notice
    • Valid passport
    • Proof of relationship (spouse or children)
    • Valid TD visa is required for non-Canadian dependents
      • If Canadian, no visa required

CBP encourages travelers to apply for I-94 online prior to arriving at land border

To reduce wait times, CBP is urging travelers who require an I-94 to apply and prepay online before arriving at the land border. Travelers will be issued an I-94 during the admission process at the port of entry. If you are traveling via a land border you may apply for an I-94 in advance at (link is external), saving time while at the port of entry later.

Automatic Visa Revalidation

Special Rules for Travel to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean (except Cuba).  Under very specific guidelines you can re-enter the U.S. using an expired F-1/J-1 visa stamp if you meet ALL of the following criteria:

Your trip is:

  1. To Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean islands ONLY (Applicable Caribbean islands are listed below)
  2. LESS THAN 30 days

AND you:

  1. are in valid F-1, J-1, O-1, or H-1B* status
  2. have a valid passport (for at least 6 months beyond day of re-entry to U.S.)
  3. have an I-94 marked "Admitted F-1 until D/S", "Admitted J-1 until D/S", “Admitted O-1” or “Admitted H-1B”
  4. If F-1/J-1, have a recent travel signature on your I-20/DS-2019. Please note, the Canadian government prefers to see a more recent travel signature (within 2 months) before they issue a Canadian tourist visa stamp.
  5. have an expired U.S. visa stamp in your passport. It cannot be stamped "canceled." If you applied for a new visa and it has not been issued or has been denied, you will not be able to re-enter the U.S. on your expired visa.
  6. have not applied for a new visa.
  7. are NOT from one of the following countries: Cuba, Iran, Sudan, or Syria.

Caribbean Islands Where Automatic Visa Revalidation is Applicable: Saint Pierre, Miquelon, The Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bermuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, The Windward and Leeward Islands, Trinidad, Martinique, and other British, French and Netherlands territory or possessions in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea.

*Only F and J nonimmigrants are able to use Automatic Revalidation when visiting an Adjacent Island.

You do not need special papers to travel from state to state or to U.S. territories but you must always carry your immigration documents. This is particularly true while traveling through states along the Mexico or Canada borders. You could be stopped by immigration officers at any time and told to produce the following:

  • Valid, unexpired passport (expiration date at least six months into the future)
  • Valid, unexpired I-20 or DS-2019 (F-1 and J-1s only)
  • Valid bottom portion of I-797 (H-1B, E-3 and O-1s only) 
  • I-94
  • U.S. visa (expired or unexpired, unless you are a participant in the Visa Waiver Program)
  • Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card and employment verification documents if you are on Optional Practical Training (OPT), the 24-Month OPT Extension, or H-1B Cap Gap Relief.

If you are already legally in the U.S., you do not need a visa to visit Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands unless your travel plans include entry to another country en route to these destinations. You will need to take your valid, unexpired immigration documents and your valid unexpired passport.

The University of Maryland is conveniently located near Washington D.C. and is accessible by many different modes of transportation. Once you arrive in the United States, review this information to get you to campus safely and easily.

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