Travel Tips

We look forward to welcoming new students and scholars, and welcoming back continuing students and scholars!  As there is an increase in security for flights coming into the U.S., and for those traveling through U.S. airports, below are some travel tips to assist in easing your travel.

Two important tips for everyone:

  • Carry your immigration documents with you instead of packing them in your checked luggage.
  • Allow plenty of time at the airport, and at the port of entry, for security checks. Be aware that these checks may be more thorough than before. You may also have increased restrictions on the airplane, especially the last hour of flight.


  1. F-1 Students and F-2 Dependents: Make sure your I-20 is endorsed for travel on page 2 (or page 3 for older versions of the I-20). This endorsement is valid for entry for 1 year.  (See #6 if on OPT.)
  2. J-1 students and scholars, and J-2 dependents: Make sure your DS-2019 is signed for travel in the lower right corner. This endorsement is valid for 1 year.
  3. Check passport expiration. Your passport must be valid for 6 months in to the future upon entry to the U.S. Agreements between the U.S. and certain countries allow for less than 6 months. We recommend that you apply for extension of passport before it expires.
  4. If you will be applying for a visa stamp, check the instructions for the consulate where you will apply -
  5. Take a transcript.
  6. If on OPT, your I-20 travel signature must be less than 6 months old; you must have your EAD card and you must have an employment letter or offer letter.  Please see this page about students traveling while on OPT.

NOTE: If you are taking a musical instrument with you during your travels, it is recommended that you complete a CBP Form 4457 for each instrument you will be taking and have it stamped at a U.S. Customs Office (there is usually one at most major airports) prior to departing the U.S. to document proof of ownership. Also, please be aware that CBP will confiscate any musical instruments or accessories that contain a banned substance/product (i.e. - ivory or tortoise shell).
Exiting the U.S.:

  1. In general, if you are traveling to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean islands for 30 days or less and have an expired F-1 visa, you will keep your I-94 card. See our detailed information here.
  2. If you are traveling elsewhere, you will hand in your I-94 card upon exit if you still currently have a paper I-94.
  3. If you are traveling elsewhere and have an electronic I-94 record, CBP will record your departure using manifest information from the airline carrier. There is no document to turn in.  

Application for U.S. Visa:

  1. Applications for F or J visas must be made at U.S. consulates outside the U.S. It is not possible to apply for an F or J visa inside the U.S. Technically it is possible to apply at U.S. consulates other than in your home country. However, it is best to apply in your home country.
  2. Check the procedures at the consulate where you will apply:
  3. Allow time for the process. There may be a wait for an interview. There may be a wait of several weeks for a security clearance. Estimates for visa wait times can be found at
  4. Initial attendance F-1 visas can be issued up to 120 days before the reporting date listed on Form I-20, but a student can enter the U.S. no earlier than 30 days before I-20 program start date.
  5. If your visa is still valid, but you would like to apply for a new visa to extend the period, check with the consulate to see how long before the expiration they will accept an application.
  6. Some students may be subject to a $200 SEVIS fee for F-1 students, or a $180 SEVIS fee for J-1's (different from the visa fee). Information and payment procedures at:  Continuing students whose I-20s were issued before September 2004 are not required to pay the fee.

Entry to the U.S.:

  1. Present passport valid for at least 6 months, your visa stamp, and your I-20 or DS-2019. You may also want to carry your financial documents.
  2. Students, scholars, and dependents who are citizens of Canada do not need a visa stamp when entering the United States from Canada. F or J visa status, Canadians must present the I-20 or DS-2019 when entering.
  3. If you are a new F-1 student, with an "Initial Attendance" I-20, be sure the school listed on the visa matches the school listed on your passport.
  4. If you are a prior student and you have applied through the International Student and Scholar Services office to do a re-entry to the U.S., then check in with our office in Marquis Hall, room 110 after you have re-entered the U.S.
  5. If on OPT, you must have your EAD card and employment letter or offer letter.
  6. Be a "good consumer."  Before you leave the CBP official, check to make sure you have your passport. If you are issued a paper I-94, make sure it has the proper notation - F-1, F-2, J-1, or J-2. If it is not correct, have the officer make the correction there.  Make sure you have your I-20. If you will have an electronic I-94 record, be sure to visit as soon as possible after entry to ensure your information is correct. Make sure it has the correct visa status and D/S under the "Admit Until" date.
  7. OBIM (Formerly US-Visit): If you get a receipt after having your fingerprints and picture taken, keep the receipt.

We wish you safe travels, and look forward to seeing you soon!