Travel Out & Reentry: F1 & J1 Students

In order to return to the United States after a temporary absence, F-1 and J-1 students must present specific documents to the immigration inspector at the port of entry:

  • original I-20 Form (F-1 students) or DS-2019 Form (J-1 students) with a travel signature from an IS Advisor provided within the last year (for current students) or within six months for alumni(during F-1 Post-Completion Optional Practical Training [OPT] and J-1 Post-Completion Academic Training [AT]). Alumni on Post-Completion OPT must carry a new I-20 that includes their most updated employment information;
  • a valid and unexpired passport (valid six months into the future);
  • a valid and unexpired visa stamp (certain exceptions apply);
  • original financial documentation;
  • a copy of the academic transcript (current students only);
  • a copy of SEVIS Fee Payment; and
  • an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) Card and employment letter from the current employer (during F-1 Post-Completion OPT and J-1 Post-Completion AT only). Travel is not recommended for students who applied for Post-Completion OPT until after OPT is approved by USCIS and you have received the EAD card.
  • Please review the FAQs for students who plan to travel during Post-Completion OPT and travel during Post-Completion AT.

Travel signatures are valid for up to one year or until the end of your program, whichever is sooner. To obtain a travel signature, F-1 Students should schedule an appointment with Ayako Yamada. J-1 Students and Scholars may bring their original DS-2019 Form to OGS during walk-in hours or make an appointment with their dedicated IS Advisor.

Some students and scholars will need to renew their passports during the course of their studies or work period. If the visa is still valid at this time, there is no need to apply for a visa renewal. Students and scholars in this situation should travel with both passports: the expired passport containing the valid U.S. visa, and the valid passport, which does not contain a visa stamp.

If the entry visa stamp in your passport has expired and you plan to travel outside the United States, you must go to a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad to obtain a new visa. Visa stamps are never issued or renewed in the United States. Students and scholars should generally allow 2-8 weeks for processing. Contact the consulate for an appointment prior to finalizing travel plans.

Some students and scholars will also be subject to Security Advisory Opinions because of their countries of national origin, citizenship, fields of study, or at the discretion of the Consular Officer. Security Advisory Opinions commonly take one month but may require as long as 4-6 months in rare cases.

Students: Students engaged in post-completion OPT and Academic Training (AT) should be aware that it can be more difficult to renew a visa during Post-Completion OPT and AT.

H-1B, E-3, or O-1 visa holders: You should contact OGS prior to applying for a visa to request a letter of support. You are also advised to bring the original I-797 approval notice as well as the copy of the H-1B, E-3 or O-1 petition as well as the original USCIS J-1 waiver approval (if applicable).

  • The immigration officer should inspect the immigration document and return it to the student.
  • The immigration officer should inspect the passport with the visa, issue an admission stamp with a notation, and return the passport to the student.
    • F-1 and J-1 students and scholar admission stamp notation:  F-1/D-S or J-1/D-S
    • H-1B, E-3, or O-1 visa holder admission stamp notation should have the visa type with a date. This date represents the last date you are allowed to remain in the country.
  • The immigration officer may or may not request to see the other documents listed above.

Review the OGS Know Your Rights at the Airport (PDF) handout prior to re-entry to the US to familiarize with your rights.

After entry, the student or scholar should download the I-94 Record to verify that the entry was properly recorded electronically. A copy of this electronic entry record should be printed for personal records after each entry to the United States.

During entry procedures, students and scholars should answer all questions clearly. Omission or misrepresentation of information can result in denial of entry. If you encounter any serious difficulty:

Monday – Friday between 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.: Call OGS at (202) 687-5867

After Hours or Weekend: Call Georgetown University (GUPD) at (202) 687-4343. GUPD will contact OGS to assist you.

Once an F-1 Student or J-1 Exchange Visitor and their dependents depart the United States (including cruises), they may not reenter the United States in F-1/F-2 or J-1/J-2 status. In order to reenter the United States, a tourist visa or another valid status is required for entry.

Domestic travel within the United States is unrestricted during the grace period.

The Department of  Homeland Security’s Office of Biometric Identity Management provides biometric identification services that help federal, state and local government officials accurately identify the people they encounter and determine whether those people pose a risk to the United States. Upon entry to the United States, all visitors are subject to biometric identification through digital photographs and fingerprints.

F and J visa holders: the data collected from will be forwarded to SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System), confirming that the person has entered or exited the United States. For more information, please see the  OBIM website.

Travel to Canada, Mexico and neighboring islands (except Cuba) is handled somewhat differently than travel to other countries.

The automatic visa revalidation provision allows those whose U.S. entry visa has expired to briefly visit Canada and Mexico (for H-1B and O-1 temporary workers) and Canada, Mexico, 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 territories or possessions in or bordering the Caribbean Sea, except Cuba, (for F and J visa holders) and return to the United States without applying for a new visa at a U.S. consulate. The following rules apply to automatic visa revalidation:

  • The visit must not exceed 30 days and may be spent only in Canada and Mexico (for F, J, H or O) or adjacent islands (for F and J only) – except Cuba.
  • You must not be a citizen of a country that the Department of State has determined to be a sponsor of terrorism.
  • You must have a valid Form I-20, Form DS-2019, or I-797 approval notice (for H and O visa holders). Those in F-1 and J-1 status must have a valid travel signature on the Form I-20 or Form DS-2019.
  • You must have a valid passport (valid six months into the future).
  • You must have maintained status while in the United States and intend to resume that status when you return to the United States.
  • You must present the most recent I-94 record of entry upon re-entry to the United States.

Many students and scholars* will need tourist visas to enter Canada, Mexico, and neighboring islands. Contact the embassy of the country which you intend to visit and check entry visa requirements before making travel arrangements. If you are an F-1 or J-1 visa holder, you will need a valid travel signature from your IS Advisor before applying for a visa to enter these countries.

*When traveling to Mexico for stays of less than 30 days on an expired F visa, automatic revalidation still applies for re-entry to the United States. However, all students (including OPT/STEM OPT) with an expired F-1 visa (no matter their country of origin) now require a Mexican visa to enter Mexico.

NOTE: Federal regulations prohibit those who have been denied a visa at one of the U.S. consulates in Canada, Mexico or adjacent islands from returning to the United States. Those whose visa applications are denied must return to their home country and apply for a new visa at the U.S. consulate in the home country prior to returning to the United States. If you are interested in more information, please read about applying for a visa and how to make an appointment for a visa interview in Canada or Mexico.

Please visit the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement Website for additional information on Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).