Travel Overview

It is important to make sure that you are taking the steps to maintain your F-1 status while traveling. That includes ensuring that you are carrying the right documents, that your documents are valid, and that you have a valid travel signature on your I-20.

Please noteU.S. federal guidance permits SEVP-certified colleges and universities such as Wesleyan to issue Form I-20s electronically. You are allowed to print out the copy of your I-20 we upload for you in the ISS Portal, sign and date in the "Student Attestation" section on page 1, and use it for your travel to the U.S. as well as when obtaining/renewing your visa and applying for F-1 employment benefits such as Optional Practical Training (OPT)/STEM OPT Extension. An original copy of your I-20 with a wet signature from a Designated School Official (OISA staff member) is NOT required. 

Travel Signatures

What is a travel signature? 

A travel signature is relevant only to F-1 students (and their dependents) who are planning to travel abroad and return to the U.S. in F status. This includes alumni who remain in F status for post-graduation Optional Practical Training (OPT). You must have an unexpired travel signature on the date that you re-enter the U.S.

Having a valid travel signature on your I-20 is extremely important for you as an F-1 visa student when returning to the United States from traveling internationally. This signature from your international student advisor (designated school official/DSO) confirms that you are maintaining status to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer that will be inspecting your I-20. Not having a valid travel signature is grounds for the officer not to grant you admission into the U.S.

Travel Signatures:

  • Will be placed on the second page of your I-20 in the "Travel Endorsement" section
  • Are valid for 12 months for enrolled F-1 students and 6 months for students on post-completion OPT or STEM OPT
  • Are not required when leaving the U.S., but are necessary when re-entering from abroad
  • Can be requested through your ISS Portal account (see instructions below)

Do you need a travel signature?

  • Enrolled F-1 student (or their dependents): A travel signature on page two of your I-20 is valid for 12 months or until your program end date, whichever comes first. 
  • F-1 post-completion OPT / STEM OPT Extension alumni (or their dependents): A travel signature on page two of your I-20 is valid for 6 months or until the expiration date of your Employment Authorization Document (EAD), whichever comes first.

All first-year students studying on campus and those who have returned from taking a leave of absence must request a travel signature before traveling internationally. Your I-20 will not automatically have a travel signature. You will not need a travel signature when initially entering the U.S. to study at Wesleyan, but must have one if you leave the country and wish to re-enter.

Continuing students should always check their current I-20 to see if their travel signature would still be valid on the day that they plan to return to the U.S. If your return date is close to the end of your travel signature validity period, please request a new travel signature. 

If you are abroad and realize that you do not have a valid travel signature, please submit the Travel Signature Request through your ISS Portal account (see instructions below). OISA staff will upload a signed copy of your new I-20 with travel signature to your request in the portal, which you can then print, sign, and use for re-entry to the U.S.

How to request a travel signature

Students may request a travel signature for their I-20 through their International Student and Scholar (ISS) Portal account. Once logged into the ISS Portal, navigate to your Site Home via the "gray house" icon, select "F-1 Student Requests" from the menu on the left of the screen, and then click on and complete the Travel Signature Request e-form. OISA will send you a confirmation email with guidance on how to access your new I-20 with travel signature once your request is processed.      

OISA also offers in-person Travel Signature Clinics at the end of the Fall and Spring Semesters. Please see our Events & Programs page for Travel Signature Clinic dates and times. 

Important Documents to Bring with you When Traveling

International Travel

You will need to present the following when reentering the U.S. after a short trip abroad: 

  • Valid passport (must be valid at least 6 months into the future)
  • Valid F-1 visa* 
  • Your current Form I-20 with valid travel signature on page 2
  • EAD & proof of employment (if on post-completion OPT/STEM OPT Extension)

*Note that students from Canada or Bermuda do not require a valid visa stamp to seek entry in F status.

In addition, we recommend that you have the following documents with you in your carry-on (not checked) luggage for easy access in case you need to show them:

  • Proof of funding for your tuition and living expenses
  • Academic transcript/proof of current semester enrollment (if currently a student)
  • OISA contact number (860-685-3031)

Travel within the United States

Domestic travel includes travel to any of the 50 states or travel to U.S. territories (Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, American Samoa). Carry the following documents with you in case you need to show evidence of your legal immigration status: 

  • Unexpired passport
  • Unexpired I-20
  • Printout of your most recent I-94 admission (can be retrieved at I-94 Official Website)

Reentry Process & What to Expect

You may clear U.S. immigration when you land in the U.S. or at a designated U.S. Port of Entry at an international airport/border. Have in hand and ready to present to the U.S. CPB officer the documents listed above for international travel.

Secondary Inspection

Sometimes CBP officers need more information to decide whether to admit you in F status. They may need to look at your supporting documents, view your SEVIS record, or ask you more questions. If this happens, you will be taken to secondary inspection. If there are problems with your SEVIS record, CBP might call OISA to confirm your active student status. Therefore, it is important that you carry our contact information. If you are repeatedly taken to secondary inspection, please notify OISA so that we can check your SEVIS record for any problems. You may also report any travel problems through DHS TRIP

Print Out Your Form I-94

You will need to reprint your Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record at the CBP website every time that you enter the U.S. You will upload a copy of it at the start of each semester when you complete the Continuing F-1 Student SEVIS Status Confirmation e-form in the ISS Portal. Also ensure that your Form I-94 gives your proper visa status and that you are admitted for D/S, which stands for "duration of status." If there are any discrepancies in your I-94, please notify OISA immediately so that we can help you to correct it.

F-1 Visa Renewal

If your F-1 visa will no longer be valid when reentering the U.S., you must renew it prior to your return. Please note that if you need to renew your visa, you must plan sufficient time for this process into your travel schedule. The U.S. Department of State posts current visa appointment and processing wait times for each consulate/embassy. However, if your visa is selected for administrative processing, it may take much longer to have your visa processed.

All visa applicants must complete the DS-160 form, which can be submitted before departing the U.S. Follow the instructions on the U.S. consulate/embassy website for full application requirements. Some applicants may qualify to waive the visa interview for a visa renewal through the Visa Interview Waiver Program. The consulate/embassy will indicate whether this is offered and the qualifications for a waiver. Even if you qualify for an interview waiver, you must complete the visa application process (aside from the DS-160) outside the U.S.

If you are traveling and need to renew your visa, you should follow these steps: 

  1. Submit your most recent Certificate of Finance and/or financial aid award letter to OISA to obtain an updated I-20.
  2. Check current visa appointment wait times through the Department of State website
  3. Review the Student Visa application process, complete the DS-160, and pay the processing fee.
  4. Schedule/attend your visa interview at the U.S. consulate or embassy outside of the U.S.

Preparing for your visa interview:

Most nonimmigrant visas require you to establish that you are going to the U.S. for a temporary purpose only, such as pursuing an academic degree, and do not intend to stay permanently. You need to show that: 

  • you will keep a residence abroad and expect to return there
  • you have personal, professional, and financial ties to your home country

Some examples of this might be evidence that you own a car or other physical property in your home country, community involvement, and immediate/extended family remaining in your country.

If you are unable to prove that you intend to return to your home country, the consular officer has the right to deny you an F-1 visa. If your visa is denied, please contact the Wesleyan Office of International Student Affairs ( as soon as you receive written notice of denial.

Applying for an F-1 visa outside of one's country of citizenship:

It is possible to apply for an F-1 visa in a country other than the country from which you hold your passport. This is called applying as a “Third Country National.” While most embassies accept applications from Third Country Nationals, not all do so. You should check the website of the embassy at which you plan to apply for the visa to see if they accept applications from "Third Country Nationals."

There are risks in applying for a visa in a country other than your own. Since the F-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa, the embassy official must determine if you are planning to immigrate to the U.S. and judge the likelihood of your returning to your home country once your program in the U.S. is complete. Officials in other countries will probably not be familiar with your country of citizenship and may not be comfortable in making this determination. 

If, for any reason, you are denied a visa while you apply for a new F-1 visa as a Third Country National, you would not be able to re-enter the U.S., even if your current F-1 visa had not expired. (The visa denial would in effect invalidate your current visa.) Therefore, we advise students not to apply for a new visa as a Third Country National unless there is a real need to do so.

Automatic Visa Revalidation

If you are traveling to Canada, Mexico, or the adjacent Caribbean islands (except Cuba), you may be able to return to the U.S. in the same status with an expired visa. This process is called Automatic Visa Revalidation

Eligibility Requirements: 

  • You must be in lawful nonimmigrant status. 
  • You must not have applied for a U.S. visa while in one of these destinations. If you apply for a visa during your visit, you must wait for it to be issued before your return. If it is denied, you will have to go directly to your home country to apply for a new visa. 
  • You must travel only to one of these destinations. For example, you may not go to Canada, then a third country, then back to Canada before reentering the U.S. 
  • You must return to the U.S. within 30 days. 
  • You are not a citizen of Syria, Iran, Sudan, and North Korea. 

Passport Renewal

In most cases, a passport must be valid for at least six months into the future at all times when entering and while in the U.S. There are some countries, however, whose citizens are able to enter the U.S. up to the date of expiration of the passport. 

If you will need to renew your passport, please contact your country’s consulate or embassy well in advance of the expiration date. You may renew a passport from within the U.S. 

Always keep your expired passport. If your valid F-1 visa is located in the expired passport, you will need to travel with both the expired passport and the new one. 

Helpful Travel Resources

Visa Appointment Wait Times

Retrieve Most Recent I-94

Check Status of Visa Application

CBP Search Authority

CBP Inspection Process

CBP Inspection of Electronic Devices

Travel during OPT and OPT STEM Extension