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.

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 confirms that you are maintaining status to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection 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
  • Are valid for 12 months for enrolled F-1 students, 6 months for students on post-completion OPT or STEM OPT
  • Are not required when leaving the U.S., but are necessary when reentering 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 student (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 will need one if you leave the country and wish to reenter.

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. International travel can be very unpredictable in the current situation, so it is better to be safe.

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 can print and send you an I-20 with a travel signature, which would be less expensive for you than shipping your I-20 to and from your country.

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.

Log in to your ISS Portal account by clicking on LOGIN at the top right corner of the page. Use your Wesleyan credentials to log in.

Once logged in, click on the gray house icon located at the left side of the black navigation bar. Select Site Home from the drop-down menu. You will be redirected to the ISS Portal main page.

Select F-1 Student Requests from the menu on the left side of the page, then click on Travel Signature Request from the menu choices on the next page. You will then be asked to select the term that you are making the request for.

Make sure to carefully review the Announcements and Instructions sections on the page that you are redirected to.

In order to provide OISA with the information needed to complete your request, you will need to complete the following sections and requests:

Signature Documents: This section will ask you to review and digitally sign documents with important information that indicate your understanding. Please be aware that these are legal documents. Please contact OISA if you have any questions before clicking the buttons to digitally sign these documents.

Learning Content: Please review the important travel information in this section that address returning to the United States after traveling abroad, U.S. Immigration, visa renewals, and what to do if you experience difficulties at a Port of Entry. When you are finished, click the Mark as Read button.

Questionnaire: Please complete this questionnaire to provide OISA with important details about your international travel plans.

You can click the save button at the bottom of the form to save your answers as you go along but make sure you click the submit button to submit the information to your request.

When you have completed each section of the Travel Signature Request, click the Submit button at the top of the page.

If you start a request in the ISS Portal but are unable to complete it, you may return to this request at a later time. Do not start a new one. To return to an existing request, please go to your ISS Portal User Home Page.

Next Steps

For those on campus: After you complete this request, please drop off your Form I-20 at the OISA document drop box outside of 023 North College.

For those off campus: If you are not on campus and would like a Form I-20 with a new travel signature sent to you, please purchase a shipping label from UEMS (University Express Mail Service). Click on Student/Scholar Sign Up to create an account and pay for a shipping label. When your I-20 has been processed, OISA will use this shipping label to send your document to you.

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* 
  • Original Form I-20 with valid travel signature on page 2
  • EAD & proof of employment (if on post-completion OPT/STEM)

*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 with you in your carry-on (not checked) luggage for easy access in case you need to show:

  • 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. Customs and Border Protection (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

Check Your Entry Stamp

After clearing immigration, check to ensure that your passport was stamped and notated with your F-1 visa status and the letters D/S, which stands for “duration of status.” This means you may remain in the U.S. so long as you maintain your nonimmigrant student status. If your stamp was not properly annotated, you should ask them to fix this. If they cannot fix this, please contact OISA immediately upon your return to campus.

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. Also ensure that your Form I-94 gives your proper visa status and that you are admitted for D/S. 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. Complete the DS-160 and pay the visa application processing fee.
  4. Schedule/attend your visa interview at the U.S. consulate or embassy outside of the U.S.

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, or 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