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TRAVELING INTERNATIONALLY

 

Be prepared when making plans to travel outside the U.S. Review all information below to understand what documentation you will need to carry with you when you travel outside the U.S., what documents you need to enter or re-enter the U.S., and how your travels may affect your visa status.

 


COVID-19 NOTE

 

  • ISPO encourages international students to refrain from international travel when possible. The COVID-19 situation is dynamic, with rapidly expanding international travel bans occurring with little notice. Please also note that there are also travel restrictions due to the global pandemic.

  • If you choose to travel internationally, be prepared for delays or the inability to re-enter the U.S. Current travel restrictions are still in place for travelers from certain countries. In addition, each U.S. embassy and consulate may have varying visa appointment interview availability and processing times. Make sure you review the information below and have all the required documentation for travel and re-entry into the U.S.

  • If you are considering travel, be sure to also check the latest travel advisories at  https://www.cdc.gov/travel/notices, which currently recommend avoiding nonessential travel to certain regions of the world. Also keep in mind that the situation is fluid and other countries can always add or change travel restrictions, flights may be canceled, and new re-entry restrictions or quarantines could be imposed. Please be sure to provide family and friends with your itinerary and contact information before you travel.

 

Preparing for Arrival to the U.S.

Review Current COVID-19 Travel Information

Learn What Documents You Need to Return to the U.S.

Required Documents:

  • Valid passport (valid up to six months or more after reentry date).
  • Valid F-1 or J-1 visa stamp in the passport.
  • Valid travel signature on page 2 of I-20 (F-1 students) or page 1 of DS-2019 (J-1 students). For more information, see our Travel Signature page.

NOTE: For students who received a new Initial I-20 or DS-2019 with a new SEVIS ID Number from UC San Diego, ensure your program start date listed on your document reflects the quarter start date for the current quarter you are seeking entry to the U.S. 


Recommended Documents:

 


Required Documents for Students with F-1 OPT Work Authorization or J-1 Academic Training (AT) Work Authorization:

  • All "Required Documents" listed above.
  • F-1 OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card.
    • Keep in mind that your travel signature on page 2 of your I-20 is valid for only 6 months.
  • J-1 Academic Training Authorization Letter.
  • Job offer letter or proof of employment (if employed).

 

Check Your I-20/DS-2019 Travel Signature

Check if Your Travel Signature is Expired

  • You do not need a new I-20/DS-2019 travel signature every time you travel internationally, if your current signature is still valid. See below to confirm whether it is still valid or already expired.

Enrolled F-1 Students:

  • Check page 2 of your current Form I-20, and if the travel signature is more than one year old, then it is expired.
  • Renew your travel signature by following instructions on our Travel Signature page.

 


F-1 OPT and STEM OPT Extension Students:

  • Check page 2 of your current Form I-20, and if the travel signature is more than 6 months old, then it is expired.
  • Renew your travel signature by following instructions on our Travel Signature page.

J-1 Students:

  • Check page 1 of your current Form DS-2019, and if the travel signature is more than one year old, then it is expired.
  • Renew your travel signature by following instructions on our Travel Signature page.

Check if You Need a New F-1/J-1 Visa Stamp

  • Unless canceled or revoked, F-1 or J-1 student visas are valid until their expiration, regardless of the SEVIS ID number or school name listed. See the "Additional Information" section on this U.S. Department of State (DOS) website for further information.
    • If in doubt about your visa validity or status, ISPO encourages students to check with their local U.S. embassy or consulate to verify.
    • Note that permitting entry into the U.S. is at the ultimate discretion of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials at the port of entry.
  • If your visa stamp has expired you will need to renew it; see our Applying for a Visa page.
  • If you are traveling to adjacent countries, you may not need to apply for a new visa stamp; see Automatic Visa Renewal below.
  • Any time an individual applies for a U.S. visa, there is a possibility of denial. Therefore, it is advised that an individual be prepared in the case that this may happen.  
    • A denial may be for a number of reasons, and the likelihood will vary (there is never a guarantee of a U.S. visa or a visa renewal).
    • Some of the reasons could be due to 221g (Incomplete Application or Supporting Documentation) or 214b (Visa Qualifications and Immigrant Intent), for more information see the U.S. Department of State (DOS) website.
    • It is important that you bring all of your supporting documents.

Returning to the U.S. After Graduation

If you are currently outside of the U.S. or plan to travel outside the U.S. after your program completion date and do not intend to apply for F-1 OPT or pursue a higher degree level within 5 months of your last date of enrollment or comprehensive exam/defense date,  you cannot reenter the U.S. on your student visa (F-1 or J-1) using the Form I-20 or Form Ds-2019 from UC San Diego.

  • The program end date on your I-20 or DS-2019 will be adjusted to the last day of your final quarter of study. Graduate students that have filed in lieu of registration for their final term will have a program end date of their date of defense. If your most recent I-20 or DS-2019 shows a program end date beyond your final quarter of study, ISPO will automatically adjust the I-20 or DS-2019 to the accurate final term.

To reenter the U.S. after the completion of studies, you will need to reenter the U.S. in another visa category such as a visitor visa. Students from countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program may reenter the U.S. without first obtaining a visitor visa.

Review TSA Travel Guide

The United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has prepared a traveler's guide to help ensure passengers have the answers they need to common security screening questions. You can find this guide on this TSA travel information page.

 

What to Expect During Travel & Travel to Third Countries

Documents To Pack In Your Carry-On Bag

Before you board your flight or prepare to enter the U.S, familiarize yourself with the documents you might need. Carry your original documents with you during travel; do not put them in your checked baggage. It is also a good idea to take photos of your documents using your mobile device in order to secure digital copies in case you lose anything. Ensure you have with you:

  • Valid Passport;
  • Valid F-1 or J-1 Visa; 
  • Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 (Hard copy, signed by you and an ISPO Advisor/DSO) with valid travel signature

Also see Recommended Documents for travel. 

Travel to a Third Country

To travel outside the U.S. to a country other than your home country, remember that a new set of laws will be in effect, and you may need a visa to enter that country. To learn more about visa requirements, contact that country's closest embassy or consulate in the U.S. or visit their website.

You can search for information about foreign countries' embassies and consulates in the U.S. on the U.S. Department of State (DOS) website.

ISPO cannot advise on other countries' entry-visa requirements.

 

Travel to Canada, Mexico, or an Adjacent Island: Automatic Visa Revalidation

Automatic Visa Revalidation (AVR)

Automatic Visa Revalidation (AVR) happens when you are reentering the U.S. after a temporary leave from the U.S., and your current expired F-1 visa gets automatically extended to the date of reentry, provided that your current visa has not been canceled, and that you have not applied for a new visa.

To take advantage of AVR your travel must be to contiguous/adjacent entities for less than 30 days. Current rules governing eligibility for AVR can be found on the U.S. State Department's Travel Information website. An overview of these eligibility rules can be found below:

  • Contiguous countries are: Canada, Mexico, and the adjacent islands: Saint Pierre, Miquelon, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, the Windward and Lee Islands, Trinidad, Martinique, and the British, French and Netherlands territories or possessions in or bordering the Caribbean Sea. Cuba is excluded.
  • AVR is not available to individuals from Cuba, Syria, Sudan or Iran.
  • Do not surrender your I-94 card when departing the U.S.
  • If the flight attendant or officer asks for your I-94, politely inform them that you are taking advantage of the AVR provision.
  • AVR is only for business/leisure travel for fewer than 30 days.
  • AVR is not valid for people who travel from a contiguous/adjacent entity, such as Canada, to a non-contiguous country, such as Germany, and then return to the U.S. via a contiguous/adjacent entity.
  • If you have changed your status while in the U.S. and hold a visa for the previous status, you may still take advantage of AVR, as long as you bring the supporting documents for your new status. For example, if you changed your status from E-2 to F-1, but still only have an expired E-2 visa, you may still use AVR.

 


Traveling to Mexico, Canada, or Caribbean

For short trips to Mexico or Canada, contact the Canadian or Mexican consulates to find out about their entry requirements and restrictions. Requirements and restrictions are determined by your country of citizenship and by how far you will travel from the U.S. border.

Despite Automatic Visa Revalidation, you may require a visa to enter Canada, Mexico or Caribbean countries. For more information consult the following sources:

Travel Delays: Secondary Inspection

Upon arrival, you will be required to present your immigration documents to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the port of entry. If they are unable to verify your information, or if you do not have all of the required documentation, a CBP officer may direct you to an interview area known as “secondary inspection.” Secondary inspection allows inspectors to conduct additional research in order to verify information without causing delays for other arriving passengers.

In the event that the CBP officer needs to verify information, provide them with the following contact information to reach an ISPO Advisor: 

  • Name of Advisor: Designated School Official (DSO) who signed your most recently issued Form I-20 
  • Contact Phone: 858-534-3730 (Note, travelers calling outside of normal business hours will be routed to UC San Diego Police Department who will relay any travel emergencies to ISPO)
  • Addition Ways to Contact ISPO

Travel Delays: Missing Documents & Form I-515A

  • If you arrive at the U.S. port of entry without all of your required documents or with unsigned or missing documents, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer has the discretion deny your entry into the U.S.
  • Alternatively, CBP may  send you to Secondary Inspection and ultimately issue you a Form I-515A, which will allow you to temporarily enter the U.S. for 30 days.
  • If you are issued a Form I-515A, then you must request a replacement I-20/DS-2019 from ISPO upon arrival to UC San Diego, and submit this new document to USCIS based on the instructions on the Form I-515A.
  • Request a new I-20/DS-2019 by following instructions on our Replacement I-20/DS-2019 page.

Failure to take action and resolve the I515A request within 30 days will result in problems with your immigration status. Contact ISPO if you have further questions. 

Travel Delays: Visa Revocation & Inadmissibility

Having a valid F-1 or J-1 Visa does not guarantee entry to the U.S. The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer has the discretion to asses if your intentions to enter the U.S. are in alignment with the visa classification which you are seeking admission in. Although visa holders have already been found by the Department of State  to be admissible at the time they received their visa, a CBP officer must also independently find you admissible at the port of entry.

Upon entry, if you receive notice from the CBP Officer that you are facing a visa revocation, are required to voluntarily depart the U.S., or are inadmissible to the U.S., take the following steps: 

  1. Contact ISPO as soon as possible
  2. Retain Documentation provided to you 
  3. Despite the frustration you may be experiencing, take mental note of the questions you were asked by the CBP Officer, your responses, and any other information provided to you during this experience; it will assist ISPO in determining how to best assess your situation. 

While the majority of our students have a safe and pleasant travel experience, we urge students who may experience these challenges to remain calm and respectful in order to properly asses the current situation. 

 

Upon Arrival to the U.S.

Follow Current COVID-19 Testing Requirements

LAST UPDATE/REVIEW: JANUARY 25, 2021
  • To reduce introduction and spread of new variants of SARS-CoV-2, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an Order effective January 26, 2021.
  • It requires all air passengers arriving to the U.S. from a foreign country to get tested for COVID-19 infection no more than 3 days before their flight departs and to provide proof of the negative result or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 to the airline before boarding the flight.
  • For more information on this testing requirement, see the CDC Frequently Asked Questions page.

Comply with Campus Policies for Health and Safety

LAST UPDATE/REVIEW: September 11, 2021
  • Visit ReturntoLearn.ucsd.edu to learn more about campus policies designed to keep yourself and our campus safe. 
  • On-Campus Housing: for information on quarantine or sequestration requirements for on-campus housing, please visit the HDH COVID-19 FAQ site.

Retrieve and Print Your I-94 Arrival/Departure Record

When and how to get your I-94:

  • Upon entry, retrieve your electronic Form I-94 arrival record from the Form I-94 website.
  • Paper I-94 cards will still be issued in certain circumstances, the most common being for land crossings at the Canadian and Mexican borders.
  • If you cannot find your electronic I-94 record, please refer to our tips for locating I-94.
  • If you still cannot find it, please contact ISPO. We will give you instructions on how to get assistance from the CBP Deferred Inspections office in San Diego.

 


Importance of your I-94:

  • Your electronic I-94 may be needed for the Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, or for local, state or federal agencies such as the Social Security Administration or Department of Motor Vehicles, which require a Form I-94 for granting benefits.

 


Paper I-94 Requirements:

  • If your I-94 is paper (and not issued electronically), upon leaving, surrender the I-94 to the U.S. government official or airline representative.
  • Exception: keep I-94 when traveling on Automatic Visa Revalidation. If for some reason your physical I-94 is not collected, you may submit it upon your return to the U.S.
  • If you were issued an I-94 electronically, you do not need to surrender an I-94 upon departing the U.S. The federal government will record your departure based on the carrier's flight manifest.

Check-In and Complete the Document Self-Check

  • Within 15 days after arrival into the U.S., complete the International Student Document Self-Check. It is important for you to verify that your documents were processed correctly at the port of entry.
  • You should fulfill the document self-check requirement every time that you reenter the U.S.
NOTE FOR STUDENTS WITH A NEW SEVIS ID NUMBER: If you are arriving in the U.S. for the first time after receiving an I-20 with a new SEVIS ID number, you must submit a Check-In Form in iPortal by the deadline specified on our Check-In page. The check-in is only required once upon entry to the U.S. on a new SEVIS ID Number.

Utilize the DHS Security Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP)

What you can do if experiencing difficulties during your return to the U.S.:

The Department of Homeland Security Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP) is a single point of contact for individuals who have inquiries or seek resolution regarding difficulties they experienced during their travel screening at transportation hubs - like airports and train stations - or crossing U.S. borders, including:

  • watch list issues
  • screening problems at ports of entry
  • situations where travelers believe they have been unfairly or incorrectly delayed, denied boarding or identified for additional screening at our nation’s transportation hubs

For more information on this program, visit the DHS TRIP website.

Departing the U.S.

Departing After Your Program End Date (After Graduation)

If you are currently outside of the U.S. or plan to travel outside the U.S. after your program completion date and do not intend to apply for F-1 OPT or pursue a higher degree level within 5 months of your last date of enrollment or comprehensive exam/defense date,  you cannot reenter the U.S. on your student visa (F-1 or J-1) using the Form I-20 or Form Ds-2019 from UC San Diego.

  • The program end date on your I-20 or DS-2019 will be adjusted to the last day of your final quarter of study. Graduate students that have filed in lieu of registration for their final term will have a program end date of their date of defense. If your most recent I-20 or DS-2019 shows a program end date beyond your final quarter of study, ISPO will automatically adjust the I-20 or DS-2019 to the accurate final term.

To reenter the U.S. after the completion of studies, you will need to reenter the U.S. in another visa category such as a visitor visa. Students from countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program may reenter the U.S. without first obtaining a visitor visa.

Check Your I-94 Arrival/Departure Record

  • Leaving the U.S. should be quite simple. As you leave, if you were issued an electronic I-94 you do not have to do anything.
  • However, if you were issued a paper I-94, you must surrender the I-94 card to the U.S. government official or airline representative.
  • For more information, visit our I-94 page.

 


Additional Online Resources:

Review Additional U.S. Government Resources