Travel Abroad

Traveling Outside of the U.S. on an F-1 or J-1 Visa

International students, scholars and their dependents who will travel outside the U.S. during their program must present a valid passport, valid visa and original Form I-20/DS-2019 with travel signature for reentry.

You should request the travel signature on your Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 at least two weeks prior to departure. The travel signature is valid for 12 months, or 6 months for students on post-completion OPT.   In addition, you may only use the Form I-20/DS-2019 to reenter before the program completion date listed on your Form (or before the EAD expiration date, for post-completion OPT students).

Travel signatures may take up to two weeks to process. Each semester ISSS conducts “Travel Signature” week at the Storrs campus, where you can request your travel signature on the spot. Designated travel signature days also take place at the Stamford and GBLC campuses. Outside of designated travel signature weeks/days, students will need to submit their travel signature request to their ISSS office and wait for processing.

To request a travel signature on your Form I-20/DS-2019, please submit the following to ISSS:

Required Documents for F-1 Students:

Required Documents for F-1 Students on post-completion OPT:

  • Original I-20
  • Signed Travel Signature Request Form.pdf
  • You must have already submitted an OPT Information Form with your EAD and most current employment information. If you have not yet done this, please update the form before submitting your travel signature request.

Required Documents for J-1 Students:

Required Documents for J-1 Scholars:

URGENT TRAVEL SITUATIONS

If students, scholars and/or dependents have emergency travel situations, we will try to accommodate your request same-day. If you are unable to visit an ISSS office for your travel signature, you may still depart the U.S. without having your Form I-20/DS-2019 signed for travel. Please send an email to ISSS along with a completed Travel Signature Request Form, and you can arrange to have the Form I-20/DS-2019 shipped to you overseas before your return.

VISA RENEWAL

If your U.S. visa will not be valid for reentry to the U.S. (e.g. it has expired, it has been cancelled, it was issued for single entry) you will need to renew it through a U.S. embassy overseas before returning. Students from Canada and Bermuda do not require a valid visa stamp to seek entry in F/J status.  Students who qualify for travel under the Automatic Visa Revalidation rule may seek reentry to the U.S. with an expired U.S. visa after a short trip to Canada, Mexico and islands adjacent to the U.S., if you meet all qualifications under the rule. We advise students to be cautious before traveling under Automatic Visa Revalidation and to consult with an ISSS advisor before making final plans.

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. However, if your visa is selected for administrative processing, it will take much longer to have your visa processed. All visa applicants must complete the DS-160, which can be submitted before departing the U.S. Follow the instructions on the U.S. embassy/consulate 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 embassy/consulate website will indicate whether this is offered and the qualificationsfor the waiver. Even if you qualify for an interview waiver, you must complete the visa application process (aside from completing the DS-160) outside the United States.

Each embassy/consulate website also provides information on documents required for visa renewal. However, if you require an in-person interview, you should prepare at minimum:

  • Your original Form I-20/DS-2019
  • Original financial documentation
  • Original transcript or enrollment verification (for enrolled students)
  • UConn offer/invitation letter (for visiting scholars)

ADMINISTRATIVE PROCESSING AND VISA DELAYS

International students and scholars in STEM fields are at a higher risk of having their visas selected for administrative processing, which may result in visa delays.

We recommend that graduate students in research-based STEM programs, and visiting scholars in STEM fields, bring the following support documents to the visa renewal appointment, in addition to the standard support documents listed on the embassy’s webpage:

  • Research/study plan with detailed information about your studies/research in the United States, including the name and e-mail address of your advising professor and/or department head at UConn.
  • A print out from your advisor/hosting faculty member’s UConn webpage bio, and CV (if published on the UConn website). The ‘U.S. Travel Docs’ webpage for visa applicants in China provides a sample research/study plan.
  • Your resume/CV (in English)

If your visa is selected for administrative processing and your return to UConn may be delayed, you will need to notify your UConn academic department and ISSS. Administrative processing takes, on average, 60 days to resolve. All international students must return on time for the next academic term. If you are unable to do so because of visa delays, ISSS will work with you and your academic department to identify other solutions. You may check the status of your pending visa application here. Please note that ISSS cannot expedite the processing of your visa and has no input in administrative processing .

REENTRY

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. Please present to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer your passport (must be valid at least 6 months into the future), valid Form I-20/DS-2019 with travel signature, and valid U.S. visa. In addition, we recommend that you carry the following with you in your carry-on (not checked) luggage, for easy access:

  • Proof of funding for your stay
  • Academic transcript/enrollment verification (current students)
  • ISSS contact information: 860-486-3855
  • Visiting scholars: Copy of your invitation/offer letter to UConn
  • Post-completion OPT students: Copy of job offer letter and valid EAD

Sometimes CBP officers need more information to decide whether to admit you in F/J 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 ISSS 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 ISSS so that we can check your SEVIS record for any problems. You may also report any travel problems through DHS Trip.

After clearing immigration, check to see that your passport was stamped and notated with your F-1/J-1 visa status (or F-2/J-2), and the letters D/S. If your stamp was not properly annotated you should ask them to fix this. If they cannot fix this, please see ISSS right away upon your return to UConn.

You will need to reprint your Form I-94 at the CBP website, and submit a copy of this to ISSS 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 (duration of status).

TRAVEL ON OPT & ACADEMIC TRAINING

International students on post-completion OPT and post-completion Academic Training must still follow F-1/J-1 student rules for travel.  When you travel, you will still need to have a valid travel signature on your Form I-20/DS-2019, a valid visa for reentry, and a valid passport (valid at least 6 months into future). For F-1 students on OPT, your travel signature must have been issued within 6 months prior to your return to the U.S. We also recommend that you carry documentation to prove your employment status, and your EAD card (F-1) or Academic Training authorization (J-1). If you have accrued more than 90 days of unemployment time on OPT, it is not appropriate to seek reentry as an F-1 OPT student.  Please see ICE Travel FAQ for further guidelines on travel during OPT.

Travel FAQs

My visa will soon be expiring. Am I required to renew my visa?

International students and exchange visitors may stay in the U.S. with an expired visa, as long as you have a valid I-20/DS-2019, and you are pursuing your program activity. However, if you leave the U.S., you will need to renew your visa in order to return (exception: travel under Automatic Visa Revalidation).

Can I just renew my visa in Canada?

We do not recommend that you travel to Canada solely to renew your U.S. visa. If you decide to try this, please check with the U.S. embassy where you will apply to make sure they accept visa applications from third country nationals. It may be very difficult to apply for a new visa status from a U.S. embassy in Canada, and both new applications and visa renewals may face long processing times. Please have a back-up plan for where you will stay in Canada if your application is delayed, and what you will do if the visa is denied. Also remember that you might need a valid visa to visit Canada.

I’m visiting Canada. Do I need a visa?

Many international students require visas to visit Canada. Please check the Government of Canada immigration website to check if you need one. It may be advisable to get a travel signature on your Form I-20/DS-2019 before you apply for the Canada visa (or the visa of any other country you will visit).

Can I go to Cuba?

While you are on an F-1 or J-1 visa, you are subject to the same travel rules for visiting Cuba as U.S. citizens. Travel may only be conducted under twelve permitted categories of travel. Download a copy of the current regulations governing travel to Cuba.

I’m going on a cruise. What do I need to know?

Many international students go on cruise vacations while here. If you do this, be sure to check visa requirements for each of the countries you will visit on the cruise. You are still required to have an I-20/DS-2019 with valid travel signature and a valid U.S. visa to return (visa exception: travel under Automatic Visa Revalidation). Check with the cruise company for questions about immigration/port of entry requirements if you cannot find visa information for the countries you will visit on their embassy webpages.

What if I am going to a U.S. territory?

If you will travel to a U.S. territory such as Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Saipan or Guam, you do not need to have a valid travel signature/U.S. visa to return. However if your flight transits through another country, or if you will travel to another country’s territory on your trip, you will need an I-20/DS-2019 with valid travel signature, and a valid U.S. visa, to return.

What if I am studying abroad?

After you are accepted to participate in a UConn Education Abroad program, you must visit ISSS to discuss impact on your F-1 status. ISSS will issue a new Form I-20 for you that indicates you will be studying abroad, and we will provide a travel signature at the same time. Depending on how long your study abroad program will be, you may need to have a new Form I-20 mailed to you overseas with a new travel signature for your return. If your visa will expire, you may need to renew it in the country where you will study abroad. Contact ISSS for details. Note: J-1 students may not study abroad and keep their DS-2019 forms active for return.

What if I am researching abroad?

F-1 visa holders who will pursue full time research for the degree, and will register full time while away, may keep their SEVIS records/Forms I-20 active for return. You must meet with an ISSS advisor before your departure to discuss how your activity will impact your visa status. You may also be required to register your travel with the University. Note: J-1 students may not keep their SEVIS records/Forms DS-2019 active for return during research abroad.

TRAVEL RESOURCES

Visa Processing/Appointment Wait Times

Check Status of Visa Application

The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Inspection Process

CBP Search Authority

Inspection of Electronic Devices by CBP