Travel Abroad

General Guidelines for Travel Outside the U.S.

How to Apply for a Travel Signature

Visa Renewal

Administrative Processing and Visa Delays

Reentry

Travel During OPT and Academic Training

Travel FAQs

Travel Resources

General Guidelines for Travel Outside the U.S. 

  • When you return from your trip outside the United States, you will always need to present for you and your dependents:
    • Passport valid at least 6 months into the future
    • Unexpired F or J visa (exception: Canadian and Bermudians do not need a visa stamp)
    • Form I-20 or DS-2019 recently signed for travel by ISSS (within the last 12 months for active students/scholars, and within 6 months for OPT participants). For F-1 students, the ISSS signature may be electronic, but for J-1 exchange visitors, it should be original. You should present a paper form, not a copy on your phone.
  • All international students and visiting scholars should report any international travel plans for themselves and their dependents to ISSS by completing a  Travel Information Record.  If you will need a travel signature on your I-20 form, you should also drop this off at the ISSS office in Storrs, Stamford, the Law School, or Hartford (GBLC).
  • If you are an enrolled student, your travel should only take place when courses are not in session.
  • If you are a visiting scholar, your travel should be restricted to 30 days or less.
  • You may only use the Form I-20/DS-2019 to travel to the U.S. if you are returning to begin or continue the program of study listed on your form, or to begin/resume authorized post-completion OPT or Academic Training.
  • If you need a travel signature on your I-20 or DS-2019 form, please submit the travel information record and submit your Form I-20 or DS-2019 at least two weeks before you leave. The travel signature is valid for 12 months, or 6 months for students on post-completion OPT.
  • ISSS at Storrs office holds a "Travel Signature Week" event each semester, just before Thanksgiving and just before Spring break. If you will travel during Thanksgiving break or winter break, we encourage you to request your travel signature during Fall Travel Signature Week. If you will travel during Spring break or home for summer, we encourage you to request your travel signature during Spring Travel Signature Week.
  • J-1 exchange visitors who are present in the following countries within 14 days of travel to the U.S. must either have a valid National Interest Exception noted on the J-1 visa, or must request the National Interest Exception for travel from the U.S. embassy in your departure country, before traveling to the U.S. These countries are: Brazil, China, India, Iran, South Africa, Ireland, United Kingdom, and Schengen Area countries of Europe.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted international travel significantly. Review the latest updates on the ISSS COVID-19 FAQ webpage.

How to Request a Travel Signature on your Form I-20 or DS-2019:

Step 1: Complete a Travel Information Record in the ISSS Portal

F-1 and J-1 UConn Students:

 

J-1 Visiting Scholars:
Log in to the Scholar/Employee Portal with email and password
(Do NOT use UConn NetID)
Scholar/Employee Portal Login
Click on Requests
Click on Travel Signature

Step 2: Bring your I-20 or DS-2019 form to ISSS  

F-1 Students:

  • You will receive an email from ISSS when your document is ready for pick-up.
  • We also recommend that you request a Full time enrollment verification from the Registrar's Office to carry with you when you travel.

F-1 Students on post-completion OPT:

  • We will reprint your I-20 form for travel if you are on OPT and cannot drop off your paper I-20. When your travel signature is ready, you will be able to download your Form I-20 with electronic travel signature from your ISSS Portal profile for self-printing.
  • Also, please log in to the ISSS Portal review your OPT Employment Update record is up to date from your User Home Page. If you have not yet notified ISSS of your OPT Employer, submit an OPT Employment Update record in the ISSS Portal.




 

J-1 Students:

  • You will receive an email from ISSS when your document is ready for pick-up.
  • We recommend that you request a full time enrollment verification from the Registrar's Office to carry with you, when traveling.
  • You should also log in to the ISSS Portal to review your Medical Insurance Confirmation record on your User Home Page.  If you do not yet have one, complete one here.  If your insurance information has changed, you must complete a new Medical Insurance Confirmation record.




 

J-1 Visiting Scholars:

  • You will receive an email from ISSS when your document is ready for pick-up.
  • If travel is for academic/professional purposes, you will also need to submit a J1 Scholar Out-of-Country Research Scholar Request.pdf with your request.
  • Log in to the Scholar/Employee Portal (with email and password, NOT NetID) and click Requests.
  • Review or update Submit Medical Insurance Documentation request. Look to your Completed Requests. If you do not have a Submit Insurance Documentation request, please submit this now. If you have a Submit Insurance Documentation request submitted please click on this to review the information. If your insurance information has changed or is expired, you must complete a new Submit Insurance Documentation request.

Scholar/Employee Portal Login

 

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.  F-1 and J-1 visa holders 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. This is called Automatic Visa Revalidation. 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. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, applying for a visa has become more complex. For more details, see the COVID-19 FAQ page. 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 qualifications for 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. Consult with ustraveldocs.com for a full list of required supporting documents. 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. The ‘U.S. Travel Docs’ webpage for visa applicants in China provides a sample research/study plan.
  • A print out from your advisor/hosting faculty member’s UConn webpage bio, and CV (if published on the UConn website).
  • 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 will go through immigration at a U.S. port of entry. Please present to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer your passport , 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). Submit your new I-94 to ISSS by submitting the Immigration Document Update via the ISSS Portal.

Travel During OPT and Academic Training

International students on post-completion OPT and post-completion Academic Training must still follow F-1/J-1 student rules for travel. All students must 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) when returning from travel.

Travel with approved post-completion OPT or Academic Training:
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.

Travel with pending OPT application:
If you have completed your degree and you are awaiting for your post-completion OPT to be approved, you will need your I-20 showing the requested period of OPT and a travel signature less than 6 months old, valid visa and valid passport in order to return. You should also carry a copy of your receipt notice to show proof of the pending OPT, and your employment offer, if you have one.

If your visa has expired and you will apply for a new visa while overseas, please discuss your travel plans with your ISSS advisor.

Please see ICE Travel FAQ for further guidelines on travel during OPT.

Travel while on pending Cap-Gap or pending STEM OPT Extension: Please discuss your travel plans with your ISSS advisor.

 

Travel FAQs

Step 1: Submit a Travel Information Record

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).

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?

Per the U.S. Department of State: Travel to Cuba is regulated by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Anyone located in the United States, regardless of citizenship and nationality, must comply with these regulations. Individuals seeking to travel to Cuba are not required to obtain licenses from OFAC if their travel is covered by a general license. If travel is not covered by a general license, you must seek OFAC authorization in the form of a specific license. Travelers who fail to comply with regulations may face penalties and criminal prosecution. 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. Personal travel for vacation is not covered under the general license. The general license covers the following twelve categories of travel: family visits; official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; journalistic activity; professional research and professional meetings; educational activities; religious activities; public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; support for the Cuban people; humanitarian projects; activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials; and certain authorized export transactions.   More details can be found on the U.S. Department of the Treasury website

 

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 Experiential Global Learning 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.