UMD: A Globally Connected University

Travel Abroad

Enjoy your trip! Travel within the United States does not require a travel signature or any special documents. If you are leaving the U.S. and intend to return in the same visa category, the information below will help you determine what documents you need.

Before you leave:

How to check if you have a Valid I-20/DS-2019 Travel Signature

For F-1 Students: If the information on your I-20 is correct, check for the Travel Signature endorsement from ISSS on the 2nd page of your I-20.

For J-1 Students: If the information on your DS-2019 is correct, check for the Travel Signature endorsement from ISSS on the 1st page of your DS-2019, in the lower-right corner.

Travel signatures are valid for 1 year* so check your current I-20/DS-2019 form before you visit ISSS; it may already be valid for travel. If you see the Travel Signature is missing or it will be more than 1 year old at the time you re-enter the US, you must request ISSS to sign your I-20/DS-2019 if you will be traveling abroad. If a signature is there and it will be less than one year old, you can use the current I-20/DS-2019 for travel as it is now. * Exception: Travel Signature validity is only for 6 months for F-1 Students on OPT Post Completion and only for the length of your exchange program for any non-degree J-1 Exchange Students.

 Process to request a Travel Signature if you are in College Park

  • Drop your I-20 and a completed Travel Signature Request Form off at the ISSS front desk (1126 H.J. Patterson Hall).
  • You may pick it up after 2:00 pm on the next business day. 
  • Special conditions:
    • If traveling over breaks students must be pre-registered for the upcoming semester before requesting a travel signature. (Ph.D. students who have advanced to candidacy are exempt from this requirement.)
    • J-1 Students must have up to date health, repatriation, and medical evacuation insurance in iTerp.
    • F-1 Students on OPT must have reported an employer to iTerp.

 Process to request a Travel Signature if you cannot drop off the I-20 to ISSS in person:

  • Complete the Travel Signature Request Form and attach it to your original I-20. Mail both documents to ISSS (1126 H.J. Patterson Hall, College Park, MD 20742) or instead, you can ask a friend to drop the forms off to our office on your behalf.
  • Complete the “Mail My Immigration Documents” e-form in iTerp (found under the F-1 Services Side Menu) to select how you would like ISSS to return the signed I-20 to you. You can choose between regular US mail (no cost but allow 2 weeks mailing time), Eship Global (expedited mail at your expense to a US or overseas address), friend pickup, or self-pickup.
  • If you are on OPT, be sure you have reported your employer to iTerp or it may delay ISSS in issuing your travel signature.

Re-entering the US:

Valid Passport

  • Check the expiration date of your passport. Your passport should be valid, at a minimum, for 6 months beyond your expected date of re-entry to the U.S.
  • If you need to extend your passport, contact your embassy in Washington D.C. for instructions. If you are issued a new passport and you still have a valid student visa in the old passport, ask if you can carry both; thereby allowing you to use the visa. Otherwise, on your next trip outside the U.S., you will have to apply for a new visa stamp.

Valid I-20/DS-2019

  • The current form should be up to date. Check the expiration date and major field of study.
  • If any of the information has changed, you will need a new I-20/DS-2019. Submit an Update Request Form with the required documentation listed on form to ISSS.

All Previous I-20s/DS-2019s

  • Carry all of your I-20s/DS-2019s with you when you travel. The Immigration Official at the port of entry may want to see your history. This is particularly important if you have transferred from one school to another, changed program levels, or extended your program.

Valid F-1/J-1 Visa

  • Ensure that your student visa is still valid. If your visa has expired or all entries have been used then you will need to apply for a new visa stamp while you are abroad.
  • If you will need to obtain or renew your visa before you return, make sure the US embassy or consulate where you plan to apply will be open and able to issue your visa in the time you have available. You can obtain advance information about schedules and processing procedures at many US consulates via the State Department website. You can obtain the State Department's estimate of visa wait times at most posts. Visa issuance can be delayed by months due to security checks. 

Proof of Funding

  • This should be the same source of funding as is listed on your I-20/DS-2019. 

Proof of Registration

Special Travel Situations

Traveling while on OPT/AT

  • For F-1 on OPT: Your Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
  • For J-1 on AT: Your J-1 Authorization Letter
  • A letter from your employer indicating that you have a temporary job in your field of study and are returning to accept or continue employment
  • Your valid passport
  • Your valid F-1/J-1 visa
  • Your current I-20/DS-2019 with a travel signature (obtaining a travel signature while on OPT typically takes at least two weeks).  Plan ahead.
  • Your old I-20s/DS-2019s

If your visa stamp has expired, if you have not yet received your EAD or if you are not yet working, then see an ISSS advisor before traveling while on OPT.

Travel for dependent family members

F-2/J-2 spouses and children, whether traveling with the F-1/J-1 student or not, need certain documents to re-enter the U.S.:

  • Valid passport
  • Valid F-2/J-2 visa
  • Travel signature on the F-2 I-20 / J-2 DS-2019

F-2 visa holders are also eligible for automatic visa revalidation in Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean islands (see below).

Automatic Visa Revalidation
Special Rules for Travel to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean (except Cuba).  Under very specific guidelines you can re-enter the U.S. using an expired F-1/J-1 visa stamp if you meet ALL of the following criteria:

Your trip is:

  1. To Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean islands ONLY (Applicable Caribbean islands are listed below)
  2. LESS THAN 30 days

AND you:

  1. are in valid F-1/J-1 status
  2. have a valid passport (for at least 6 months beyond day of re-entry to U.S.)
  3. have an I-94 marked "Admitted F-1 until D/S" or "Admitted J-1 until D/S"
  4. have a recent travel signature on your I-20/DS-2019. Please note, the Canadian government prefers to see a more recent travel signature (within 2 months) before they issue a Canadian tourist visa stamp.
  5. have an expired U.S. visa stamp in your passport. It cannot be stamped "canceled." If you applied for a new visa and it has not been issued or has been denied, you will not be able to re-enter the U.S. on your expired visa.
  6. have not applied for a new F-1 visa.
  7. are NOT from one of the following countries: Cuba, Iran, Sudan, or Syria.

Caribbean Islands Where Automatic Visa Revalidation is Applicable: Saint Pierre, Miquelon, The Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bermuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, The Windward and Leeward Islands, Trinidad, Martinique, and other British, French and Netherlands territory or possessions in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea.