UMD: A Globally Connected University

Travel Abroad and Re-Entry to the United States

Travel Abroad and Re-Entry to the United States

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 plan your trip and determine what documents you need.

Students returning from breaks are expected to be in the United States to engage in face-to-face courses or research courses by the beginning of the semester (August 28, 2023). Before you prepare to depart the United States, you should take time to review whether you need a valid travel signature and collect all required documentation. You can use the following information to prepare for your trip.

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 a currently enrolled student:

  • Students should log on to iTerp and fill out the Travel Signature Request e-form.  After your eform is approved you will receive an email giving you options for receiving your new I-20.
  • 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 are on OPT: 

  • A travel signature is valid for 6 months while on OPT.
  • Please report in iterp any updates to employment, address, or phone prior to requesting a travel signature.  You must wait for these changes to be approved for submitting the travel request.
  • Log into iterp and fill out Travel Signature under OPT/STEM Services
  • After your eform is approved you will receive an email giving you options for receiving your new I-20.

Documents to carry with you during re-entry to the US (currently enrolled students only):

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

Documents to carry with you during re-entry to the US (Students on OPT/AT only)​

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).

Travel to Canada, Mexico and the Adjacent Islands to the U.S.

CBP encourages travelers to apply for I-94 online prior to arriving at land border

To reduce wait times, CBP is urging travelers who require an I-94 to apply and prepay online before arriving at the land border. Travelers will be issued an I-94 during the admission process at the port of entry. If you are traveling via a land border you may apply for an I-94 in advance at, saving time while at the port of entry later.

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.

What should I expect when entering the U.S. Port-of-Entry?

Every individual (including U.S. citizens) are subject to questioning through Primary Inspection at a U.S. port of entry. At primary inspection, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer will ask for your visa documents (see the list above of recommended documents to carry with you on your person or in your carry-on luggage. Do not place them in your checked luggage). They may ask questions about your primary purpose of your visit, where you will be residing, or other questions to determine your eligibility  to enter the U.S. If the officer cannot determine your eligibility to enter the US or additional information is required, you may be directed for additional questioning at a “secondary inspection” area.

Secondary inspection allows inspectors to conduct additional questioning in order to verify information without causing delays for other arriving passengers. In Secondary Inspection, you may be advised that you are not able to make any phone calls without permission of the CBP officer -- please follow their directions. If you are asked by the officer for contact information for the school, please have them call our office (or you may do so, if permitted by CBP) at 301-314-7740 during normal business hours (Mondays-Fridays, 8:30am-4:30pm EST). If it is after our normal business hours, they may contact UMD Campus Police at 301-405-3555 and UMPD will notify ISSS staff to return the call at the number you or the CBP officer provides.

Being referred to Secondary Inspection does not mean that you have done anything wrong. You should  be prepared to answer questions about your intended major/program of study, employment history, post-graduation plans, or other information. You do have rights at the port of entry and we would encourage you to read more about your rights here. Finally, please note that wait times at Secondary Inspection can take some time. There is no way to expedite processing at Secondary Inspection, so it is advised to remain patient and calm. You may request (though it may not be granted) that CBP assist you in contacting anyone who may be waiting for you at the airport.

If you arrive at a U.S. port of entry and do not have all your signed required documents, have not paid the I-901 SEVIS Fee on your current Form I-20/DS2019, or have a Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) status issue, the CBP officer may deny your entry into the United States. As an alternative, the officer has discretion to issue you a Form I-515A. This document allows you to have temporary admission into the United States for 30 days. To maintain your nonimmigrant student status, you must address your Form I-515A within the time provided to you. If you receive a form I-515A, please schedule an appointment with an ISSS advisor as soon as possible after your entry to the United States. We will assist you in your response to the I-515A document.