UMD: A Globally Connected University

Travel Abroad

Travel Abroad


ISSS is strongly recommending against undertaking any international travel during the COVID-19 emergency. Please carefully read the list of ongoing concerns below and consider your trip carefully before you finalize your plans to travel:
  • International travel remains uncertain at this time, especially for students in F-1/J-1 status. From an immigration perspective, international travel is currently very unpredictable. If you are maintaining a student (F-1/J-1)  immigration status in the U.S. and you depart, ISSS cannot guarantee your ability to return to the U.S. in a timely manner, which could have an impact on your U.S. visa status if you are unable to resume to continue your requirements as a student. ISSS understands that you may have serious personal or health concerns which require you to depart, or that you may feel more comfortable experiencing this crisis supported by family or in your home country. We want to make sure that as you make these important decisions, you understand the possible risks involved — including the fact that you may not be able to re-enter the U.S. at the time you intend. Additionally, many other countries may have travel restrictions of their own, which could impact your ability to enter those countries or move freely. 
  • Universities are still awaiting guidance from SEVP for the Spring 2021 semester. In addition to the uncertainty of travel, the Student and Exchange Visitor program (SEVP) has not issued guidance on what if any flexibilities will be available to F-1 students for the Spring 2021 semester.  Without this guidance we do not know if online learning will be permitted and how long they will permit students to be outside the US without violating status. We do not know when this guidance will be issued but we will update our Student COVID-19 FAQs with more information when it is known.
  • There are still ongoing restrictions for entry to the US from several destinations. There are still many travel bans and entry restrictions to the U.S. you must consider before making travel plans.  Please review the following website for a summary of the current US travel bans and entry restrictions to the United States. This is not a final list and more restrictions may be enacted between now and your anticipated return to the United States.
  • Visa issuance continues to be delayed or unavailable in many places. If your U.S. entry visa is expired, be aware that applying for a visa for entry could be unpredictable and could cause you to face further delays as many consulates and embassies are closed or operating on emergency appointments only. Please review this website for the latest information on visa appointment wait times. Finally, if your US visa is expired, travel over winter should not be undertaken if you have a need to return for the start of the spring semester.
We would encourage you to make an appointment with ISSS if you have any questions about the uncertainty of your travel plans or your return to the United States.

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 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.

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.