Because of the Boston bombings involving an international student who withheld information from federal agents, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has increased re-entry screening for international students returning from travel abroad. It is very possible that if you are traveling abroad this summer, you will be sent to secondary interrogation where CBP will confirming that your SEVIS record is in "active" status. If your record has been terminated in the past, be prepared to show supporting documentation and to explain how your case was resolved. This additional screening could cause delays so plan ahead, especially if you will be making connections once you arrive in the US. There is no need to panic though if you are sent to secondary interrogation, as it will be common practice for all international students until further notice.
If you are planning a trip within the United States, it is important that you carry your passport and immigration documents with you. DHS regulations require that you have in your possession Form I-94 and your valid passport with you at all times. It is also suggested that along with your current I-94 card and valid passport, you travel with your original I-20 or DS-2019.
A valid travel signature on the I-20/DS-2019 is required for re-entry during the F/J program after travel abroad. Only authorized Designated School Officials (DSOs) or (Alternate) Responsible Officers (AROs)can provide such signatures for students sponsored by SCU. Besides the staff in International Student Services (ISS), the following individuals across campus also serve as DSOs and can provide you with travel signature ONLY. They do not provide any immigration advising. Other DSOs across campus are:
LeAnn Marchewka, Director of Operations, Graduate Engineering
Eric Hagan, Assistant Director of Academic Support and Records Graduate Business Programs
Jeremy Wang, University RLC and Path Advisor Drahmann Center
How to get a Travel Signature
To get your visa document signed for travel, please bring your most recently issued I-20/DS-2019 to ISS:
- F-1/J-1 Students and their dependents will have their documents signed within 1 to 2 days of dropping off your I-20/Ds-2019.
Travel Signature Validity
Travel signatures are valid for one year or until the document's program end date, whichever is earlier, except F-1 students on Post-completion OPT whose travel signature is only valid for 6 months.
Students on SCU degree programs should note that many immigration officials interpret "one year" as meaning one academic year. It is recommended that you should request a travel signature each academic year.
For F-1/J-1 Students: Keep in mind that if you remain out of the U.S. for more than 5 months, you will need to request a brand new I-20/Ds-2019 for re-entry, since the travel signature is not valid for an absence from the U.S. of more than 5 months.
Documents Required for Re-entry from Abroad
- Valid Form I-20 (F-1 & F-2), DS-2019 (J-1 & J-2) endorsed for re-entry by ISS
- Valid passport
- Valid I-94 card
- Financial documents
You must have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months into the future unless your home country has a passport agreement with the U.S. To see a list of countries that have this agreement (as of Nov. 1, 2006) please visit the following web page: http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/104770.pdf
A valid visa stamp in your passport is also required for re-entry. If your visa stamp has expired, you will need to go to a U.S. consulate or embassy ideally in your home country to apply for the new visa stamp. You may not renew your visa within the U.S.
Form I-94 is the Arrival/Departure record that all nonimmigrant visitors are required to complete each time they enter the U.S. The bottom portion of Form I-94 (I-94 card) must be kept in the possession of the visitor at all times until they depart the U.S.
The I-94 card is usually stapled in the passport and is stamped with a notation of the visitor's visa status and their "duration of status" (D/S) which is the period in which the student or scholar is pursuing their program as noted on their I-20/DS-2019.
When you depart the U.S., you must return the I-94 card so there is a record of your departure unless you are traveling to Canada, Mexico, or adjacent islands for less than 30 days.
Traveling Outside the U.S. while on Post-Completion Practical Training
An F-1 student who has an unexpired EAD issued for post-completion practical training and who is otherwise admissible may return to the U.S. to resume employment after a temporary absence. The EAD must be used in combination with an I-20 endorsed for re-entry by an International Student Advisor.
- It is not recommended that you depart the U.S. if you have a Cap Gap I-20 (expired EAD card) as you are at risk of denial at the port-of-entry into the U.S.
- If you are outside the U.S. and you do not have a job offer at the time of re-entry, it is possible you will not be permitted to re-enter. We strongly recommend that you DO NOT travel without a valid job offer.
- Re-entering the U.S. using a tourist visa (B-1/B-2 or the "visa waiver program") will forfeit your F-1 status, and cancel automatically your permission to work in the U.S.! Once you have been admitted on a tourist visa, you will NOT be allowed to quickly "re-gain" your F-1 status by departing and re-entering in F-1 status again.
The following items are necessary for re-entry after you have graduated and have applied for post-completion practical training:
- Valid passport
- Valid F-1 visa stamp in passport unless you are a Canadian citizen (Visa stamps may only be renewed outside of the U.S., ideally in your home country.)
- Original I-20 that includes:
- the notation for post-completion practical training on page 3
- an ISS signature on page 3 for travel. This signature should be dated within 6 months of the date of re-entry. Once you have applied for post-completion practical training, this travel endorsement is valid for only SIX months, NOT a year.
- Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
- If you have applied for Post-Completion OPT and have graduated, do not leave the U.S. until you have received your EAD card.
Exception– If you have applied for Post-Completion OPT and will re-enter the U.S. prior to the completion date in Section 5 of your I-20, you may re-enter without an EAD card.
- Evidence of a job offer in the form of a letter from your employer that states that you will be employed by that company for the period indicated on your EAD. You may also provide proof of volunteering/internship.
- Proof of sufficient funds in the form of a bank statement if your employment letter does not specify a salary.
Traveling to Contiguous Territories & Adjacent Islands - Automatic Visa Revalidation
After initial entry to the U.S., if you have a single-entry or expired multiple-entry visa, you may re-enter the U.S. without obtaining a new visa under certain conditions and as long as you do not surrender your I-94 card upon departure from the US. More information can be found at the following web page: http://www.ice.gov/sevis/travel/faq_f2.htm
In addition to a passport, you should have a properly endorsed I-20/DS-2019 and a valid I-94 card. However, you will not be able to re-enter the U.S. if you have a newly reissued passport which does not have any U.S. visa stamps; therefore, in this case you should carry both the expired and the new passport.
PLEASE NOTE: You may be required to have a visa from either Canada or Mexico to enter these countries. The visa you have for the U.S. does not automatically grant entry into these countries. If you are in doubt, contact the Canadian or Mexican consulates. Please allow enough time before your travel for visa processing.