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Travel Requirements

When re-entering the United States from abroad, be sure you have with you (not in your suitcase) these items:

  1. Passport valid at least 6 months into the future. Click here for a list of exceptions.
  2. Valid visa
  3. Valid I-20/DS-2019 with signature from an immigration coordinator (less than one year old unless you are on OPT, then signatures are only valid for six months)
  4. Financial documentation, less than a year old, that matches the funding stated on your I-20/DS-2019:
    • Assistantship letter
    • Fellowship letter
    • Athletic scholarship letter
    • Government sponsorship letter
    • Agency sponsorship letter
    • Bank statement
  5. Proof of full-time enrollment (ONE the following):
    1. Advising report (ONLY if it shows FULL-TIME enrollment every semester except vacation terms – if it does not, use an enrollment letter instead). To download an advising report:
      1. buckeyelink.osu.edu
      2. Click on the advising report link
      3. Enter your Ohio State username and password
      4. Click on View Advising Report
      5. Click on the blue hyperlink: Your Advising Report
      6. Print or save the .PDF document
    2. Enrollment letter (ONLY if you have been below full-time for a semester other than a vacation term).
      1. Ask at the front desk for a form
      2. Pick up the letter next week

If taking a short trip (30 days or less) to Canada, Mexico or some islands in the Caribbean, please click here for additional guidelines. If you are traveling domestically within the United States, it is recommended that you carry your passport and current Form I-20, but no travel signature is needed.

If you are traveling while on OPT, please read these additional guidelines.

Electronic I-94 Process

Tentatively beginning April 30, 2013, Customs and Border Protection began phasing in a new electronic Form I-94 process at some ports of entry, with implementation at all airports to follow. F-1 and J-1 students and their dependents, as well as other non-immigrants, will no longer be issued a paper Form I-94 — the small white card stapled into the passport — when entering the U.S. Instead, passports will still be stamped at the port of entry, showing the date and place of entry, non-immigrant status and the "admitted to" notation (D/S).

Entry information is recorded electronically by Customs and Border Protection, but instead of being given an I-94 at the time of entry, students will later be able to print the I-94 form from the Customs and Border Protection website. When departing from the U.S., students should still plan to hand in their current paper I-94 card. Read more about these changes at the Customs and Border Protection website.

Visa Applications

If you are traveling and need to apply for a new U.S. visa, it is important to thoroughly review all information on the specific Embassy's Consular Section website for local procedures and instructions, such as how to make an interview appointment. Consular websites will also explain any additional procedures for students, exchange visitors and those persons who need an earlier visa interview appointment. All applicants age 16 and over from Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria should also review the information on Special Visa Processing Procedures.

Due to security screening procedures, international students and scholars should expect delays when attempting to get a new U.S. visa. Visa processing time can range from a few days, to six to eight weeks or longer. In some cases the delays are indefinite. Click here for more information about visa wait times. Ohio State/OIA are unable to help with any visa delays that may occur.

Please be advised that, effective September 1, 2004, certain students or scholars may be required to pay the SEVIS fee when applying for a new visa.

Automatic Revalidation in Canada, Mexico or "Adjacent Islands"

Under certain circumstances, a nonimmigrant alien (F-1/F-2 or J-1/J-2) may re-enter the U.S. with an expired visa provided that he or she:

  • Applies for re-admission to the United States after an absence not exceeding 30 days in Canada or Mexico. F-1's and J-1's and their dependents may also seek readmission to the U.S. after an absence not exceeding 30 days in adjacent islands in the Caribbean, except Cuba. Click here for a list of adjacent islands.
  • Has maintained and intends to resume status as an F-1 or J-1 student.
  • Presents (or is the accompanying spouse or child of an alien who presents) a valid Form 1-94 and the current 1-20 or DS-2019 endorsed for travel.
  • Possesses a valid passport (unless exempt from passport requirements).
  • Applies for re-entry to the United States by the program completion date listed on the 1-20 or DS-2019.
  • Students from Cuba, Iran, Syria and Sudan are not allowed to participate in this program.

This process is technically called "automatic extension of validity of visa". This means that the United States Customs & Immigration Service (USCIS) extends the expired visa to the day of application for a single entry. Automatic extension of your visa does not extend your visa for future use. Travel to all other countries will still require a new visa.

If you are denied a visa from a U.S. consulate in Canada, Mexico or "Adjacent Islands", you will not be allowed to re-enter the United States on an expired visa.

Steps to follow for Automatic Revalidation

  • Check to see if you meet the above requirements.
  • Be sure you have a travel authorization signature on I-20 or DS-2019 that is current.
  • Be sure your passport is valid. If your current passport does not contain the visa you used to enter the United States, bring the old passport that does contain the visa.
  • Keep the I-94 card in your possession, unless traveling by plane. Do not surrender it at the time of your departure from the U.S. This is an essential document for reentering the United States.

If you encounter any problems in reentering the United States, ask to speak to an immigration coordinator.

Students who do not have an F-I visa and changed status in the U.S.

A person who entered the United States in a classification other than F-1 student and later changed his or her status to F-1 student may also reenter the U.S. with this process. In this situation, the visa is automatically changed to meet the status identified on the I-94 card. The F-1 student need only meet the conditions whether the original visa is expired or unexpired. [22 CFR 41.112(d)(ii)]. A student whose visa has been cancelled is not eligible.

Students with new passports not containing the visa

Individuals carrying passports issued from within the United States to replace the passport that contains their original nonimmigrant visa must have the old passport in their possession. Citizens of countries that keep the old passport upon issuance of a new one, therefore, are at a disadvantage when traveling to contiguous territories (i.e., Mexico, Canada, and certain adjacent islands in the Caribbean). These individuals would have to apply for a new F-1 or J-1 visa before re-entering the United States

Special Registration

As of April 27, 2011, The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the end of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS). This special registration process is no longer required.

Additional Information