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Travel Information


Travel and Re-Entry

Preparing for Travel Outside the U.S.

International students may leave the U.S. for a short time period (5 months or less) and re-enter to continue their program if they hold the appropriate immigration and travel documents. These travel documents include:

  • A valid passport
  • A valid F-1 or J-1 US visa

Recommended Additional Documents

  • A copy of your unofficial university transcripts from Hokie SPA, in case the Customs and Border Protection Officer wants proof of your current enrollment
  • Proof of funding (assistantship letter, bank statements, sponsor support letter, etc.)
  • I-901 (SEVIS) fee receipt
  • An unexpired Form I-20, endorsed for travel on page 2. For currently enrolled students, the travel signature must be less than one year old at the time of re-entry to the U.S.
    • To request a Travel Signature, log onto the IntlHokies Portal. Under F-1 Students Services, select F-1 Travel Signature request. Your newly signed I-20 will be sent by email.
  • An unexpired Form DS-2019, endorsed for travel on page 1.
    • To request a Travel Signature, log onto the IntlHokies Portal. Under J-1 Student Services, select J-1 Travel Signature Request. You will need to upload proof of health insurance. Your newly signed DS-2019 will be sent by email.
    • The travel signature must be less than one year old at the time of re-entry to the U.S.
  • A copy of your unofficial university transcripts from Hokie SPA, in case the Customs and Border Protection Officer wants proof of your current enrollment
  • Proof of funding (assistantship letter, bank statements, sponsor support letter, etc.)
  • I-901 (SEVIS) fee receipt
  • Form I-20, endorsed for travel on page 2, for students on OPT/ STEM OPT your travel signature must be less than six months old at the time of re-entry to the U.S.
    • To request a Travel Signature, log onto the IntlHokies Portal. Under F-1 Students Services, select F-1 Travel Signature request. Your newly signed I-20 will be sent by email.
    • Have the most updated information on your I-20 (ex. Showing OPT approved, listing your current employment, etc.)
  • A valid passport
  • A valid F-1 visa
  • Employment Authorization Document (EAD card)
  • Proof of employment – for example, a letter from your employer stating the job offer and conditions of employment, recent paystubs. Proof of job hunting in the U.S. if you do not yet have a position
  • An unexpired Form DS-2019, endorsed for travel on page 1.
    • To request a Travel Signature, log onto the IntlHokies Portal. Under J-1 Student Services, select J-1 Travel Signature Request. You will need to upload proof of health insurance. Your newly signed DS-2019 will be sent by email.
  • The travel signature must be less than one year old at the time of re-entry to the US.
  • A valid passport
  • A valid J-1 visa
  • Proof of employment – for example, a letter from your employer stating the job offer and conditions of employment, recent paystubs. Proof of job hunting in the U.S. if you do not yet have a position.
  • Proof of insurance

Important: If you arrive at a U.S. Port of Entry without all of your required documents or are missing other information, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer may deny you entry into the U.S. As an alternative, the officer has discretion to issue you a Form I-515A, which allows you temporary entry into the U.S. for 30 days, with the requirement to complete all documentation before the 30 days run out. Read more about this process. Please be sure to contact Cranwell International Center as soon as possible if you are issued a Form I-515A.


Visa Renewal

FAQ

Yes - as long as you are a student in good standing, have not violated your status and you have a valid I-20, you may legally remain in the U.S. with an expired F-1 visa.

No - for more information about visa applications visit the Department of State website.

If you want to travel to a country other than your own to renew your visa, contact the U.S. embassy or consulate in that country. If you exit the U.S. and apply for a visa, you cannot return to the U.S. until the visa is issued. This could require a lengthy stay due to the security clearance process. If the visa is denied, you will not be able to return to the U.S. as a student.

  • Take the application for the visa, and proof of payment of the required visa fee(s).
  • Your Form I-20/DS-2019, signed for travel. The travel signature should be less than one year old as of the time of your return to the U.S. If you are on OPT, your travel signature should be less than six months old as of the time of your return to the U.S.
  • Take a letter from your academic advisor, stating that you are making satisfactory academic progress, and that you are expected to return to the U.S. to continue with your program of study.
  • Print a copy of your unofficial university transcripts from Hokie SPA in case the Consular officer wants to see that you have been properly enrolled.
  • If you are renting an apartment, and your name is on the lease agreement, take a copy of the lease agreement. This shows that you have a place to live, and a legal obligation to fulfill the lease requirements.
  • Be sure to take your funding documentation as proof of your ability to pay for your educational expenses. This can be in the form of an assistantship agreement, bank statements, sponsor support letter, etc.
  • If you are on OPT, you will need proof of employment, your EAD, and other documents as requested by the consulate. We do not recommend renewing your visa while you have a pending OPT/STEM OPT application.

Automatic Visa Revalidation

In general, a nonimmigrant visa holder must present a valid, unexpired visa each time they enter the U.S. however, an exception to this rule exists for J or F nonimmigrants who travel for less than 30 days to Canada, Mexico, or "adjacent islands other than Cuba." The visas of such individuals are considered to be extended to the date of re-entry, eliminating the need to obtain a new visa before reentering the U.S. This benefit is only available to J or F nonimmigrants who:

  • have a Form I-94 valid for duration of status (D/S);
  • have a valid Form I-20/DS-2019 signed for travel;
  • are applying to re-enter the U.S. after an absence not exceeding 30 days in Canada, Mexico, or adjacent islands in the Caribbean other than Cuba;
  • have maintained and intend to resume nonimmigrant status;
  • have a valid passport;
  • have not applied for a new visa during this particular trip; and
  • are not a citizen or national of a country that has been designated as a "state sponsor of terrorism," which includes, as of January 1, 2023, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Syria.

For more information you may visit the Travel.State.Gov website. We recommend that you print and travel with the information from the website, should you be questioned about it.

Even though a national of a country other than those listed above may be eligible for re-entry under the automatic extension of visa validity provision, aliens involved in work or study listed on the Technology Alert List may encounter delays upon attempting reentry. Although they technically do not need a new visa, they may be subject to security or other clearances before being permitted to reenter. Remember that traveling on an expired visa carries some degree of risk, and travelers may be denied re-entry to the U.S. and asked to return to their home countries.

Visa Waiver

It is important to note that those who arrive under the Visa Waiver Program CANNOT work or study. The visa waiver program allows the citizens of specific countries to enter the U.S. to visit without first obtaining a visa.

Extension of stay or change to any other visa status is not permissible under any circumstances.


Inviting Your Relatives to the U.S.

If you wish to invite your parent(s) or other family members to visit you in the U.S., we suggest gathering the documentation listed below. Please note that there are no guarantees on what documentation will work during the visa application process, as each appointment is different, and occasional denials are possible, even if all the steps are followed correctly. It is important to provide as much information as possible to establish that you are here in the U.S. maintaining a legal status, that your family member(s) have sufficient funds to cover expenses while in the U.S, and that they will return to their home country after their visit.

Documentation of student status

  • Obtain a letter from your academic department and/or an Enrollment Certificate from the Registrar's office verifying that you are enrolled full-time and in good standing.
  • Obtain a copy of your most recent transcript.
  • Provide copies of your Form I-20, Form I-94, and visa.
  • If you are on an assistantship, provide a copy of your assistantship contract. If you do not have an updated, official contract, obtain a letter from your academic department stating that you are supported by the department, including the monthly stipend amount and in-state tuition scholarship amount.

Documentation of invitation and financial support

  • Obtain a bank statement showing that you have sufficient funds to support your family member(s) while they are in the U.S. If your family member(s) will support themselves, they will need to show proof of sufficient funds available to them when they apply for a visa.
  • Write an invitation letter in which you state that you are inviting them for a certain period of time (give starting and ending dates, if possible), and that you are willing and able to support them while they are in the U.S.
  • If you are renting a house or apartment, you may also wish to attach a copy of the lease agreement to show that you are able to provide accommodations at no additional expense to you and/or your family member(s).

Documentation While on OPT

  • Provide copies of your Form I-20, Form I-94, visa and EAD card.
  • Provide proof of your active employment (offer letter, recent pay stubs, etc.)