Travel & Reentry

Documents Needed for Travel

1. Valid travel signature on I-20 or DS-2019. The travel signature is valid for one year from the date it is endorsed or until the end of your program, whichever is shorter. The only exception is for students on OPT or STEM OPT; in this case, the travel signature is only valid for 6 months. You do NOT need to obtain a new signature each time you travel. One signature is valid for multiple trips in and out of the US. To request a travel signature you will need to be within 60 days of your return flight to the US and you will need to have a valid flight itinerary in English, with the name of the airline, dates of flights, and your name clearly listed. You will need to log into iGlobal and on the left select ISSS F-1 Requests and select Travel Signature Request, after being issued the new I-20 you will need to print the I20 and sign it in order for it to be valid for travel. 

2. Valid passport, at least 6 months into the future. Check with your home country's consulate if your passport is expiring to learn if it can be renewed in the US.

3. Valid F-1 or J-1 visa (Canadian citizens are exempt). If your F-1 or J-1 visa has expired, you must apply for a new visa from the US Consulate or Embassy abroad before you reenter unless you are eligible for Automatic Revalidation (see section below). You CANNOT apply for a new visa within the US.

4. Financial documents showing necessary funds to cover tuition and living expenses is recommended.

5. Proof of I-901 SEVIS Fee payment is recommended (especially for Canadian citizens). For more information on the SEVIS fee go to

6. And, if you are a…   

New Student: Your UCSC admission letter, EAP selection letter, and/or official receipt of tuition and fee payment

Continuing Student: Proof of your enrollment in classes (print out your class enrollment for the current/next quarter from MyUCSC portal) and/or your unofficial transcript.

J-1 Student on Post-Completion Academic Training: Properly signed DS-2019 with AT work authorization remarks and a recent employment/internship letter.

F-1 Student on OPT/STEM OPT: EAD card plus a letter of employment after OPT approval, or the I-797 Notice of Action Receipt if the OPT application is still pending. Please see an ISSS adviser if you plan to travel while your OPT application is pending. Please review the maintaining status on OPT and OPT STEM extension page for more information.

Departing the US

If you still have a paper Form I-94 and are traveling outside the US you need to surrender it to the airlines before your departure. If you have previous Form I-94s that have not been surrendered you will need to visit the following link and follow the instructions to ensure that your departures are officially recorded:

Reentering the US

A) Before leaving the window at the US Port of Entry, check that the CBP officer has written the following on your date of entry stamp: "F-1 D/S" or "J-1 D/S", not a date or left blank. **If you do not see this on your documents, you must go back to the officer to have it corrected/updated before leaving the airport.**

B) A few days after you return to the US you should go online to retrieve your electronic I-94 information: Make sure that the information is accurate and print a copy for your record.

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Applying for or Renewing an F-1/J-1 Visa

If you need to apply for or renew your student visa, expect delays. Because most visa applicants are now required to appear for a personal interview, you should expect longer processing times. In addition, "security checks" can delay visa issuance by several weeks or months.

To find out the specific procedures of your visa application, you will need to locate the US Embassy where you will apply for your visa and review the information on its website. Generally, you will need to have the following:

General Visa Application Documents:

1. Online DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa Application
2. Valid passport
3. I-20 or DS-2019 with proper signatures
4. Proof of funding as reflected on your I-20 or DS-2019
5. Proof of continued enrollment or research
6. Documents that demonstrate ties to home country
7. Students on post-completion OPT: Valid EAD and job offer, or receipt notice if OPT is still pending.
    Students on post-completion AT: DS-2019 with AT details and employment/internship letter.
8. Additional documents required by the U.S. embassy/consulate where you plan to apply for your visa

The visa cannot be obtained from within the US but a valid visa is only needed when you are reentering the US. Once you are in the US, you do not need a valid visa stamp to stay in the US.

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Automatic Revalidation

Automatic visa revalidation allows MOST F-1 and J-1 students to take a trip of less than 30 days to Canada, Mexico, or one of the islands adjacent to the US (with the exception of Cuba) and reenter the US on an expired visa, as long as you have proper documentation and have not applied for a new visa during your visit abroad. This process revalidates your visa for the single trip back to the US but does not renew the visa.

To find out whether you are eligible to use Automatic Revalidation, please visit the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement website. You can also consult with an International Student Advisor at ISSS.

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I-515A Form

An I-515A form is given to an F-1 or J-1 student if s/he does not present all the required documents when entering the US and is granted only temporary admission at the discretion of the CBP Officer. An I-515A requires F-1 and J-1 students to submit the documents listed on the I-515A within 30 days to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).

SEVP will terminate the SEVIS record of any F-1 or J-1 student who does not comply with the Form I-515A within the 30-day response period. If SEVP does not receive the required documentation at the address provided on the I-515A by the expiration date, the student’s SEVIS record will be terminated the next day and s/he will be required to leave the US immediately.

If the student mails all the required original documents to SEVP by the deadline and SEVP approves his/her continued admission, SEVP will return the I-20 or DS-2019 to ISSS. ISSS will then contact the student to pick up their document.

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