Note: This information is intended for F-1 students as well as J-1 students who are under the J-1 sponsorship of Teachers College's J-1 Exchange Visitor Program, P-1-00189. J-1 students who are sponsored by an external organization (IIE / LASPAU / AMIDEAST / OSI) should contact their sponsoring organization to obtain the travel signature.
F-1 and J-1 students in lawful status and in good academic standing are eligible to return to the United States following a temporary absence abroad in order to continue full-time studies at Teachers College.
In general, you will need the following documents in order to return to the United States:
Upon return to the United States, your passport should be stamped by an immigration inspector "F-1 D/S" (for those individuals in F-1 status) or “J-1 D/S” (for those individuals in J-1 status). This indicates that you are being allowed to re-enter the country in F-1 or J-1 status for "duration of status," i.e., for the period of time that you are a full-time student, as indicated on your I-20/DS-2019. It is very important to print out your new I-94 admission information after you return to the United States from the port of entry website.
We recommend that you come to the OISS at least 2 weeks before you intend to travel outside the U.S. to obtain a travel signature for re-entry. Please bring your most recently issued I-20/DS-2019 as well as your dependents’ I-20s/DS-2019s if they will be traveling with you. We will check your record to make sure you are enrolled full-time and that there are no holds on your record. Waiting until immediately before your departure may result in you not being able to obtain a signature if there is a hold on your record that cannot be resolved in time or if the international student advisor is out of the office at that time. Please plan ahead, particularly around holidays when the OIS may be closed.
While a travel signature is valid for up to one year, the OISS recommends obtaining a signature in the most recent semester prior to your trip. However, you do not need a travel signature for every trip you plan to take - a travel signature is valid for multiple trips, provided you have the above documents. Exception: F-1 students on post-completion OPT must have a travel signature that is no more than 6 months old at the time of re-entry. Note that you do not need a travel signature if you do not travel outside the U.S.
J-1 students who have completed their program of study and have been authorized for J-1 post-completion Academic Training (AT) will have a new DS-2019 covering the period of authorized training, and are subject to the same travel requirements indicated above for continuing J-1 students. J-1 students on post-completion Academic Training should also carry evidence of employment, such as a job letter or pay stub, indicating current, on-going J-1 employment in accordance with your Academic Training authorization.
F-1 students who have completed their program of study and have been authorized for F-1 post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) must also carry with them their Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) (or I-797 Receipt Notice if your application is still pending) as well as evidence of relevant practical training / employment in your field of study, such as a job letter or page three of the I-20 indicating the place of employment as issued by the OIS after submitting the OPT reporting form.
Note: F-1 students on post-completion OPT must also have a travel signature from the OISS which is less than 6 months old at the time of re-entry.
If you are taking a short trip (less than 30 days) to one of these destinations and will return to the United States directly, you may return with an expired visa. Your F-1 or J-1 visa does not need to be valid in order for you to be eligible to return. However, you must still have the following:
1) An unexpired passport valid at least six months into the future from the date of re-entry
2) An expired or unexpired F-1 or J-1 visa
3) Your unexpired I-20 or DS-2019 with a travel signature from the OISS
Note: You must keep your I-94 card or electronic I-94 print out when you leave the U.S. and have it readily available for re-entry. Simply show your existing I-94 for re-entry purposes, along with your passport, expired / unexpired visa, and signed I-20/DS-2019. However, you must be sure to keep your I-94 card (if applicable). If your I-94 card is taken or lost, you will need to obtain a new F-1 or J-1 visa from a U.S. Embassy in order to return to the U.S.
Exception: If you go to Canada, Mexico, or the adjacent islands of the Caribbean for the express purpose of applying for a new F-1 or J-1 visa, your visa application must be successful. If it is rejected for any reason, you are not eligible to return to the United States. You must go to your home country and apply for a visa at a U.S. consulate there.
*The adjacent islands include: the Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Hispaniola (Haiti and The Dominican Republic), Jamaica, Martinique, St. Pierre and Miquelon, Trinidad and Tobago, The Leeward Islands (Anguilla, Antigua, Guadeloupe, Nevis, St. Kitts and The British Virgin Islands), The Windward Islands (Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia and St. Vincent) and other British, French or Dutch territories or possessions in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea.
F-2/J-2 dependents should carry their own individual I-20/DS-2019 forms when traveling, whether traveling alone or together with the F-1/ J-1 student. In addition, each F-2/J-2 dependent must have a valid F-2/J-2 visa. If the F-2/J-2 dependents are traveling alone, it is strongly recommended that they carry copies of the F-1/J-1 student's I-20/DS-2019, F-1/J-1 visa, I-94 card or electronic I-94 print out, and EAD card/Academic Training authorization (if applicable).
If you intend to depart the United States for an extended period of time, please notify the OIS. Your F-1 or J-1 status may be terminated if:
• You are not registered as a full-time student during any autumn or spring semester
• You are outside of the United States for five consecutive months or more
Students who will be outside of the United States for an extended period of time for the specific purpose of engaging in data collection, fieldwork, and research-related reasons may retain F-1 or J-1 student status but must:
Please see an OISS advisor for further details.
If you will be traveling within the United States, it is not necessary to bring all of your immigration documents. However, you should bring the following:
Note: If you plan to travel to Arizona or to a city that is within 60 miles of the U.S. border, such as San Diego or Niagara Falls, you may want to bring your original immigration documents (passport, visa, I-94 card, I-20/DS-2019) to avoid delays.
Whenever you wish to leave the U.S. temporarily for a trip abroad, check with the consulate of the country you intend to visit regarding entrance requirements. You may need to apply for a visa to enter that country. Note that most consulates will not issue you an entry visa if your US visa has expired and/or your I-20/DS-2019 has not been endorsed for re-entry to the United States.
Information about Canadian visa requirements can be obtained through the Canadian Consulate General, 1251 Avenue of the Americas, (212) 596-1783, http://www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca/new_york
U.S. entry visas are only issued at U.S. consulates outside of the United States and are only necessary for the purpose of entering/re-entering the United States. You do not need a valid F-1/J-1 visa to stay in the U.S. as an F-1/J-1 student, but you do need a valid visa to return to the U.S. as an F-1/J-1 student (exception: see information about travel to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean above), whether to continue studies and/or post-completion Academic Training/OPT.
If your visa has or will expire, and if you plan to travel, you may need to apply for a new F-1/J-1 visa at a U.S. consulate prior to returning (note: Canadian citizens are not required to have entry visas). Plan carefully, as waiting times and application procedures may be lengthy. In general, you will need the following in order to obtain a new F-1/J-1 visa:
1) An unexpired passport valid at least six months into the future
2) An unexpired I-20/DS-2019 from Teachers College with a re-entry endorsement (travel signature) signed by the Office of International Services; the travel signature should be recent, just prior to your visa application
3) Recent financial documents (bank letters, scholarship letters, etc.) showing that you have continued access to financial resources to support your education
4) Evidence of continued full-time enrollment at TC, such as a transcript or transcripts
5) Evidence of the SEVIS I-901 fee, if necessary (the SEVIS fee payment is charged to all students who started or resumed J-1 status after 9/1/2004)
Reference letters from the OIS or your department, while not absolutely necessary, may help in certain circumstances. Contact the OIS for more information.
• http://www.unitedstatesvisas.us/ (Visa application information)
• http://usembassy.state.gov/ (US consular web sites)
• http://www.ice.gov/sevis/i901/index.htm (I-901 SEVIS fee information)
• http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/wait/wait_4638.html (Waiting times for visa appointments)