Travel Requirements

Travel Requirements

F-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.

Basic Documents Required for Re-Entry to U.S.

In general, you will need the following documents in order to return to the United States

  1. an unexpired passport valid at least six months into the future
  2. an unexpired F-1 student visa valid for multiple or further entries (exception: Canadian citizens are not required to have entry visas);
  3. an unexpired I-20 from Teachers College with a re-entry endorsement (travel signature) signed by the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) on page 2. 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.
  4. (recommended) proof of enrollment and financial ability  

Upon return to the United States, you will receive a new I-94 record which should include a notation of "F-1 D/S": this indicates that you are being allowed to re-enter the country as an F-1 student for "duration of status," i.e., for the period of time that you are a full-time student, as indicated on your I-20. You will be able to locate your most recent I-94 record by visiting th Department of Homeland Security website hereIf you have difficulty locating your I-94 record or if you see any errors in information, contact the Office of International Students and Scholars immediately upon your return.

How to Obtain a Travel Signature from the OISS

If you are in need of a travel signature, you can submit a Travel Signature Request via TC-Compass. 

If you choose to pick up your I-20 in person from the OISS, after submitting this eForm, stop by the OISS with your original I-20 so we can sign for travel during our advising hours. 

*Note that as of March 12, 2020, OISS staff are working remotely. Your only option to obtain a travel signature is by requesting to receive your I-20 through regular US Postal Service or eShip Global.  We will mail out your I-20 with a travel signature upon request. 

Re-entry after short-term travel (less than 30 days) directly to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean

If you are taking a short-term trip (less than 30 days) to one of these destinations and will return to the United States directly, you may return on the basis of an expired visa. Your F-1 visa does not need to be valid in order for you to be eligible to return. However, you must still have a valid passport, an expired or unexpired U.S. visa, your unexpired I-20 with a travel signature, and if you were issued a paper version I-94--your I-94 card when you leave the U.S. and have it readily available for re-entry in the country. 

  • 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 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.

Departure from the U.S. for more than 5 months

If you intend to depart the United States for an extended period of time, please notify the OISS. Your F-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 months or more for non-academic reasons (personal / family leave, non-academic employment)

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 student status but must maintain full-time registration during the autumn and spring semesters. Registration during the summer is not required.

*Note: Due to the impact of COVID-19, “if an active F student leaves the United States to complete the spring term online, their SEVIS record should remain in Active status and not be terminated. While the temporary measures related to COVID-19 are in place, students are deemed to be maintaining status if they are making normal progress in their course of study. For that reason, the five-month temporary absence provision addressed in 8 C.F.R. 214.2(f)(4) will not apply for students who remain in Active status...” 

Students on Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT)

If you have an un-expired EAD (Employment Authorization) card for post-completion optional practical training, you may be re-admitted to the US after a temporary absence (e.g., visit to your home country) to resume employment. However, you must carry the following documents:

  1. an unexpired passport valid at least six months into the future
  2. an unexpired F-1 student visa valid for multiple or further entries (exception: Canadian citizens are not required to have entry visas);
  3. an I-20 from Teachers College with a recommendation for Optional Practical Training printed on page 3; the I-20 must also have a valid travel signature no more than six months old from the Office of International Students and Scholars
  4. evidence of employment authorization, in the form of your Employment Authorization (EAD) card; if your application is still pending, you should carry your I-797 Receipt Notice
  5. proof (such as a job offer letter, contract, paystub) that you have secured relevant practical training / employment in your field of study

F-2 Family Members

F-2 dependents should carry their own individual I-20s when traveling, whether traveling alone or together with the F-1 student. In addition, each F-2 dependent must have a valid F-2 visa. If the F-2 is traveling alone, it is strongly recommended that they carry copies of the F-1 student's I-20, visa, I-94 card, and EAD (OPT) card, if applicable.  about who qualifies for F-2 dependent status. 

Entry into a Third Country

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 has not been endorsed for re-entry to the United States.


International Visitors

You do NOT need any letter or document from the OISS to invite a family member as a B2 visitor. If you wish to invite family members, other than your spouse or child, to visit the United States for a short time on a B2 visitor visa, you may provide them with the following:

  • A personal invitation letter, which should include your name, school, relationship to the applicant, name of applicant, applicant’s place and date of birth, dates expected to visit the United States, duration of visit, preferred arrival date, and whether you will provide financial support for the applicant’s visit. Here is a Sample Invitation Letter for Family.
  • Teachers College enrollment verification
  • Copies of your I-20 or DS-2019, visa stamp, and I-94 record.
  • Copies of your proof of financial support, such as bank statements, scholarship letters, and/or personal bank statements if you stated that you would provide financial support for the applicant during his/her stay in the US.

Note that an individual in B1 or B2 status is usually admitted to the US for a six month period.

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