If you are planning a trip within the United States or abroad, it is essential that you are properly prepared with all of the necessary documents.
Be sure to check your I-20 or DS-2019 for a valid travel signature. This is one of the simplest steps to complete and one of the easiest to forget about!
If you need a new signature, the first step is to submit a Travel Signature Request Form at least 3 weeks before your planned travel. A VISA Advisor will review the request; requests will be processed on a first-in, first-out basis in the timelines noted below unless students are contacted by a VISA Advisor about a specific issue.
For current F-1 and J-1 students, a VISA Advisor will reissue your I-20/DS-2019 with a travel signature within 5-7 business days. For alumni on OPT, your reissued I-20 will be available within 7-10 business days. When the signed I-20 or DS-2019 is ready, the Advisor will send an email to the student/alum instructing them how to access and print out the new form.
DO NOT WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE. Please plan accordingly so that this process and your travel plans go as smoothly as possible. And remember, you need this valid travel signature on your document to return to the US, not to depart. If you need to travel urgently before you are able to obtain an updated travel signature, the VISA Office will work with you so that you have what you need to re-enter the US.
Travel Within the United States
When traveling within the United States by car, bus, train or airplane, to cities near or far, you may prefer to carry and present your valid state-issued identification, such as a state ID card or a driver's license. This is perfectly fine to do, however, it is essential that you have your passport and visa documents with you (in a very safe place, of course!) when you travel within the United States.
Whether you are traveling by car, bus, train, or airplane, near or far, we recommend that you have your passport and visa documents with you. In recent years, there has been heightened security not only at all border crossings, but also at bus terminals, train terminals, and airports throughout the United States. International students may be stopped and questioned randomly. Therefore, students should have their passport, I-94, properly signed SEVIS I-20 or DS-2019, any state-issued ID, and Case student ID card with them for ALL distance travel whether within or outside the U.S. A foreign national without valid travel documents can be arrested and taken into Department of Homeland Security (DHS) custody.
Travel Outside the United States
For information on gaining entry into specific countries, students should consult the embassy of the country they would like to visit.
Documents Needed for Re-Entry to the United States
Individuals seeking admission to the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 status while enrolled as full-time students at CWRU* must have:
- A valid passport or travel document
- A valid F or J entry visa in the passport**
- A valid, accurate, properly endorsed I-20 or DS-2019 that has a current travel signature***
Please be aware that there is never a guarantee that an individual in F or J status seeking re-entry will be admitted, even if all of these criteria are met. Border officials have the authority to approve or deny entry to whomever they choose for reasons that may or may not be apparent.
*Students who have applied or have been authorized for post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) or STEM OPT should read about traveling under the F-1 employment sections here.
**If the entry visa has expired or will expire before return to the U.S., you must apply for a new one at a U.S. Consular office abroad; you cannot apply for a visa within the United States. The process should be the same as when you applied for a visa for the first time - visit the Obtaining a Visa section of our website - but it’s always a good idea to visit the Consulate’s website to review the process. Students who have properly maintained status do not have to pay a SEVIS fee to apply for a new visa.
***Travel signatures typically are valid for 12 months and are required to enter the United States, not to depart. A student may use a single travel signature to return to the U.S. as many times as they need during that validity period. Two known exceptions are when returning from Canada and when authorized for Optional Practical Training. In those instances, travel signatures are only valid for six months at a time. Be sure to check the validity of your travel signature before departing the U.S. to ensure a smoother reentry process.
After Re-Entry to the United States
All students and their dependents should check their electronic I-94 information online upon re-entry to the U.S. and print a copy for their records. For Fs and Js, the I-94 information should have an end date of “D/S,” meaning “duration of status.” This means that your stay in the U.S. is legal as long as you maintain your nonimmigrant status. Your status end date is indicated on the I-20 for Fs and the DS-2019 for Js as your anticipated program completion date.
If your I-94 is marked with a specific date rather than “D/S” or you notice any other incorrect information, please call the Cleveland CBP office at 216.267.3600 or contact the VISA Office.