Re-entering the US

At the port of entry into the US, be prepared to present the following items:

Immigration Document

I-20 (F-1 students)
You must have your SEVIS I-20 with you when you travel, even for travel within the United States. Ask the international student advisor to sign the second page of your I-20 before you leave the US. This signature will be valid for six months, for multiple entries. It is usually a good idea to carry all I-20s you have ever been issued, not just the most recent one.


DS-2019 (J-1 exchange visitors)
You must have your SEVIS DS-2019 with you when you travel, even for travel within the United States. It is usually a good idea to carry all DS-2019s you have ever been issued, not just the most recent one.

Valid Passport

You must have your passport with you for all travel, including travel within the United States. You must have a passport valid for at least six months when seeking admission or re-admission to the United States, and your passport must remain valid throughout your stay.

Valid US Visa**

You must present a valid, unexpired visa in the category for which admission is being sought each time you enter the US. (Canadian citizens are exempt from the visa requirement; however, landed immigrants of Canada are generally required to obtain a visa). If your visa expires while you are in the US, the next time you travel abroad you must obtain a new visa in the proper category in order to be re-admitted to the United States. Apply for the visa in your home country, unless circumstances or travel plans make this impossible. If you apply for a visa at a US embassy or consulate in another country, your application may be reviewed more critically than if you applied at home. In-person interviews are required for most visa applicants. You are encouraged to contact the US embassy or consulate as early as possible to schedule the visa interview appointment.

Evidence of Funding

It it usually a good idea to carry evidence (for example, a bank statement) detailing the source and amount of your funding. Consular and immigration officers exercise considerable discretion in determining whether your financial support is sufficient to cover all academic and living expenses.

Current Class Schedule

You can print your current class schedule from your online account in Web4U.

**An exception to the rule requiring a valid, unexpired visa exists for students in F-1 and J-1 status who travel for less than 30 days solely to Canada or Mexico or islands in the Caribbean (except Cuba). Your visa will be considered to be "extended" (and "converted" to the proper visa category if you had changed status while in the US) to the date of reentry, eliminating the need to obtain a new visa at a US embassy or consulate before that particular re-entry. This procedure is known as "automatic revalidation." Note that if you apply for a new visa while in Canada, Mexico, and islands in the Caribbean, you will not be able to return to the US unless the visa is granted. Also, citizens of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Cuba, Sudan, and North Korea are not eligible for automatic visa revalidation.

Travel Within the US

Federal law requires that you carry "registration" documentation at all times. This includes a basic identity document such as a passport, plus your current I-20 or DS-2019 and I-94 card (if you have one). For day-to-day purposes, we suggest you keep these documents in a secure location. However, if you are traveling within the US you should carry these documents with you. If you are traveling by air, train, bus, or ship, you may be required to produce these documents before boarding. Keep photocopies of all your documents in a separate location, in the event your documents are lost or stolen.

Travel to Other Countries

Before you leave the United States, contact the consulate of the country to be visited to inquire about visa and travel procedures. Citizens of some countries will require visas to visit Canada. You can apply for a Canadian tourist visa through the Canadian Consulate in Seattle.

Travel After Completion of Studies

Grace Period

Students who complete studies have a "grace period" during which they may prepare to depart the United States. The grace period for F-1 students is 60 days. (F-1 students on optional practical training (OPT) must depart the US within 60 days of the EAD card's expiration date.) The grace period for J-1 students is 30 days. Students who leave the US during the grace period will not be permitted to return to the US in F-1 or J-1 status.

Continuing Studies

If you are continuing your studies in the US at a new degree level and/or new institution, you may travel outside the US after completion of studies and re-enter in J-1 or F-1 status if you have a new DS-2019 or I-20 indicating a new program of study, passport, visa, and evidence of financial support.

Post-Study Work

If you will be working after completion of your studies, you may travel outside the US after completion of studies and re-enter in J-1 or F-1 status if you have a DS-2019 endorsed for Academic Training and signed for travel wtihin the last twelve months or Employment Authorization Document (EAD), I-20 endorsed for OPT and signed for travel within the last six months, proof of employment, passport and visa.

Travel and OPT

If your pre-completion OPT application is pending or approved, you may travel and re-enter the US.

If your post-completion OPT application is pending, you may travel and re-enter the US.

After graduation, if your post-completion OPT has been approved and your EAD issued, you may not re-enter the US unless you have evidence of employment. You should carry the following documents with you:

  • I-20 signed for travel by an international student advisor within the last 6 months
  • EAD card
  • Valid passport
  • Unexpired F-1 Visa (unless returning from a short trip to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean)
  • Evidence of employment in your field of study (letter of employment, written job offer)


Bringing Food and Agricultural Products into the US

Please be aware that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) places restrictions on the types of food and agricultural products allowed into the United States. This is done to protect US agriculture from pests and disease. Read over the USDA guidelines for international travelers before bringing any food items or agricultural products into the US, as items that are not permitted will be seized. These restrictions also apply to items sent by mail, so it's a good idea to inform family and friends who may be sending you packages containing food products from home.

A note to Canadian NEXUS pass holders: Crossing the border with agricultural products, even accidentally, can lead to revocation of your NEXUS pass. Be sure to check your vehicle for any forgotten food items -- citrus fruits are especially troublesome -- before crossing the border. The CPB fact sheet on bringing agricultural products into the US from Canada is a useful resource.

Page Updated 11.22.2017