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Traveling In and Outside the U.S.

Travel In the U.S.

As a precaution,  we recommend carrying original copies of your passport, I-20, and I-94 while travelling in the U.S., especially if you are traveling great distances. You will most likely never need these documents but in the event there is an emergency it is helpful to have these documents with you.

Travel Outside the U.S.

As long as your travel does not disrupt your studies, you may leave the U.S. at any time. Before leaving, verify the validity of the following documents:

  • Passport. Valid at least 6 months into the future.
  • Visa. If there is no ‘M’ under ‘Entries’ or the ‘Expiration Date’ will pass by your return date, you will need to renew your visa. If your visa has expired, we recommend renewing it at a U.S. consulate or embassy in your home country.
  • Travel signature. The second page of the I-20 should be signed by International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) before you leave the U.S. A “travel signature” is verification from our office of your valid immigration status. Once signed, it is valid for one year or until the program end date, whichever comes sooner. Travel signatures for students on OPT/STEM OPT are valid for 6 months. You will not need another travel signature until the current one expires.  You can request a travel signature on the ISSS request form.

Other Important Information for Students Traveling Outside the U.S.

  • If you plan to visit a country other than your home country, please consult the embassy or consulate of that country to find out if you will require a visa to enter or transit. You may find information about foreign embassies and consulates in the U.S. by visiting
  • If you stay outside of the U.S. and out of class for more than 5 months, your I-20 and visa become invalid. You will need a new I-20 and visa to return. Additionally, you must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee again.
  • If you decide not to return to the U.S., you must notify ISSS so we can notify the U.S. government. Failing to notify ISSS may negatively impact your ability to study or visit the U.S. in the future. 

Travel to Canada or Mexico

Sharing borders with the U.S., Canada and Mexico are popular travel destinations for some international students. Despite their close proximity, please remember to follow the relevant immigration policies of these countries.

Entering Canada

A tourist visa is required to visit and transit for citizens of certain countries. To find out if you need a tourist visa and for visa application instructions, visit the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website.

Entering Mexico

Mexican tourist cards or visas are required of all persons visiting Mexico. These are obtained at the Mexican Consulate.

Returning to the U.S. Using "Automatic Revalidation"

Automatic Revalidation allows students in F or J status to re-enter the U.S. with an expired U.S. visa (but a valid passport) after visiting Canada, Mexico or adjacent islands for less than 30 days. Adjacent islands include:

Anguilla, Antigua, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Barbuda, Bermuda, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Marie-Galante, Martinique, Miquelon, Montserrat, Saba, Saint-Barthelemy, Saint Christopher, Saint Eustatius, Saint Kitts-Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Maarten, Saint Martin, Saint Pierre, Saint Vincent, Grenadines, Trinidad, Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, Other British, French and Netherlands territory or possessions bordering on the Caribbean Sea.

Note: Automatic Revalidation is NOT available to nationals of Iran, Syria, Sudan, Cuba, and Mexico (does not apply for visits to your home country).

To re-enter the U.S. under the benefit of automatic revalidation of visa, you must:

  • Only travel to Canada/Mexico/adjacent islands for less than 30 days and not travel elsewhere
  • Maintain and intend to resume your nonimmigrant status within the authorized period of admission
  • Carry your I-94, I-20, and valid passport with expired visa
  • Not apply for a new visa during this trip
  • Not be from a country that is currently designated by U.S. as a State Sponsor of Terrorism

ISSS also recommends printing the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) article on automatic revalidation in case the border officer is not familiar with the details of the rule.


International Student and Scholar Services

Rike Center
300 College Park
Dayton, Ohio 45469