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Travel

Travel Within the United States

For travel within the United States, we suggest  you carry your valid passport and your I-20/DS-2019.

If you travel to Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, or the Northern Mariana Islands, you are not required to carry a valid visa unless you travel to other countries while going to, or coming from, those locations; you will, however, need to carry a valid I-20/DS-2019 and your passport.

Traveling Abroad

If you are an international student in F-1 or J-1 status, you and your dependents need the following documents to re-enter the U.S. and resume studies or OPT/Academic Training:

  • I-20/DS-2019 with a valid travel signature signed within the last 12 months (if you are a continuing student) or signed within the last six months if on Optional Practical Training;
  • Valid visa stamp;
  • Passport that is valid at least six months after the date of your return to the U.S.; and
  • A copy of your current enrollment at IIT (recommended but not required).

Special recommendations for students on Optional Practical Training:

  • Employment Authorization Document (EAD) Card;
    Note: All EAD cards say "not valid for re-entry." This means that the card alone does not guarantee re-entry; 
  • You must also carry the I-20 and passport with valid visa;
  • Offer letter or proof of employment (recent pay stubs or employment verification letter); and
  • F-2 dependents of F-1 students on OPT should carry photocopies of their spouse's EAD card and employment-offer letter in addition to SEVIS Form I-20 with valid travel signature, valid F-2 visa stamp, and current passport.

How to obtain a travel signature

  • Make sure your addresses are correct in MyIIT.  See instructions for updating your address.
  • Drop your I-20/DS-2019 off at the front desk of the International Center (IC) and, after two business days, come back to pick it up with the new travel signature.
  • If you don't live in the Chicago area, complete the shipping request. The IC will mail a new document directly to you.

Note: We strongly recommend that you request the travel signature at the time the airline ticket or travel arrangements are made.

Traveling to Canada, Mexico, and adjacent Islands

You may need a visa to enter Canada, Mexico, or the adjacent islands as they each have their own immigration systems as well as individual agreements with countries regarding visas. 

Adjacent Islands include Saint Pierre; Miquelon; the Dominican Republic; Haiti; Bermuda; the Bahamas; Barbados; Jamaica; the Windward and Leeward Islands; Trinidad; Martinique; and other British, French, and the Netherlands territories or possession in or bordering the Caribbean Sea, except Cuba.

For additional information regarding entry requirements specific to Canada or Mexico, please see the following sources:

Canada

Citizenship and Immigration Canada: www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/visas.asp
Consulate General of Canada in Detroit: www.canadainternational.gc.ca/detroit

Mexico

Consulate General In Chicago (“Visa Section”): http://consulmex.sre.gob.mx/chicago

Note: For those in H-1B and H-4 status, Automatic Visa Revalidation only applies to travel to Canada and Mexico. A valid visa will be required to return from the adjacent islands.

Re-entering the united states

Automatic Visa Revalidation (AVR)

A valid U.S. entry visa may not be required to re-enter the U.S. if you travel to Canada, Mexico, or the adjacent islands and remain there without traveling to additional countries for less than 30 days. If a person in F-1/J-1 status enters the U.S. from any of these countries after an absence from the U.S. not exceeding 30 days, the entry visa is considered to be automatically extended to the date of re-entry provided the entry visa has not been canceled.

For more information go to: http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/general/automatic-revalidation.html.

Note: To use Automatic Visa Revalidation (AVR), you must have a valid (unexpired) port of entry admission stamp in your passport or paper form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, endorsed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. 

Port of Entry Admission Stamp

Electronic I-94

Paper I-94

CHANGE OF STATUS I-94

  • Automatic Visa Revalidation (AVR) is not available for citizens of Iran, Syria, Sudan, or Cuba. This is subject to change if a country is designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. (See procedures below to obtain/renew the F/J visa.)
  • AVR is not valid if you travel from Canada or Mexico to any other country (example, China) and return to the U.S. via Canada or Mexico.
  • AVR will not be available if you apply for a new U.S. visa. If you apply for a visa it must be approved before you re-enter the U.S. If the visa is denied you must return to your home country to obtain a new visa. If the visa requires a security check, you must wait until it is issued before re-entering the U.S. You cannot re-enter the U.S. while the visa application is pending.

Re-Entering the United States After a Trip Abroad

General Information: Port of Entry (POE)

Make sure you have all your immigration documents with you to present at port of entry (POE). Do not put your immigration documents in checked baggage!

With each new entry, you will receive a new I-94 number (unless utilizing AVR as described above). The I-94 is an arrival and departure record that shows that you have been granted admission to the U.S. The immigration officer will stamp your passport and return your documents to you and to your dependent(s). It is imperative that you review your stamp in your passport prior to leaving the port of entry to ensure the stamp is legible and accurate-- stamped “F-1” or “J-1” and “D/S.” As soon as you can, print I-94 cards for you and your dependent(s), if applicable. (Dependent passports should be stamped “F-2” or “J-2.”) If you lose your I-94 card, you will need reprint it.

If you do not have proper documents, you may be given an I-515A for limited entry. If you receive this, you must speak with an International Center student advisor during the next available walk-in hours or stop by the center's front desk for further assistance. If you can, try your best to avoid getting an an I-515A form. 

How to Avoid Getting a Form I-515A

Remember: Do not put any of documents below in your checked baggage! You must hand-carry the following paperwork when you arrive at the U.S. port of entry! 

  • A valid passport;
  • A signed Form I-20, "Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status" for F or M nonimmigrants (students or their dependents), or a signed Form DS-2019, “Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status” for J nonimmigrants (exchange visitors or their dependents);
  • Evidence of financial support (If you must have a visa, provide whatever information you provided to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate). Review the "Financial Document Guidelines" page for more information;
  • Evidence of acceptance by your school or exchange visitor program, such as recent tuition receipts or an acceptance letter;
  • Paper receipt for payment of your I-901 SEVIS fee; and
  • Name and contact information for your designated school official (DSO), including a 24-hour emergency contact telephone number at the school.

For more information about entering the U.S., please see the Customs and Border Patrol website.

Obtaining or Renewing a Visa

To apply for a visa abroad, please review the list of documents above to know generally what to carry. The documents required may vary by country so please inquire at the U.S. Consulate where you will be applying. To obtain general information about visa services and the DS-156 visa application form, please visit the Department of State website.

When applying for a visa you will need to plan ahead and allow plenty of time. Additional security checks are sometimes required and can add 30 days or more to the processing time. See the U.S. Department of State website for visa wait times.

Be prepared to show evidence of the financial resources listed on your I-20/DS-2019. Evidence has to be dated (less than six months old) and can be in the form of bank statements, a letter from an employer, a letter of financial aid or scholarship, etc.

Warning: If you need a new visa stamp and you travel outside the U.S., you should be aware that you are never guaranteed a new visa to return, especially if you apply at a U.S. embassy or consulate in a country other than your home country.  If you have difficulty obtaining a new visa, you should contact an advisor at the International Center. Please be sure to have your visa processing information and any additional information provided to you by the consulate when contacting an IC advisor.

Obtaining or Renewing an F-1/J-1 Visa in Canada or Mexico

If you want to apply to obtain or renew your F-1/J-1 visa in Canada or Mexico rather than in your home country, you must first find out if the embassy or consulate will accept Third Country Nationals (TCNs). You must also find out and apply for, if needed, a visa to enter Canada or Mexico. Details about making a visa appointment can be found at the following websites:

Canada

www.nvarsappointment.com/NVARS_Appointment.html

Mexico

http://usvisa-info.com/en-MX/selfservice/ss_country_welcome

Check the visa wait times on the U.S. Department of State’s website.

Be aware that there is no guarantee that you will get a new or renewed visa. A decision will be made at the time of the interview.

Note: If you apply for a visa in Canada or Mexico and are denied the visa, you will not be able to re-enter the United States under Automatic Visa Revalidation. You may also be required to return to your home country in order to reapply.

If you have previously violated your immigration status, you may not be eligible for a visa from a country other than your home country. If you have any questions regarding this issue, please make an appointment to talk to an advisor at the International Center.