Travel Guidelines for F and J Non-Immigrant Students
I want to leave the U.S. during break. How should I prepare for travel with my U.S. immigration status?
When traveling to your home country you will need to request a travel signature to confirm your continued enrollment with ACU. Complete the Travel Signature Request form to get this process started.:
You will need the following to reenter the U.S.:
- Valid passport (at least 6 months into the future)
- Valid F-1 or J-1 visa (except Canadian citizens)
- Valid I-20 or DS-2019 with travel signature form. The travel signature form is valid for five months.
Keep your original documents with you at all times but also carry copies on your phone in case of emergency. If you are not in good academic standing, there may be delays or additional requirements before a travel signature can be given.
When traveling to a third country:
If you are traveling to a country other than your home country, check that country’s website for information about visas to enter their country and plan ahead. It often takes several weeks or months to process visa applications.
When traveling while on Optional Practical Training:
Travel recommendations are based on your stage in the OPT process. Check with OISVS for the most current recommendations.
What must I do when my passport expires?
U.S. laws require your passport to have at least six months of validity at all times. Contact your home country’s embassy for specific instructions on how to renew it.
What should I do if my visa is about to expire or has expired?
The F-1 visa seal attached in your passport may expire while you are in the U.S. This visa allows you to enter the United States and must be valid only upon your entry.
U.S. visas are only available outside the U.S. and from your home country. If your visa has expired, you must apply and renew your visa before returning to the U.S. Please keep in mind processing time and possible delays. You will need the following documents with you:
- Valid passport
- I-20 or DS-2019, signed for travel
- Financial documents
- Proof of full-time enrollment (letter from ACU Registrar)
- Any other items required by your specific embassy, such as transcripts
We recommend you check with the U.S. consulate nearest your home to apply for a visa interview. In some cases, renewal visa interviews are waived, but applicants must be outside the U.S. to receive it.
I plan to travel within the U.S. What should I do to follow immigration laws?
If you are traveling in the United States, make sure you carry the following documents with you at all times:
- Valid Passport
- I-94 page
- Valid I-20 or DS-2019
Be aware that you may be required to show your documents at checkpoints near the Mexico border.
What is automatic visa revalidation for travel to Canada or Mexico?
If you visit Mexico, Canada or an adjacent island for less than 30 days, you may be able to reenter the U.S. on an expired F-1 or J-1 visa due to automatic visa revalidation laws. Read the U.S. Department of State (U.S. DOS) information carefully. You’ll need your:
- I-20/DS-2019 endorsed for travel;
- Valid passport and your (expired) visa; and
- The U.S. Department of State (U.S. DOS) information on hand for the CBP officer.
Please be aware that you may still need a visa to enter these countries and that citizens of some countries are not eligible for visa revalidation.
If you travel to a noncontiguous country before reentering the U.S., you will not qualify for the automatic visa revalidation provisions. For example, if you take a cruise that visits the Bahamas and Costa Rica (not directly next to the U.S.), you will need a valid F-1 visa to reenter the U.S.
For more information on F-1 Travel, visit the U.S. ICE site. These guidelines generally apply to J-1 exchange visitors as well, but consult OISVS for specific questions.