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OISA Advisory for International Travel Over Winter Break

Are you departing the U.S. over Winter Break? Now is the time to check your immigration documents. 

Below we  offer several suggestions for you to consider in the coming weeks and days.

Key Considerations for International Travel:

  • Are your passport and F-1 student visa valid for your return?
  • Do you have a valid travel signature from OISA on your F-1 Form I-20?
  • Review the quarantine and testing requirements for your destination countries and for the airlines with which you will fly?

The F-1 visa stamp in your passport must be valid on the day you will reenter the U.S. in order for you to be eligible to re-enter the U.S. student immigration status. If your visa will expires before the date of your return, you must apply for a new visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy while you are out of the U.S. 

You will also need an unexpired passport and a valid travel signature on your I-20 to re-enter the U.S..

Due to current worldwide delays in consular processing, we would advise against leaving the US for a short trip if your F-1 visa or passport has expired. Please also pay particular attention to the information below about new travel restrictions for return to the U.S.

For additional resources, see: OISA Frequently Asked Questions about Travel 

Travel Signature for Students Departing U.S. Temporarily 

Any international student currently in the U.S. who plans to depart temporarily with plans to return to Emerson study in Boston (or Los Angeles) must have a valid travel signature on page 2 of their I-20. A travel signature is generally valid for one year, and can be used for multiple trips abroad. (A signature is valid for six months only for F-1 students on approved F-1 Optional Practical Training.)

See: OISA Request Form (I-20 Travel Signature)

Note about electronic I-20s: Effective November 1, 2021, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) updated its guidance to allow schools to continue issuing electronic copies of I-20 with travel signatures to the email address reflected in your SEVIS record (your Emerson email account). 

While the travel signature is given electronically, please make sure to print this new I-20 so you have a physical copy when you enter the U.S. and keep it for your records along with any past I-20 copies you may have.


COVID-19 Testing and Quarantine Requirements for your Destination and Transit Countries and  Return to the U.S.

In addition to making sure your immigration documents are up-to-date, also be aware of the COVID-19 testing, quarantine, and vaccine requirements for your destination country and for any countries through which you might transit, as well as any airline specific requirements.

Note that the test you receive at Emerson is a PCR test and your results can be downloaded through the Emerson test results portal. For destination countries requiring an IgM antibody test, a list of testing sites in Massachusetts can be found here.  

*UPDATED* New Vaccination and Testing Requirements and Geographic Travel Ban Restrictions for US Entry 

(Effective December 1, 2021) COVID-19 testing required within 1 day of travel:  President Biden announced stricter COVID-19 testing requirements would begin immediately. All travelers to the U.S. will need to present a negative COVID-19 test (PCR or Antigen) taken within 1 day of travel. This 1-day window is not limited to a 24-hour period so travelers can test at any time during the day of or the day prior to their flight departure. This testing requirement is in addition to the mandatory vaccination requirements put in place for all non-citizen travelers on November 8 (see below).

(Effective Nov 29, 2021) New travel bans from certain African countries with no student visa exemption: The White House announced new travel restrictions, limiting noncitizen travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.  The restriction is similar to those we have seen in the recent past: no admission to the US within 14 days of having been in one of the listed countries.  US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has confirmed that “Any NIE (National Interest Exception) granted to a noncitizen under previous proclamations are void with respect [to] the Proclamation of November 26, 2021.” This means that students with an F-1 visa are not exempted from this new travel ban as they had been under past ones. 

(Effective Nov 8, 2021) Mandatory vaccination requirement for non-citizens: The geographic travel ban restrictions which had been in place for several world areas (China, Iran, Schengen area of Europe, UK, Ireland, South Africa, India) were lifted and replaced with a global requirement that “noncitizens who are nonimmigrants” traveling to the US by air be fully vaccinated. Limited exceptions to the vaccination requirement exist for certain travelers, including those who are not at an age appropriate for vaccination, those for whom the vaccination is not medically advised, and travelers coming from countries where the availability of COVID-19 vaccinations is very limited. 


Travel FAQs

Please see our website for answers to other frequently asked questions (FAQs) about travel, including: 

  • How do I know if my visa is valid for my reentry to the U.S.?
  • What should I keep in mind if I am graduating or my I-20 is expiring? 
  • What is a travel signature? 
  • Do I need a travel signature? 
  • What should I do after I return to the U.S.?


Should you have any questions related to international travel, please contact us by email at You may also schedule an appointment or attend our walk in hours. 

See: OISA Contact Information

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