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OISA Travel Advisory: Winter 2022

Are you departing the U.S. over Thanksgiving or winter break? Now is the time to check your immigration documents for your U.S. return. 

The advisory below is intended to provide general guidance for a return to the U.S. if you hold “active” SEVIS status and are eligible to continue enrollment following your return. The advisory does not cover all international travel scenarios and students with specific questions are advised to schedule an appointment with an OISA advisory for additional clarification. 

Students considering travel out of the U.S. this winter should carefully research the visa requirements, travel documentation, and COVID-19 testing, vaccination and quarantine requirements for each destination and transit country to which they will travel. Emerson OISA is not able to advise in detail about the entry requirements to other countries. 

Due to continued delays in U.S. consular processing in many world areas, 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 travel restrictions for return to the U.S.

Key Considerations for International Travel and a Return to the U.S.

  • Are your passport and F-1 student visa valid for your return to the U.S.?
  • Do you have a valid travel signature from OISA on your F-1 Form I-20?
  • Have you reviewed the entry/visa, quarantine and testing requirements for your destination and transit countries, for the airlines with which you will fly, and for your return to the U.S.? 

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 expire 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..

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 (OPT).

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

See: OISA Frequently Asked Questions about Travel

See: Travel During Optional Practical Training (OPT) 

Please allow 2-3 business days for OISA processing of travel signature requests. Remember: you do not need a travel signature to depart the U.S. but will need one on the day you reenter the U.S. 

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.

Travel Under “Automatic Visa Revalidation”

In limited circumstances, F-1 students and other non-immigrants to the U.S. may be eligible to travel with an expired U.S. visa to Canada, Mexico or adjacent islands under “automatic visa revalidation.” 

To be eligible, (1) travel must be solely to Canada, Mexico or adjacent islands and for 30 days or less, (2) the non-immigrant must have a valid (unexpired) Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record, endorsed by DHS, and (3) the traveler cannot apply for a new U.S. visa while in Canada, Mexico or the adjacent islands, and cannot have a pending or denied visa application.

Use of “automatic visa validation” is not available to nationals from certain countries, to students who have traveled to Cuba, or who have traveled to other countries outside of Canada, Mexico or the adjacent islands. Please make sure to read the full details prior to attempting travel under this provision. 

See: Automatic Visa Revalidation

COVID-19 Vaccination, Testing and Masking Mandates

All non-citizen travelers to the U.S. currently need to provide proof of full COVID-19 vaccination. However, there is no longer a requirement to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to entering. Please follow the instructions of airlines, airports, and places of transit and destination related to the required use of masks. 

See: CDC Vaccination Requirements for US Entry (Air)

Visa/Entry Requirements and COVID-19 Testing and Quarantine Requirements for your Destination and Transit Countries 

In addition to making sure your immigration documents are up-to-date, also be aware of any visa/entry requirements or 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.

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 (Mon / Wed / Thurs 1:00-2:00 pm).
See: OISA Contact Information / Walk-In Hours

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