OISA Travel Advisory: Spring 2023
Spring break is almost here! If you are an international student traveling outside of the U.S., now is the time to check your immigration documents for your U.S. return.
If your I-20 Travel Signature (valid for 12 months) has expired, request a new one: I-20 Travel Signature Request
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 advisor for additional clarification.
Students considering travel out of the U.S. for spring break 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 areas of the world, we would advise against leaving the U.S. 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 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 on 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 re-enter the U.S. in order for you to be eligible to re-enter 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 the 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 re-enter 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 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.
Effective January 5, 2023, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will require air travelers arriving in the U.S. from PR China, including Hong Kong SAR and Macau SAR, to show a negative COVID-19 test or documentation of recovery from COVID-19.
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 U.S. Entry (Air)
See: CDC Testing Requirement for PRC, Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR
Visa/Entry Requirements and COVID-19 Testing and Quarantine Requirements for 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 vaccination requirements for your destination country and for any countries through which you might transit, as well as any airline specific requirements.
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 re-entry 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 email@example.com. You may also schedule an appointment or attend our walk-in hours (Monday/Wednesday/Thursday, 1:00-2:00 pm).
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