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OISA Advisory for International Travel and Return to the U.S. 

This advisory provides general guidance for international students in F-1 and J-1 status who are planning temporary travel out of the U.S. with a plan to return to the U.S. to resume enrollment at Emerson College. 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. 

Key Considerations for International Travel and a Return to the U.S.
  • Are your passport and F-1 or J-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 (or J-1 Form DS-2019)? For current students, a travel signature is valid for 12 months. 
  • 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 or J-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 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. We would advise against leaving the U.S. for a short trip with an expired F-1 (or J-1) visa or passport if you will not have sufficient time to renew your document before your return. 

You will also need an unexpired passport and a valid travel signature on your I-20 (or DS-2019) 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 F-1 Form I-20 (or J-1 Form DS-2019).

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: Travel Signature Request – in the Control Center of your Terra Dotta record

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 your new I-20 (or DS-2019) so you have a physical copy when you enter the U.S., and keep it for your records along with any past I-20 (or DS-2019) copies you may have.

Travel Under “Automatic Visa Revalidation”

In limited circumstances, F-1 and J-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

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.?

Students considering travel out of the U.S. should carefully research the visa requirements, travel documentation, and (as applicable) the COVID-19 testing and vaccination 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. 


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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