Reentry Into the U.S.
Be prepared to present the following items at the port of entry into the U.S.:
I-20 (F-1 Students)
Your I-20 must be signed by an adviser in International Student Services (ISS) (not an academic adviser, not a professor, not the football coach) before you leave the U.S. All students are required to obtain a travel signature that allows you to return to the U.S. This signature will be valid for one year (12 months) and can be used for multiple entries. If you are on OPT, you must obtain a travel signature every 6 months. To obtain a travel signature, submit your I-20 to the ISS front desk. Your I-20 will be available for pick-up the next business day. We require 1 business day to process the travel signature so please plan ahead before you travel. Carry all I-20s you have ever been issued, not just the most recent one.
DS-2019 (J-1 Exchange Visitors)
The DS-2019 must be signed by an adviser in International Student Services (ISS) (not an academic adviser, not a professor, not the football coach) before you leave the U.S. All students are required to obtain a travel signature that allows you to return to the U.S. This signature will be valid for one year (12 months) and can be used for multiple entries. To obtain a travel signature, submit your DS-2019 to the ISS front desk. The DS-2019 will be available for pick-up the next business day. We require 1 business day to process the travel signature so please plan ahead before you travel. Carry all DS-2019s you have ever been issued, not just the most recent one.
Your passport must be valid for at least six months when seeking admission or readmission to the United States, unless your country has an agreement with the United States. For a list of countries under this agreement, see the list on the Immigration Customs Enforcement website. Your passport should remain valid throughout your stay in the U.S.
Valid U.S. Visa
You must present a valid, unexpired visa in the category for which admission is being sought each time you enter the U.S. (Canadian citizens are exempt from the visa requirement; however, landed immigrants of Canada are generally required to obtain a visa.) If your visa expires while you are in the U.S., the next time you travel abroad you must obtain a new visa in the proper category in order to be readmitted to the United States. Apply for the visa in your home country, unless circumstances or travel plans make this impossible.If you apply for a visa at a U.S. consulate in another country, your application may be reviewed more critically than if you applied at home. In-person interviews are required for most visa applicants. You are encouraged to contact the U.S. consulate as early as possible to schedule the visa interview appointment. Anticipate delays in visa issuance due to enhanced security reviews.
An exception to the rule requiring a valid, unexpired visa exists for students in F-1 and J-1 status who travel for less than 30 days solely to Canada or Mexico or islands in the Caribbean except Cuba. Your visa will be considered to be "extended" (and "converted" to the proper visa category if you had changed status while in the U.S.) to the date of re-entry, eliminating the need to obtain a new visa at a U.S. consulate before that particular re-entry. This procedure is known as "automatic visa revalidation." Note that if you apply for a new visa while in Canada, Mexico and islands in the Caribbean, you will not be able to return to the U.S. unless the visa is granted. Also, citizens of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Cuba, Sudan, and North Korea are not eligible for automatic visa revalidation.
You must carry evidence detailing the source and amount of your funding. Consular and immigration officers exercise considerable discretion in determining whether your financial support is sufficient to cover all academic and living expenses.
Current Class Schedule
You can print your current class schedule from your "MyUW" page.
New Students for initial entry: bring a copy of proof of admission to the UW.
SEVIS I-901 Fee Receipt
If you cannot find your SEVIS fee receipt, visit the Student and Exchange Visitor Program SEVIS I-901 fee processing website to request a copy of your receipt. Students with I-20s or DS-2019s issued prior to September 1, 2004, did not pay the SEVIS fee.
Expect Delays at U.S. Ports of Entry
Please be prepared for longer waits when going through the inspection line at U.S. airports, seaports, or land border crossings. Effective immediately, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers will be checking the electronic SEVIS records for all students traveling into the U.S. This may involve the extra step of referring students to the secondary inspection office. If you are referred to the secondary inspection office, please do not feel alarmed. According to recent travel advisories, this step will be necessary for all students until CBP updates systems so that officers in the primary inspection line have SEVIS access.
If you are arranging flights with a layover in the U.S., we advise you to allow at least three to four hours between flights in case of these delays. Be prepared to answer questions about your degree program, the UW (such as school mascot, colors, etc.), and your academic progress. Also be sure you have all required travel documents listed above.
This procedural change is nationwide and was mandated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Please note that university officials and international educators across the U.S. are advocating on behalf of studentsUniversity advisers are communicating to congressional representatives and the Department of Homeland Security and asking that their design and implementation of new security measures take into account the potential burdens on traveling students. Advisers are asking that DHS make it a goal to make the changes as seamless and efficient as possible for traveling students.
I-94 Cards are Changing
As you know, when you enter the U.S. you receive an I-94 card—a small, white card with your F-1 admission stamp on it. However, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is currently changing to electronic arrival/departure records for air and sea ports of entry. You might receive either a paper I-94 card OR an F-1 admission stamp in your passport (no card), depending on when you travel to the U.S. and where you arrive. The transition began April 30 at selected airports and will continue throughout the summer.
If you receive a paper I-94 card, keep the card stapled into your passport at all times. If you receive an admission stamp in your passport, this is proof of your F-1 admission status. However, you might still need to print out a copy of the electronic I-94 card for various purposes, such as an application for a Washington State ID card, a Social Security number, etc. You can print a copy of your I-94 information at CBP.gov/I94
For more information, review CBP’s update about I-94 records.
Travel Within the United States
You and your dependents may be surprised to learn that federal law requires that you carry "registration" documentation at all times. This includes a basic identity document such as a passport, plus your current I-20 and I-94 card. For day-to-day purposes, we suggest you keep these documents in a secure location, such as a bank safe deposit box. However, if you are traveling within the U.S. you should carry these documents with you. If you are traveling by air, train, bus, or ship, you may be required to produce these documents before boarding. Keep photocopies of all your documents in a separate location, in the event your documents are lost or stolen.
Entry Into Another Country
Before you leave the United States, contact the consulate of the country to be visited to inquire about visa and travel procedures. If you plan to visit Canada, contact the Canadian Consulate in Los Angeles to determine if you need a visa to enter Canada.
Travel after completion of studies
F-1 students: If you travel outside the U.S. after completion of studies you may return to the U.S. in F-1 status provided you are in possession of:
- A new 1-20 indicating a new program of study, passport, visa and evidence of financial support.
- An Employment Authorization Document (EAD), I-20 endorsed for OPT and signed for travel within the last six months, proof of employment, passport and visa.
J-1 students: If you travel outside the U.S. after completion of studies you may return to the U.S. in J-1 status provided you are in possession of either:
- A new DS-2019 indicating a new program of study, passport, visa, and evidence of financial support.
- A DS-2019 endorsed for Academic Training and signed for travel within the last twelve months, proof of employment, passport and visa.
Note: Students who complete studies have a "grace period" during which they may prepare to depart the United States. The grace period for F-1 students is 60 days. (F-1 students on practical training must depart the U.S. within 60 days of the EAD card's expiration date.) The grace period for J-1 students is 30 days. Students who leave the U.S. during the grace period will not be permitted to return to the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 status, except as noted above.
Travel and OPT
If your pre-completion OPT application is pending or approved, you may travel and reenter the U.S.
If your post-completion OPT application is pending, you may travel and re-enter the U.S.
After graduation, if your post-completion OPT has been approved and your EAD issued, you may not re-enter the U.S. unless you have evidence of employment. You should carry the following documents with you:
- I-20 signed for travel by an international student adviser within the last 6 months
- EAD card
- Valid passport
- Unexpired F-1 visa (unless returning from a short trip to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean)
- Evidence of employment in your field of study (letter of employment, written job offer)