Travel and Re-entry

In order to re-enter the U.S. after a temporary absence (not exceeding 5 months) you must carry the following documents:

  • Valid Passport for at least six months after the date of re-entry
  • Valid F-1/J-1 visa stamp (except for a short trip, 30 days or less, to Canada, Mexico and Adjacent Islands)
  • Valid I-20/DS-2019 with travel endorsement from OIS. An F-1 student who is out of status must have a new “initial attendance” I-20.

Additional Travel Document Recommendations

While not specifically required by regulations, the following additional documents are very strongly recommended when traveling abroad, and since September 11, 2001, are in most cases necessary to have:

  • Evidence of adequate finances
  • Copy of Rutgers University transcript and your current course schedule
  • All previously-issued I-20 forms
  • OPT authorization and a letter from your employer confirming the dates and terms of your employment
  • If needing to apply for a new F-1 before returning to the U.S., a recently-updated I-20 issued to you within the 6 months prior to your application for a new visa

Travel Signature
To travel outside of the country and re-enter the U.S. as an F-1 student, you must have a valid I-20 which has been signed by an International Student Advisor. F-1 students may need a new I-20 if they have failed to maintain status.
F-1 students must obtain the travel endorsement at the OIS. Bring your current, original I-20 to request a signature. A travel signature is valid for one year from the date of issuance. However, you are advised to obtain a new endorsement if the previous one is over six months old.

F-2 Dependent Travel
Dependents in F-2 generally need the same documents to re-enter the U.S. as the primary F-1 student. Be sure to obtain an endorsement on the dependent I-20 in order to re-enter the U.S.
Dependents are not required to travel with the primary F-1 student. In addition, dependents may remain in the U.S. without the primary as long as the F-1 maintains their current status and will return after a temporary absence (generally 30 days or less) using the same SEVIS ID number.

Electronic I-94

 U.S. Customs and Border Protection have automated Form I-94 at air and sea ports of entry. The paper form will no longer be provided to a traveler upon arrival, except in limited circumstances.  If a traveler needs a copy of their I-94 (record of admission) for verification of alien registration, immigration status or employment authorization, it can be obtained from: www.cbp.gov/I94.

Upon entering the U.S., travelers will receive a paper with instructions on how to access the website.

Validity of Visa
A visa does not determine how long you may remain in the United States; it only determines when you may enter or re-enter the U.S. To enter or re-enter the U.S. in F-1 status, you must have a valid visa (unless you are a citizen of Canada). For information on the one exception to this requirement, see “Automatic Visa Revalidation” below. Because U.S visas are needed only to enter the U.S., it is not possible to apply for a new visa from inside the U.S. You may remain in the U.S. until your I-94 card expires and as long as you are complying with regulations that apply to your specific non-immigrant status. However, if you leave the U.S. for a short trip abroad and your visa has already expired or will expire while you are outside the U.S., you will need to apply for a new visa at a U.S. abroad in order to be able to return to the U.S. in your previous non-immigrant status.

Travel to Canada, Mexico and Certain Adjacent Caribbean Islands
Visitor's Visa to Canada and Mexico
F-1/J-1 students or their dependents who are planning a trip to Canada or Mexico should contact the respective consulate offices to determine whether a visitor's visa to the country is needed prior to your trip.
Mexican Consulate
Canadian Consulate

Automatic Visa Revalidation
Under certain limited circumstances, visitors with expired U.S. visas who travel solely to Canada, Mexico or adjacent islands in the Caribbean (excluding Cuba) for less than 30 days may be allowed to return to the U.S. via “automatic visa revalidation” in the same non-immigrant status in which they departed, and may resume their previously-approved activities without having to apply for a new visa. Automatic revalidation is unavailable to citizens of Cuba, Sudan, Iran, & Syria, however.

Note: If a visitor chooses to apply for a visa while visiting Canada or Mexico and is denied the visa, he/she will not be eligible for the automatic visa revalidation benefit and will need to return directly to his/her home country in order to apply for a visa.

The I-94 admission record is now created electronically and maintained in CBP systems. CBP will verify the I-94 electronically to re-validate an expired visa if the traveler meets the conditions of automatic revalidation.

If entry occurred prior to automation, a paper form must be presented in order to comply with validation requirements. It is vitally important for students to retain the original copy of their I-94 card when traveling to Canada, Mexico and Adjacent Islands, if they plan to re-enter with an expired visa under the Automatic Visa Re-Validation law. They will need this document as a substitute for a valid visa when re-entering the US. Subsequently, when departing the US, students should not relinquish this card to the airlines or an immigration officer. 

For more information about automatic revalidation go to: http://www.cbp.gov/sites/default/files/documents/auto_reva.pdf.

US-VISIT Program
The US-VISIT program is now operational at most major U.S. airports and seaports, and is used to track foreign visitors through the use of biometrics. When a visitor enters the U.S., immigration officials will review the visitor’s documents and the visitor will be photographed and fingerprinted.

Special Registration/National Security Entry/Exit Registration System (NSEERS)

Under Special Registration (NSEERS: National Security Entry-Exit Registration System), non-immigrants from certain countries are required to:
1. At time of initial admission to U.S., provide information requested by immigration officials at port-of-entry, and be fingerprinted and photographed.
2. Report all changes of address, employer or school to Department of Homeland Security within 10 days using form AR-11SR.
3. Depart the U.S. only from an officially-designated port of departure and report to a Department of
Homeland Security officer on the day of departure.
4. Respond to any notice received from the Department of Homeland Security instructing the individual to report to DHS for an in-person interview.
Male citizens or nationals of the following countries are required to comply with the Special Registration (as of December, 2003).
Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen.