Know Before You Travel
What should I consider when I travel abroad?
- Contact your country's consulate to determine what travel precautions they suggest
- View travel advisories issued by the Department of State
- Speak to an advisor in ISSS if you have any concerns about your status or travel plans
By Visa Type
For F-1 and J-1 Students
What documents do I need to take with me when I travel?
- Valid passport
- Valid visa
- Valid I-20/DS-2019 signed for travel by an international student advisor within the last year
- Proof of financial support
Examples include: Personal bank statement, Research Assistant/Teaching Assistant verification letter that includes salary and tuition payment details, or sponsor’s letter and bank statement
- Proof of full-time enrollment
- SEVIS fee receipt
- Form I-94
If you are traveling outside of the United States for longer than 30 days during the fall or spring semester, Department of State regulations specify that you must provide ISSS with a letter from your department stating where you will be, and how it connects with your current J-1 program. Examples include returning to your home country for 6 weeks to engage in research that you will use for your program at UT, or doing the same in another foreign country. Please make an appointment with ISSS anytime you are planning on traveling outside of the United States for longer than 30 days during the fall or spring semester.
Note that J-2 dependents should not reside in the United States without the J-1 primary for longer than 30 days.
For F-1 Students on OPT
What documents do I need?
- Original I-20 with OPT recommendation. The travel signature/endorsement is valid for 6 months from the date of signature while you are on OPT. This is different from when you were an enrolled student and the travel signature was valid for 12 months. (Note: If you are not in the Austin area and need a new travel signature or I-20, you can place an order in Texas Global to have your new document sent to you via express mail. Be aware that this will require yout o pay the express postage fee. If you would prefer we send your I-20 via airmail free of charge, reach out to email@example.com and provide your address to request a new I-20.)
- Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) from USCIS
- Offer of Employment Letter from your employer that includes the dates of your employment, a description of your duties, your salary, location where you will be working, and number of hours of work per week. You should also be prepared to discuss how this job experience relates to your major field of study. If your employer is sponsoring you for a work visa, this information should not be included in your letter for travel while on OPT. Any mention of plans to change visa statuses could be interpreted as a misrepresentation of your intentions in the U.S. by a Port of Entry Officer. A volunteer position letter is acceptable.
- Valid F-1 visa Do not use other types of US visas (i.e. tourist visa or visa waiver) if you plan to use OPT upon your return to the U.S.
- Valid passport
- SEVIS Fee Receipt
For J-1 Scholars & Researchers
Travel Within The United States
Every time you leave your Austin home, you should carry copies of your passport biographical and expiration pages, DS-2019, and I-94 record. If you are traveling outside of Austin, you should take your passport original, DS-2019, and I-94 record. Due to the proximity of the U.S.-Mexico border, you may be required to show proof of legal immigration status if you travel in south or west Texas, so be certain to bring your original documents even if you do not plan to cross the border.
Travel outside of the United States
To enter the United States after a temporary trip abroad you will need your:
- Passport (valid for 6 months or longer upon entry)
- Valid J-1 visa (Canadian J-1 Exchange Visitors are exempt from the visa requirement.)
- DS-2019 signed for travel within the last 12 months
If you are traveling to a country that is not your country of citizenship, please consult that country’s consulate to determine if you require an entry visa.
It is also important to consult the Texas Global Risk & Safety website for current travel restrictions and potential safety concerns.
If you are traveling outside of the United States for longer than 30 days, Department of State regulations specify that you must provide ISSS with a letter from your department stating where you will be, and how it connects with your current J-1 program. Examples include returning to your home country for 6 weeks to engage in research that you will use for your program at UT, or doing the same in another foreign country. Please make an appointment with ISSS anytime you are planning on traveling outside of the United States.
For H-1B Employees
While traveling in H-1B status, it is important to carry your original I-797 H-1B Approval Notice, valid passport, valid H-1B visa and current proof of your employment.
Please note that being in valid H-1B status is not the same as having a valid H-1B visa. H-1B status holders will need to apply for an H-1B visa to re-enter the country after international travel.
For information on obtaining a visa, visit the website of the U.S. Consulate in your home country, found at usembassy.org and review our Prepare for Your H-1B Visa Interview page. International travel plans should account for potential delays while obtaining the visa at the U.S. Consulate.
If you would like to check out your original I-797 H-1B Approval Notice for travel or if you have further questions about traveling or applying for a visa, please schedule an appointment for Faculty and Scholar Advising.
General Travel Questions
Do I need to review my visa if I travel abroad?
If your nonimmigrant visa stamp has expired, you will have to apply for a new visa to re-enter the U.S. unless you will be using Automatic Visa Revalidation (see below).
Visit the Applying for a U.S. Visa page for more information about applying for an F-1 or J-1 visa.
What if I travel to Mexico, Canada or the Caribbean?
If you plan to travel to a country that is contiguous* to the U.S. (but NOT Cuba) and you intend to stay there less than 30 days and will NOT apply for a new U.S. visa, you may reenter the U.S. on an expired visa stamp (this regulation is known as Automatic Visa Revalidation).
When traveling to a contiguous country, you keep the same I-94 number with you upon exiting the U.S. Tell the immigration official at the port of exit (border) that you intend to stay outside the U.S. for less than 30 days and that your U.S. visa is expired. Make sure to have your I-20 or DS-2019 signed by an immigration advisor at ISSS before you travel and present that document along with your valid passport, form I-94, and expired visa to reenter the U.S. Reentry into the United States through Automatic Visa Revalidation is not guaranteed.
If you are staying for more than 30 days or planning to apply for a U.S. visa while in Mexico or Canada, please talk to an international student advisor at ISSS before you make arrangements. In general, ISSS does not recommend that third-country nationals apply for a U.S. visa in Mexico or Canada because of lengthy delays due to background/security checks and complications in case of visa denial. If your visa application is denied, you would need to depart directly to your home country to apply for a new visa to reenter the U.S. You may not use Automatic Visa Revalidation if you applied for a visa while abroad.
Note: Citizens of Iran, Syria, Sudan, and those from a State Sponsor of Terrorism designated country as listed by the U.S. Department of State will not be allowed to reenter the U.S. with an expired U.S. visa stamp, even if the trip is to a contiguous country.
* Saint Pierre, Miquelon, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, The Windward and Leeward Islands, Trinidad, Martinique, or other British, French or Netherlands territories or possessions in, or bordering, the Caribbean Sea.
Do I need a visa to enter Mexico or Canada?
If you are on a student visa traveling to Mexico, Canada or any country that is not your country of citizenship, you may need a visa to enter that country. Be sure to contact the Embassy or Consulate Office of the country you are wanting to visit to find out if you will need a visa to travel to their country.
- What if I'm currently outside of Austin and need a new travel signature?