Travel Guidance for current F-1 and J-1 students
RE-ENTERING THE U.S.
(OTHER THAN FROM CANADA, MEXICO, AND THE ADJACENT ISLANDS)
Always hand-carry your documents. You will need the following items for reentry into the U.S.:
1. Valid I-20/DS-2019. with a current travel signature:
You need to get a new travel signature each year. You should also carry all previously issued I-20s/DS-2019s (including those from your previous institution, if applicable).
2. Evidence of Financial Resources:
A. Graduate Students— Depending on what your source of funding is, you should have one, or the combination, of the following documents: Princeton Re-enrollment Reply (or, if you are a first year student, Princeton Admission Reply, a letter from your department outlining support, outside fellowship or scholarship letter, bank statement, etc.
B. Undergraduate Students— Depending on what your source of funding is, you should have one, or the combination, of the following documents: Princeton Financial Award letter, outside scholarship letter, bank statement, etc.
3. Evidence of student status, such as your current transcript;
4. Passport that is valid for at least 6 months in the future.
5. Unexpired F-1/J-1 visa stamp in your passport (except for Canadian citizens).
NOTE: An F-1/J-1 visa cannot be obtained from within the United States. Often the terms "status" and "visa" are misused and misunderstood. The U.S. entry visa is the permission to enter the country. It is issued by a U.S. Embassy/Consulate abroad. The visa must only be valid for an F-1/J-1 student to enter the U.S. What defines a student's legal presence in the U.S. is the "status" conferred on him/her at the time of immigration inspection at the port of entry. Therefore, it is possible (and quite common) to be legally in the U.S. and to have an expired visa stamp in the passport.
Students with expired F-1/J-1 visas stamps need to apply for a new visa before returning to the U.S. Canadian citizens are exempt from U.S. visa requirements. Exact procedures at U.S. Embassies/Consulates vary. Information about individual Embassies/Consulates (processing times, fees, requirements, etc.) can be found at the U.S. Department of State website .
For your visa application, at the minimum, you will need:
1. Valid SEVIS I-20/DS-2019 with a current travel signature.
2. Evidence of Financial Resources (see above)
3. Evidence of student status, such as your current transcript;
4. Valid Passport
- Allow time for visa processing. Check with the U.S. Embassy/Consulate about their visa application procedures. The procedures may have changed from the last time you had applied for a visa.
- Have all the proper documentation the first time.
- It’s best to apply for the visa in your home country. You should plan for visa application processing delays if applying in another country.
- Be ready to show ties to your home country. Visa officers need to see that your intent is to return to your home country at the end of your studies. F and J visas are non-immigrant visas.
- Be prepared for delays due to security clearance processing by the Department of State. If you are in a scientific field, you may want to consult the DOS website. If subject to a security clearance, visas issuance may be delayed indefinitely. Please consult with your international student advisor about additional documentation you may need to take with you.
TRAVEL TO CANADA, MEXICO, AND THE ADJACENT ISLANDS (EXCEPT CUBA)
Most F-1/J-1 students traveling to Canada, Mexico and to islands adjacent to the United States for a visit of 30 days or less do not need to obtain a new entry visa to re-enter the U.S. This process is known as Automatic Visa Revalidation (AVR). NOTE: Students from Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Sudan, are NOT eligible for AVR and require a valid visa stamp with each re-entry into the U.S..
To qualify for AVR, you must:
- Currently be in F-1/J-1 student status.
- Have been in lawful immigration status while in the U.S.
- Have been in Canada, Mexico, or the Adjacent Islands for 30 days or less.
- If you still have the the I-94 paper card, you should NOT surrender the I-94 when leaving the U.S. for a trip to Canada, Mexico, and the Adjacent Islands.
- Present a current I-20/DS-2019 with a valid travel signature.
- Present an unexpired passport with a U.S. nonimmigrant visa stamp (valid or expired).
For a list of islands adjacent to the United States, please visit the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) website.
IMPORTANT! If you apply for a visa at a U.S. Embassy/ Consulate while in Canada, Mexico or an adjacent island, you must wait until the visa is granted to be readmitted to the U.S. If the visa is not granted, you will not be able to take advantage of the AVR and you will not be readmitted to the U.S. from Canada, Mexico or the adjacent islands until you have secured a new visa.
IMPORTANT! Be sure to check whether you an entry visa to travel to one of these countries. Also make sure to check if you need a transit visa if you will be stopping in one of these countries for airline transit purposes only.
Canadian citizens are exempt from visa requirements, but are required to present a valid passport, valid I-20/DS-2019 with a current travel signature and financial documentation. Canadian landed immigrants are NOT exempt from visa requirements.
The US-VISIT program is a US Department of Homeland Security immigration and border system that involves the collections of biometrics - digital fingerprints and a photograph - from international travelers, including F-1 students, at U.S. visa-issuing posts and ports of entry. More information about the US VISIT program procedure can be found at the DHS website.
F-1 STUDENTS ON OPT AND J-1 STUDENTS ON AT
F-1 students on Optional Practical Training (OPT) and J-1 students on Academic Training (AT) who have unexpired visa stamps in their passports need only get a new travel signature on the I-20 or DS-2019 documents prior to travel. For F-1 students, travel signatures should be no older than 6 months from the date you intend to travel while on OPT. You should also carry a letter from your employer showing that you are reentering the U.S. to resume employment. You will need the following documents to re-enter the U.S.:
- Valid I-20/DS-2019 with a travel signature.
- Valid F-1/J-1 visa (except for travels to Canada, Mexico, and the Adjacent Islands. Please see above for more information).
- Proof of work authorization (EAD: Employment Authorization Document for F-1 students or an Academic Training letter issued by the Davis International Center for J-1 students).
- Employer letter stating the job title, job description, beginning/end dates, and salary.
If you arrive at the U.S. port of entry without all of your required documents or with unsigned I-20/DS-2019, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer may deny your entry into the U.S. As an alternative, the officer has discretion to issue your a Form I-515A, which allows you temporary entry into the U.S. for 30 days. Receiving a Form I-515A is not good, but it is better than having to travel back home. It is serious and can become a real problem if you do not pay attention. The CBP officer who issue your a Form I-515A may tell you what documents, signatures or information are missing or incomplete. The form is a checklist that describes exactly what is missing or incomplete and tells you what you must do. You have 30 days from the date of entry into the U.S. to submit your correct paperwork to the SEVP I-515A processing team. If you receive this form, report to the Davis IC immediately so that we can process your documentation and mail it to SEVP in Washington, D.C. SEVP will process your documents and return them to Davis IC.
To avoid getting the I-515A, make sure to hand-carry the required paperwork when you arrive at the U.S. port of entry. Do not put them in your checked baggage because you will not receive your bagage until you are admitted into the U.S. by a port of entry officer.
TRAVEL TO A THIRD COUNTRY
Before you travel into any country other than your home country, you must check with an embassy/consulate of the country you plan to visit to inquire about specific visa and entry procedures. Be sure to check whether you will need a transit visa if you will be stopping in another country for airline transit purposes.
YOU DIDN'T HAND IN YOUR I-94 WHEN YOU LEFT THE U.S.?
If you returned home with your paper I-94 Arrival-Departure card (small white card stampled into your passport), it is possible that your departure from the U.S. was not recorded properly. For more information on how to handle this, please consult the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website.
1. You no longer have a paper I-94 form because you re-entered the U.S. after April 2013;
2. You still have a paper I-94 card but you travelled to Canada, Mexico or the Adjacent Islands.
If you have an emergency and need immediate assistance outside of regular office hours (Monday through Friday, 9 am –5 pm), please call Public Safety at (609) 258-3134.