Travel and Re-entry in F-1 or J-1 Status

Travel Inside the U.S.

We recommend that you have your travel documents with you when you travel inside the United States. You may be asked to show your travel documents at airports, train stations and other transportation hubs. If you plan to travel south of Orange County (for example to San Diego) be prepared that when you return you may be asked for your travel documents at the Border Patrol checkpoint in San Clemente (about 25 miles south of Irvine). There are similar checkpoints in other places near the U.S.-Mexico border and U.S.-Canada border.

Travel During Winter Break 

Travel Outside of the U.S.

When making travel plans allow time to collect all necessary documents and make necessary arrangements for your re-entry to the United States. Below is information that will help you. For more information please refer to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website.

When to Complete an International Center Travel Form

A Student Travel Form or Scholar Travel Form is a request to the International Center to receive a travel signature on your visa document. It is also used to update SEVIS information about travel for J-1 students and scholars.

F-1 student status you will need to complete the Student Travel Form only when you need a new travel signature. A travel signature is valid for one year only.

F-1 on Optional Practical Training (OPT) you will need to complete the Student Travel Form only when you need a new travel signature. A travel signature is valid for six (6) months only.

J-1 scholars and Students  you must complete the Scholar Travel Form each time you travel outside the U.S. even if your travel signature is valid. This form requires you to provide information about your travel plans [location and dates of your travel]. Providing this form to our office, helps us update SEVIS information.

About the Travel Signature

The travel signature verifies that you are maintaining your student or scholar  status at UCI. The travel signature is given to you by an International Center advisor after you submit a completed Travel Form and original visa document [I-20 or DS-2019]. The travel signature alone does not verify your status you must have all travel documents valid for your re-entry into the United States. Only International Center staff members are allowed by U.S. government  to provide the signature on your visa documents (I-20 or DS-2019).

When do I submit my Travel Form for Signature?

You can drop-off and pick-up any time during International Center office hours Monday through Friday 8 am to 5pm (except holidays).

  1. Drop off:
  2. Wait 5 business days
  3. Pick up:
    • Your signed I-20 or signed DS-2019

Common Questions Regarding New Travel Signature Request (FAQ) 

Documents you will need to re-enter the U.S.

1. Passport

2. Valid Visa

3. For F-1/F-2 an I-20 signed for travel. For J-1/J-2 a DS-2019 signed for travel.

4. For F-1 and J-1 a copy of I-901 SEVIS Payment Confirmation/Receipt

5. For Students - proof of enrollment (if on OPT an EAD card and proof of employment). For scholars - proof of academic appointment/employment letter.

Applying for a U.S. Entry Visa

If your U.S. visa has expired or you have changed visa status while in the U.S. you must get a new U.S. visa before you re-enter the U.S. It is recommended that you apply for a U.S. visa in your country of permanent residence. The International Center has a list of Recommended Documents for Visa Renewal. Contact the U.S. Embassy/Consulate where you will apply for a visa for information about visa appointments, specific document requirements, and application processing times.

Administrative Processing

If you apply for a U.S. visa  be prepared for possible delays due to a administrative processing. Some visa applications require further time before a visa can be issued by the U.S. Consulate. At the time of  your visa interview you will be informed if this applies to you. Most administrative processing is completed within 60 days of the visa interview. Be prepared that processing time may vary. Please make plans accordingly and plan ahead. If you are selected for administrative processing the International Center cannot intervene or speed up the process. For additional information visith the Department of State website.

Re-entry to the United States under Automatic Visa Revalidation

For travel to Mexico, Canada, or adjacent islands* you may be able  to re-enter the U.S. if your U.S. visa is expired or if your U.S. visa category has changed. This is called "automatic visa revalidation". The U.S. visa in your passport is considered valid and in current status for you to return to the U.S.

To use automatic visa revalidation the requirements listed below must be met:

  • Valid I-94 [front and back], Do not turn it in to officials or the airline staff when you  leave the U.S.
  • Signed I-20 or DS-2019 for travel, or H-1B Approval Notice
  • Travel must be less than 30 days to Canada, Mexico, or adjacent islands
  • Have maintained and intend to maintain non-immigrant status
  • Has not applied for a new visa during trip
  • Has never had a visa cancelled under INA 222[g]
  • You are not an inadmissable as nonimmigrant under INA 212

Citizens of Cuba, Iran, Sudan or Syria  can not use "automatic visa revalidation".

* Adjacent Islands: Saint Pierre, Miquelon, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, the Windward and Leeward Islands, Trinidad, Martinique, and other British, French, and Netherlands territories or possessions in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea [Cuba is not included].

You must verify entry requirements to Mexico and Canada by contacting the Mexican Consulate or the Canadian Consulate.

Travel While on Optional Practical Training (OPT)

In addition to the requirements above  reviewing the following chart: Understanding Travel Risks While on OPT to  plan your travel.

Travel to Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands, or the Northern Mariana Islands

Travel to Puerto Rico, U.S. Virign Islands, or the Northern Mariana Island are U.S. territories that do not require entry visa. You must have a valid Form I-20 (F-1) or Form DS-2019 (J-1) and a valid I-94 Document as proof of your F-1 or J-1 status. We recommend that you also have a valid travel signature.

Entry Requirements for another Country (not the U.S.)

If you plan to visit another country you must  contact that country's consulate for information about  entry requirements for that country. Each country has specific requirements for entry that are different depending on your citizenship status and residency status. Before you make any travel plans be sure that you are informed of these requirements.  A list of foreign consular offices in the United States is available from the U.S. Department of State.

After you Return from Your Trip

After re-entering the U.S. you should access the latest I-94 document to make sure your re-entry was recorded with the correct visa status. You can access your latest I-94 document from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website. If you find there is an error, contact the International Center for assistance if correcting.


Travel Signature

Request Process


Tuesday, Wednesday,Thursday
9 - 11 a.m.
International Center

Coffee Hour

Every Friday 11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Counseling Center, Student Services I


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