Travel FAQs




1.    What documents need to be submitted to the IPS Office for travel signature?
Please submit your most recently issued SJSU I-20 to the IPS Office (not your department) so that IPS Staff may endorse it for travel.  If you have an “Initial Attendance” I-20, or a "Transfer pending" I-20, you will be issued a “Continued attendance at this school” I-20 that is endorsed for travel.

2.    My visa has expired.  Can I travel internationally?
You may travel internationally with an expired visa, however, if you intend to return to the US in F-1 status to resume your studies or your employment authorization, you will need to visit a US Consulate/Embassy to arrange for a new F-1 visa.  Please also see question 3 for some exceptions to requiring a new F-1 visa.

3.    What is Automatic Visa Revalidation and can I use it when I travel internationally?
The Automatic Revalidation of Visa benefit allows certain F/J non-immigrants whose visa has expired to re-enter the United States after a 30-day or less visit to a “contiguous territory” (Canada, Mexico, and the “adjacent Caribbean islands other than Cuba) without having to obtain a new visa prior to re-entry.  The student must be in status and all other documents (passport, I-20, and I-94) are valid. However, if you choose to apply for a new F-1 visa while in the contiguous territory, you will no longer be eligible for the “automatic revalidation” benefit during the course of that trip, but will have to wait until the visa is granted in order to re-enter the U.S. If the visa application is denied, you may not re-enter the U.S. You will have to return home to apply for a new F-1 visa before re-entering the U.S.

4.    What documents should I take along with me during my travel?
You should have your most recent I-20 (signed for travel), valid F-1 visa, and valid passport with you at the Port of Entry.  If you are on work authorization and travelling internationally, please see questions 9-13 for additional information.

5.    Can I travel to Hawaii or Puerto Rico?  Do I need to take my I-20, visa and passport with me?
Hawaii and Puerto Rico are part of the U.S. and are not considered international travel.  You do not need to take all of your immigration documents with you, but you should still have some form of photo identification with you.

6.    How long does it take for IPS to process my Travel I-20?
Please allow two to three business days for IPS to endorse your I-20 for travel.  We do our best to email all students as soon as their I-20 is ready for pick up.

7.    Can I travel to Mexico/Canada for the winter/spring/Thanksgiving, etc. break? What documents do I need?
Yes, you may travel anywhere you wish during school breaks.  If you are travelling internationally, please see question 4 for a list of documents that you should have with you.

8.    How often do I need to get my I-20 signed for travel while I’m still in school?
If you are still studying, the travel signature on page 3 of your I-20 is valid for one year on your return date.  If you are on Post-completion OPT or the 17-Month STEM Extension, that signature is only valid for 6 months.


9.    Do I need an additional travel I-20 in addition to my CPT authorization?
You may use your CPT I-20 as your travel I-20 if the signature on the third page is not more than a year old on the date of your return.

10.    Can I travel while my Pre-completion OPT application is pending with USCIS?
Yes, you may travel while your Pre-completion OPT application is pending with USCIS.  Please refer to question 4 regarding which documents you should have with you at the Port of Entry.

11.    Can I travel while I’m on Pre-completion OPT?
Yes, you may travel while on Pre-completion OPT.  Please refer to question 4 regarding which documents you should have with you at the Port of Entry.

12.    Can I travel while my Post-completion OPT application is pending with USCIS?
It can be risky to travel while your Post-completion OPT application is pending with USCIS, especially if you don’t yet have a Receipt Notice.  In such cases, we recommend to students that travel be made once they have received the Receipt Notice, and should also provide their valid passport, valid F-1 visa, most recent I-20, and a job offer letter (if you have one).  If you must travel before receiving the Receipt Notice, we suggest that you have a friend/relative send you a copy of the Receipt Notice so that you’ll have it with you at the Port of Entry when you return.

13.    Can I travel while authorized on Post-Completion OPT? What documents do I need?
Yes, you may travel while authorized for Post-completion OPT.  Please have the following documents with you at the Port of Entry: OPT I-20 (signed for travel within the past 6 months), valid F-1 visa, valid passport, EAD card, job offer letter (or employment verification letter).

14.    Can I travel while on Post-completion OPT and while unemployed?
It's a big risk to travel internationally if you have accrued a significant amount of unemployment days.  It is up to the Port of Entry officer’s discretion if you will be allowed to re-enter or not.  Remember, the maximum amount of unemployment days is 89.  After that, you are no longer allowed to re-enter the US.  If you are out of the US and are not on a leave of absence from your employment, then those days out of the US are considered unemployment days.

15.    If I’m on the 17-Month STEM Extension and my STEM EAD is pending but my Post-completion EAD is already expired, can I travel while my 17-Month STEM Extension application is pending with USCIS?
No.  If your Post-completion OPT has expired and you are waiting on your 17-Month STEM Extension EAD card, you should not travel.  You will have to wait until you receive the new EAD card.

16.    I’m on OPT/17-Month STEM Extension and no longer living in San Jose/Bay Area and need to submit my I-20 for travel.  What do I do?
Please send IPS your latest I-20 issued by mail to IPS Office. Include a brief note indicating that you are requesting a travel signature; date of your travel; and current employer information. Please include a pre-paid and self-addressed express mail envelope if you are in a hurry to have the I-20 returned to you. If you haven’t submitted a copy of your EAD card, please provide that too.

17.    How often do I need to get the I-20 signed for travel while on OPT?
Travel signatures for Post-completion OPT/17-Month STEM Extension I-20s are valid for only 6 months on the date of return.  If you will return to the US more than 6 months from the last travel signature, please make arrangements with IPS to get your I-20 signed.   

18.    My EAD card says “Not valid for Re-entry to U.S.”  What does this mean?
Do not be alarmed.  This means that the EAD card alone cannot be used for re-entry to the US.  It must be accompanied by your other immigration documents: F-1 visa, passport and I-20.