Travel Information for International Students

Travel Information for International Students

If you are traveling outside the US with intent to return and resume your studies or practical training please make sure that you have the following documents with you.  It’s a good idea to have a set of copies packed in a separate bag as well -- it can help you replace lost or stolen originals.  Be sure all of your originals are in your hand luggage.  DO NOT pack them in your checked luggage.

Required documents:

  • Valid Certificate of Eligibility with travel signature
    • F-1 students must have a Form I-20 issued since June 2016, with a travel signature on page 2; check your program end date (under Program of Study section in the new format) if your program is about to expire and you intend to return to complete studies, you must file for an extension prior to departure..  Also check to be sure that your major field of study is correct.  If you are a bachelor’s student and have not formally declared a major, we cannot change your major until you formally declare
    • J-1 students must have a Form DS-2019 with a travel signature on page 1
  • A current passport, valid for at least six months when you arrive back in the US
  • A valid visa for return the US in the correct status
    • Citizens of Canada do not need visa stamps to enter the U.S. in F status, but they do need a valid Canadian passport and valid I-20/DS-2019. Permanent residents/landed immigrants of Canada, are required to have visas.
  • Strongly recommended, but not absolutely required:
    • Proof of financial support to pay living expenses and tuition.
    • Contact information for the designated school official at the SEVP-certified school they attend.  SGL's main number is 509-359-2331 during regular business hours; If you are in Secondary Inspection after business hours on weekends and will be denied entry if Customs & Border Protection cannot reach an advisor, EWU Police can generally reach us within a few hours 509-359-7676.
    • I-901 fee receipt (can be retrieved at )
    • Transcripts (official is better, but unofficial is okay) and a schedule for next academic term to show that you are a serious student.

Always allow for plenty of time between arrival in the U.S. and your flight to Spokane.  4 hours or more is minimal.  Customs and Border Protection delays, especially for anyone pulled into “secondary inspection” can be lengthy.

It is also wise to have a back-up plan in case you are denied entry.  Have a friend or relative who can access your apartment or dorm, and someone with a power of attorney who can act on your behalf in the U.S. if you cannot re-enter and act for yourself.  This is particularly important for students with families and children –especially if the family is not traveling together.

Expired visas:  Please note, if applying for a visa, there is a risk of extended delays under current security protocols. 

If your visa is expired or you changed visa status while in the U.S., you must obtain a new visa prior to re-entry unless you qualify for automatic revalidation (see below). It is recommended that you apply for a visa in your country of residence whenever possible. Contact the U.S. Consulate where you will apply for a visa for information on visa appointments, document requirements and application processing times. 

We are currently recommending against trying to obtain or renew visas over short breaks.  While parts of Executive Orders 13769 and 13780 have been suspended by court orders, other provisions remain in place, such as the suspension of interview waivers for some visa renewals.  This will cause additional delays for all applications.  In addition, although it has been unusual, Consulatex have regularly initiated security checks for returning students for a variety of reasons, ranging from a common name, to travel history, to the applicant’s field of study, etc.  These checks are unpredictable, and often take six to eight weeks –occasionally they take a year.  With the increase of vetting called for in the Executive Orders, we expect more checks and for longer delays when they are initiated.  If a security check has been initiated, the consulate is required wait for an answer from Washington, DC before they can issue a visa. In this situation, no matter how long the delay has been, the Consulate and Department of State in Washington, DC will not respond to pleas by universities or student applicants.

NAFSA Association of International Educators has a helpful Travel Advisory page

Verify the information on your I-94

It is very important to check your I-94 record each time you enter.  The most important things to check are your Admit Until Date, and Class of Admission.  Some I-94's may have a date certain (expiration date) that may be close to or the same as your visa expiration date, rather than the normal "D/S" (Duration of Status). This can prompt an arrest warrant to be issued if you are here longer than 60 days after that date.  If the information on your I-94 is wrong, make an appointment with your immigration advisor as soon as possible.

Re-entry to the United States under Automatic Visa Revalidation*

For travel to only Mexico, Canada, or adjacent islands**  you may be able  to re-enter the U.S. even if your U.S. visa is  expired or if your U.S. visa category has changed. This is called "automatic visa revalidation".   To use automatic visa revalidation the requirements listed below must be met (see for additional details):

  • Valid I-94 [ printout or front and back of white paper card], Do not turn it in to officials or the airline staff when you  leave the U.S.
  • New format I-20 with valid signature for travel
  • Travel must be less than 30 days to Canada, Mexico, or adjacent islands only, if you use these destinations for transit to other countries, you are not eligible for automatic revalidation
  • Have maintained and intend to maintain non-immigrant status
  • Do not apply for a new visa during trip
  • Have never had a visa cancelled under INA 222[g]
  • You are not an inadmissible as nonimmigrant under INA 212

We recommend getting an information sheet from SGL and having a conversation prior to attempting automatic revalidation.

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

**defined as 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, but NOT Cuba


Resources for Travel & Knowing Your Rights


Important Cautions

Arrests for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI) may immediately result in a visa being “prudentially” revoked by the US Department of State with or without notice to the visa applicant.  In most cases the visa holder will be informed by the issuing Consulate, however, this isn’t happening 100% of the time, and the notice may be sent to an old email or address.

Having your visa revoked does not generally affect your status while you remain inside the U.S., but if your visa has been revoked or it has expired and you need to get a new visa, there can be serious delays.   If you have even a single arrest for a DUI (1 arrest in 5 years, or 2 arrests in any time period), you are supposed to be referred to a panel physician for evaluation of addiction/abuse (this is a very subjective process, so even one arrest can be considered “abuse”).  If the physician finds cause, the applicant become ineligible to get a visa , usually for at least 12 months,, for some applicants it takes several years to be cleared for a new visa.

Individuals who have ever been arrested for a DUI or other serious offense should consult with an immigration attorney before departing the US.

Under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, some aliens are “inadmissible” based on illegal or prohibited activity including, conviction of or admitting use or distribution of any illicit drug (including marijuana, even in states like Washington, Colorado, and Alaska where it is “legal” or outside the U.S.), conviction of 2 or more crimes in which the sentences of imprisonment add up to at least 5 years, crimes involving “moral turpitude” – that is any act that is inherently evil (fraud, larceny, intent to harm, etc.).  Never lie to an immigration agent, but be aware that if you have been convicted of, admit to, or there is evidence of you using or distributing illegal or controlled substances, or meet any of the other grounds for admissibility, you can (and likely will be) denied entry.  Never lie about your activities to a Consular officer or Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer.

At some Ports of Entry, travelers are being asked for access to electronic devices such as mobile phones and laptop computers, and for social media passwords.  The Department of Homeland Security is presently considering instituting a policy requiring visitors from certain countries to provide social media passwords in order to secure a visa to travel to the U.S.  Even without the policy requiring it, refusing to provide those passwords may lead an officer to deny entry to you. Consider what sensitive information might be on your devices and think about your social media presence in advance – what may be a joke between you and a friend may appear very serious to a CBP officer.