Travel & Visa / Travel Outside the U.S.

Travel Outside the U.S.

Traveling outside the U.S. for F or J students is permissible during scheduled university breaks or periods of academic or practical training. Students returning to the U.S. from a temporary break should ensure they have the required documents to reenter the country. In addition, if you are traveling to a country other than your home country, contact the consulate or embassy of the country you are visiting to inquire about visa and entry requirements before you leave the United States. If you have any specific questions about your situation, schedule an appointment with an ISS Advisor.

General Documents Required for Travel and Re-Entry to the U.S.

  1. Passport valid for at least 6 months beyond the date of the reentry to the US
  2. Valid, unexpired F or J Visa
    Check the number of entries permitted on your F or J visa to see if your visa may be used for an additional entry into the U.S. or if you will need to apply for a new visa for reentry.
  3. Unexpired I-20 or DS-2019 with a valid travel signature (6 months or newer)
  4. I-94 Admission/Departure Record

Additional Travel Guidelines

In addition to the general documents required above, navigate below for additional travel guidelines based on your situation.


Emergency travel during the semester

International travel during the semester (not during a semester break) has potential risks. If you have an emergency that requires travel during the semester, schedule an appointment with an ISS Advisor to discuss your plans.

Travel after completion of studies

If you complete your academic program and do not apply for OPT (F-1 students) or Academic Training (J-1 students), you have a grace period after the expiration date on your I-20 or DS-2019 to prepare to depart the U.S.. F-1 students have a 60-day grace period and J-1 students have a 30-day grace period. If you plan to travel outside the U.S. during your grace period (including short trips to Canada and Mexico), you cannot reenter the U.S. with your current I-20 or DS-2019. Please keep this in mind when planning travel after completing your academic program.

Travel while OPT/STEM OPT is pending

Traveling while your OPT/STEM OPT is pending is potentially risky because you will no longer be in your academic program and you would be attempting to reenter the U.S. without an approved Employment Authorization Document (EAD).

To minimize the risk, prepare the general documents required for reentry into the U.S. above and include these additional documents:

  • Form I-797 Receipt Notice
  • Offer letter from prospective employer
Travel while employed on approved OPT/STEM OPT

Traveling while employed on approved OPT/STEM OPT is relatively low risk. Prepare the general documents required for reentry into the U.S. above and include these additional documents:

  • Unexpired Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
  • Letter from current or prospective employer
    If the international travel is for work purposes or is approved by the employer, have the employer explain this in a letter for use at the port of entry.
Travel while unemployed on approved OPT/STEM OPT

Traveling internationally while unemployed on approved OPT/STEM OPT is not encouraged especially if you are approaching the maximum allowed days of unemployment. If you are in this situation and have an emergency that requires travel outside the U.S., please schedule an appointment with an ISS Advisor before traveling.

Travel during Academic Training

If traveling internationally during Academic Training, make sure your DS-2019 shows “Amend a previous form: Academic Training Added” in the “Purpose of the Form” section and you have a valid travel signature that is 6 months or newer. In addition, prepare an employment offer letter from your employer on the official letterhead or business stationary.

Travel while SEVIS transfer is pending

After studying at Cal State Fullerton or after your OPT/STEM OPT period, you may decide to study at another school or another academic program at CSUF. If you plan to travel internationally before the start of your new program, schedule an appointment with an ISS advisor to discuss your eligibility for transfer, SEVIS transfer deadlines, travel dates, and documents required for travel.

You may be permitted to travel to Mexico, Canada or an adjacent island in Caribbean and reenter the U.S. with an expired visa if travel was less than 30 days and you have an unexpired I-20 or DS-2019 with travel signature, valid passport, and an unexpired I-94 Admission/Departure record. This process is called Automatic Revalidation.

Adjacent islands include Saint Pierre, Miquelon, The Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bermuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, The Windward and Leeward Islands, Trinidad, Martinique, and Other British, French, and Netherlands territory or possessions in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea. Travel to Cuba does not qualify for Automatic Revalidation.

You do not qualify for Automatic Revalidation if any of the following applies to you:

  • You applied for a new visa which has not yet been issued;
  • You applied for a new visa and was denied;
  • You have been outside of the United States for more than thirty days;
  • You have traveled to a country other than Canada, Mexico, or an adjacent island which is not included in the automatic revalidation provisions;
  • You are a national of a country on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list, which includes North Korea, Iran, Syria, or Sudan.

If you want to determine if you qualify for Automatic Revalidation, please schedule an appointment with an ISS Advisor before making travel plans.

Dependent spouse or child travel

In general, dependent spouses or children who hold an F-2 or J-2 visa should accompany the primary F-1/J-1 visa holder for international travel. However, if this is not possible F-2 or J-2 dependents are permitted to travel independently.

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