Read the information in the tabs below to learn about the documents you are required to carry while traveling in and outside the U.S.  If you need a travel signature, submit the Travel Signature Pre-Approval e-form in UA International.

Outside the U.S.

Enrolled Students

If you have been maintaining your status, you are allowed to leave and reenter the United States for a temporary absence of less than 5 months (for example: summer vacation).

To reenter the U.S., you must carry the following original documents:

  • I-20/DS-2019: You must have a valid travel signature from International Student Services on your I-20/DS-2019 (if your DS-2019 was not issued by the UA, please contact Joanne Lagasse-Long or Marie Willard if you plan to travel). Travel signatures are valid for 1 year from the date signed. ISS recommends that your travel signature should not be more than 6 months old when you reenter through a land port of entry. You do not need to request a new travel signature for each entry to the U.S., as long as the current signature is still valid.

  • Passport: Your passport must be valid 6 months into the future from the date of your entry into the U.S. Exceptions apply for students from countries with agreement with the U.S. allowing entry with a passport until the date of expiration.

  • Visa: You must have a valid visa to reenter the U.S. If you are from Bermuda or Canada, you are not required to apply for a visa but you still must carry your I-20/DS2019 with valid travel signature. If your visa has expired, you must renew it while you are outside the U.S. Visit the U.S. Department of State website to find the nearest consulate or embassy in the country and learn about application requirements. If your visa has expired and you are traveling to Canada, Mexico or an adjacent island for less than 30 days, you may be eligible for automatic visa revalidation. Meet with an international student advisor to discuss your specific situation.

Students on Post-Completion OPT and STEM OPT Extension

Since you are still in F-1 status while you are on OPT, you must carry the documents listed above in order to reenter the U.S. Travel signatures are only valid for 6 months while you are on post-completion OPT.  To request a travel signature and updated I-20 with your employment information printed on page 2, submit the OPT Reporting e-form in UA International. Normal processing is 5 business days.

You should carry the following additional documents:

  • EAD: On the bottom of the EAD card it says “not valid for reentry to the U.S.” This statement means that the EAD card alone is not sufficient documentation for entry to the U.S.  Present your EAD card in combination with the documents listed above.
  • Employer Letter (recommended): The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) recommends that you carry a letter of employment if you have one (read Can I reenter if I left while on OPT?). There is no specific template for the employer letter.

If your application for post-completion OPT is pending and your I-20 end date has passed, it can be risky to leave and reenter the U.S.  Read Can I reenter if my request for OPT is pending? If you must travel, meet with an international student advisor to discuss your specific situation.

Request Travel Signature Pre-Approval

  1. Submit the Travel Signature Pre-Approval e-form in UA International.

  2. ISS will review your eligibility for a travel signature. If you are eligible, you will receive an email from to notify you. Normal processing time is 5 business days.  Do not bring your I-20 or DS-2019 to ISS until you receive the email notifying you that you have been pre-approved.

  3. Bring or mail your I-20 or DS-2019 to ISS within 5 business days of receiving the approval email for an on-the-spot travel signature. If you do not bring or mail your I-20 or DS-2019 to ISS during the approval period, then you will no longer be considered “pre-approved” and you must submit a new request for travel signature pre-approval through UA International.


U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Study in the States

U.S. Department of State 

NAFSA, Association of International Educators

Inside the U.S.

You are not required to request a travel signature if you are traveling within the U.S. (including Alaska and Hawaii), however, you must carry your original immigration documents (I-20/DS-2019, passport and I-94) at all times.  A driver’s license, state ID and CatCard do not verify your lawful immigration status within the U.S.

Form I-94

Your entry to the United States is recorded by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) as your I-94 Arrival/Departure Record. The I-94 records the date you entered the United States, your immigration status and the date your stay in the U.S. expires.

If you enter by air or sea, your I-94 record will be electronic. When you go through the port of entry, a CBP officer will stamp your passport. You can use the information from your passport to access your electronic I-94 record from U.S. Customs and Border Protection website.  If you are unable to access your I-94, please contact International Student Services for assistance.

If you enter by land (or if you entered by air or sea prior to May 2013), CBP will stamp your passport and issue a paper Form I-94 in your passport.

Every time you leave and reenter the U.S., you will be issued a new I-94 number (if you are returning to the U.S. through a land port of entry from a trip of less than 30 days you may keep the same I-94). Your travel history in and out of the U.S. is also available through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website.

Duration of Status (“D/S”)

When you or your F-2/J-2 dependents enter the U.S. you will normally be admitted with duration of status (“D/S”) for the “admit until date.” This means that you can remain in the U.S. as long as you are maintaining your immigration status and your I-20 or DS-2019 has not expired.

If you are only granted temporary entry to the U.S. for 30 days (I-515A) instead of duration of status, you must meet with an international student advisor at ISS as soon as possible.

Requirement to Carry Proof of Admission

You are required to carry evidence of your admission (entry) to the U.S. at all times. You can carry your passport with admission stamp, a print out of your electronic I-94, or your paper I-94 to satisfy this requirement. 

Form I-515A

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers make the final decision to allow or deny your entry to the United States. If you are not carrying the correct, original documents at the Port of Entry or if you did not pay the SEVIS I-901 fee when you received your initial I-20, you may be denied entry or only granted temporary entry for 30-days (Form I-515A).

If you receive a Form I-515A, you must contact International Student Services (ISS) to meet with an international student advisor as soon as possible.  You will have 30 days from the date you entered the U.S. to send the required documents to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) to satisfy the Form I-515A.  If you fail to respond in a timely manner, your SEVIS record may be terminated.

Read more at Study in the States: What is Form I-515A?