The procedures for travel and successful re-enter into the United States will vary depending on your current status, visa validity, your country of citizenship and your destination. 

Required travel documents

The following documents are required for travel and re-entry to the U.S. It is also advisable to carry these items whenever traveling within the U.S. outside of the immediate Philadelphia area.

  • An unexpired passport valid at least six months into the future
  • An unexpired I-20 or DS-2019 with a travel signature from an advisor at ISS that is less than six months old
  • An unexpired F-1 or J-1 visa stamp valid for further entries into the United States


Additional things to keep in mind:

  • After each entry to the U.S., go to the USCIS website to print your I-94 form. The form should indicate the date of entry and grant you F-1 or J-1 status for "duration of status" (D/S). If your I-94 indicates anything other than F-1 or J-1 D/S, contact an ISS advisor immediately.
  • For F-1 students: If you are returning to the U.S. after an absence of more than 5 months, you must obtain a new I-20 prior to re-entry. Contact an ISS advisor if this applies to you.
  • Traveling outside of the U.S. after graduation is not possible. If you are an F-1 student, you are given a 60-day grace period after completing your degree, and if you are J-1 student you are given a 30-day grace period. This period of time is meant for you to make plans to leave the U.S. You can travel within the U.S., but if you leave and re-enter, you may not return as an F-1 or J-1 student.
  • Depending on where you are traveling you may need a visa to enter that country.  You should check with consulate for the country you plan to visit to find out what is required.
  • If you are traveling to a Canada, Mexico or the adjacent islands of the Caribbean, you do not need a valid  F-1 visa and you do not need to obtain a new visa stamp to reenter the United States.  This provision is called Automatic Revalidation – you should speak with an advisor at ISS to determine if you are eligible.


Be sure to meet with an ISS advisor if:

  • Your I-20 or DS-2019 has or is about to expire or if any information on the form has changed (such as your name, major, or degree level).
  • You need to pay the SEVIS fee (link to handout).   A student who has previously been enrolled would only need to pay the SEVIS fee under the following conditions:
    • When outside the U.S. for over five months
    • When you have violated the terms of your F-1 status and will travel with an "initial attendance" I-20    in order to re-gain F-1 status
    • When applying for reinstatement and have been out of status for more than 5 months
    • When applying for a change of non-immigrant status to F-1 or J-1