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Travel by students and scholars in non-immigrant status requires advance planning and careful attention to details. The most important thing is to make certain you have all the required documents with your passport (not packed in your suitcase) when you arrive back in the U.S. Check with the Visa & Immigration Services Administrative (VISA) office before you leave if you have any questions, particularly if you need to apply for a new visa.
All international students, scholars and family members planning to depart temporarily from the U.S. must have:
- a valid passport in order to exit and re-enter the U.S. The passport must also be valid for a minimum of six months into the future at the time of re-entry to the U.S. There are a few exceptions to this passport rule outlined on the Department of State website.
- a valid U.S. visa to re-enter the U.S.
Please check your documents well in advance of your trip and if you need a new visa go to the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulate website to find instructions about making an appointment, required documents, etc. Some individuals will be subject to lengthy screenings (referred to as administrative processing) which can delay the issuance of the new visa by weeks.
You are advised to carry your passport and immigration documents (your I-20, DS-2019 or I-797 form) with you when traveling in the U.S. The documents will be required for a flight but could also be requested on trips where you are traveling by car, train or bus. For more information about the documentation required for air travel consult the guidelines of the Transportation Security Administration.
While it is extremely unlikely you would be questioned, having these documents with you provides immediate proof of your lawful status in the U.S. The Visa & Immigration Services Administration (VISA) office can verify this information by phone should that ever be necessary.
All International students, scholars, staff and family members planning to depart temporarily from the U.S. must have the following documents specific to their immigration status:
For citizens of some countries, you may need a visa to travel to Canada, Mexico or the adjacent islands. Please check the sites below for the information. If your stay exceeds 30 days, you must have a valid US visa to return to the U.S.
- Countries whose citizens require visas in order to enter Canada and Visa exempt countries
- Visas to Mexico
- Links to find other embassies
Automatic Revalidation of Visa
The U.S. Department of State provision for "automatic revalidation of visa" allows certain non-immigrants to re-enter the U.S. after a visit of less than 30 days to "contiguous territory" (Canada, Mexico, and, in the case of F and J non-immigrants, the "adjacent islands other than Cuba") without having to obtain a new visa prior to re-entry.
Persons in F and J who are maintaining lawful nonimmigrant status in the United States, and who travel to Canada, Mexico or the contiguous islands, for 30 days or less, can re-enter with the Form I-94, a valid passport, and a current copy of the form I-20 or DS-2019, plus a previously-issued visa (which could be expired, or even in a different category than the I-94 if a change of status has been approved in the U.S.). Persons in H-1 or O-1 status are also eligible to use the automatic revalidation for trips of less than 30 days to Canada or Mexico, as long as they have a valid I-94, passport and an USCIS issued I-797 Approval Notice.
Automatic revalidation of visa does NOT apply if:
- You apply for a new U.S. visa in Canada, Mexico or the adjacent islands. This means if you apply for a new visa you must wait until that visa is issued to return to the U.S.
- You travel to any other country before returning to the U.S. from Canada or Mexico
- You are a citizen of Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, North Korea, and Cuba
As this is a rather complicated provision, it is best to talk with a VISA office Immigration Partner before you travel to see if you can use this benefit.