To re-enter the U.S. after your travels, students and VLIs in F or J visa status need these documents to re-enter the U.S.:
- valid passport
- valid F-1 or J-1 visa
- I-20 or DS-2019 with a current travel signature (i.e., must have been signed within the last 12 months)
- Unofficial transcript is recommended, but not required.
- Students on OPT must also carry their EAD (OPT card), and the I-20 must be signed for travel every 6 months.
- Students on Academic Training should carry their Academic Training Authorization letter.
- Visiting Language Instructors are recommended to carry a paycheck stub copy.
Note: This list only applies to return travel to the U.S.; you must check and see if you need a visa to enter the country (including transit visas) where you are going. Check on the website of the embassy of the country you want to visit.
Getting a Travel Signature
Travel signatures cover all return travel to the U.S. for 12 months from the signature date (i.e. you do not need to get a new signature each time you travel).
Note: Students on OPT must have their I-20 signed every 6 months.
If you encounter a problem during travel, contact CIE during our regular office hours at (540) 654-1870. Outside of regular office hours, contact the UMW Police at (540) 654-1025, and they will contact an International Student Advisor.
Automatic Visa Re-Validation
Returning from Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean Islands
You usually must have a valid visa to return to the U.S. from abroad. However, there is a special provision called Automatic Visa Revalidation that applies to some travel. If you are in F-1 or J-1 status and your visa is expired, you may still return to the U.S. from a trip to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean Islands even with an expired visa, if you meet all of these conditions:
- your passport is valid
- you have a valid I-20 or DS-2019 with a valid travel signature (if you are on OPT, the signature must be signed within the last six months)
- you have your EAD (OPT) card (F-1 students who have graduated and have applied for OPT)
- you have an expired F-1 or J-1 visa
- you only go to Canada, Mexico, and/or the Caribbean islands (except Cuba) and do not stay outside the U.S. for more than 30 days
- you do not apply for a new U.S. visa while abroad (otherwise you have to wait for it to be approved and use it to reenter)
- you keep your I-94 card or record (print this at the Customs & Border Protection website) when you depart the U.S. (i.e., don’t give it up)
- you are not a citizen of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan, North Korea, or Cuba
Visa Waiver Program
If you plan to travel internationally after your program end date, and plan to return to the U.S. after your trip, you cannot re-enter the U.S. with your DS-2019 in J-1 status or your I-20 in F-1 status since your grace period ends once you leave the U.S. To return to the U.S., you must make arrangements for a new short term tourist/visitor immigration status.
Students from some countries are eligible for the Visa Waiver Program. Before you leave the U.S.
- Register online through the online Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)
- Bring your flight itinerary for your final flight leaving the U.S. The immigration officer at the border may ask to see it.
Students not eligible for the visa waiver program must apply for a B-2 visitor visa while in the country they are visiting. You cannot apply for a visitor visa while in the U.S. You should make a visa appointment at a U.S. consulate or embassy in the country you will be visiting before you leave the U.S.