Travel & Re-entry

Required Travel Documents

In general you must have the following documents in order to travel out of the U.S. and re-enter while you are in F or J Status, :

F-1 Students on Post-completion OPT must also have:

  • Valid EAD card
  • Proof of a job offer

Top of page

Domestic Travel

DHS regulations require that you have your valid passport with you at all times. It is also suggested that you travel with your original I-20/DS-2019.

Although this may not be practical in keeping your documents safe, we do encourage that you to have these documents with you whenever you travel off-campus and especially for air travel.

Top of page

Travel Signatures

A valid travel signature on the I-20 or DS-2019 is required for re-entry during the F or J program after travel abroad. Only authorized advisors at the I-Center can provide such signatures for students/scholars sponsored by Stanford. Student/scholars sponsored by other program sponsors such as Fulbright or LASPAU, must contact those sponsors to obtain the required travel signature.

How to get a travel signature

To get your visa document signed for travel, please bring your most recently issued I-20/DS-2019 to the I-Center:

  • F-1 & J-1 Students and their dependents will have their documents signed immediately (depending on the availability of advisors). If you are unable to come to the I-Center for a signature, please send the most recently issued I-20/DS-2019 to the I-Center's address.
  • J-1 Scholars (including Visiting Researchers) and their dependents must bring their DS-2019s for a signature.

Travel signature validity

Travel signatures are valid for one year or until the document's program end date, whichever is earlier, except F-1 students on Post-completion OPT whose travel signature is only valid for 6 months.

Students on Stanford degree programs should note that many immigration officials interpret "one year" as meaning one academic year. It is recommended that you should request a travel signature each academic year.

For F-1 students: Keep in mind that if you remain out of the U.S. for more than 5 months, you will need to request a brand new I-20 for re-entry, since the travel signature is not valid for an absence from the U.S. of more than 5 months.

Top of page


You must have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months into the future unless your home country has a passport agreement with the U.S. To see a list of countries that have this agreement (as of Nov. 1, 2006) please click here.

If your valid visa stamp is in your expired passport, you will use both your old expired passport and new passport to re-enter the U.S.

Top of page

Visa Stamp

A valid visa stamp in your passport is also required for re-entry. If your visa stamp has expired, you will need to go to a U.S. consulate or embassy ideally in your home country to apply for the new visa stamp. You may not renew your visa within the U.S.

If your valid visa stamp is in your expired passport, you will use both your old expired passport and new passport to re-enter the U.S.

Top of page


Traveling to Contiguous Territories & Adjacent Islands - Automatic Visa Revalidation

After initial entry to the U.S., if you have a single-entry or expired multiple-entry visa, you may re-enter the U.S. without obtaining a new visa under certain conditions and as long as you do not surrender your I-94 card upon departure from the US. More information can be found here.

In addition to a passport, you should have a properly endorsed I-20/DS-2019 and a valid I-94 card. However, you will not be able to re-enter the U.S. if you have a newly reissued passport which does not have any U.S. visa stamps; therefore, in this case you should carry both the expired and the new passport.

PLEASE NOTE: You may be required to have a visa from either Canada or Mexico to enter those countries. The visa you have for the U.S. does not automatically grant entry into these countries. If you are in doubt, contact the Canadian or Mexican consulates. Please allow enough time before your travel for visa processing.

Nationals of Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria are not eligible for automatic revalidation of an expired visa.

Top of page

Traveling after graduation outside the U.S. while on F-1 Post-Completion Practical Training

An F-1 student who has an unexpired EAD issued for post-completion practical training and who is otherwise admissible may return to the U.S. to resume employment after a temporary absence. The EAD must be used in combination with an I-20 endorsed for re-entry by an International Student Advisor.

  • It is not recommended that you depart the U.S. if you have a Cap Gap I-20 (expired EAD card) as you are at risk of denial at the port-of-entry into the U.S.
  • If you are outside the U.S. and you do not have a job offer at the time of re-entry, it is possible you will not be permitted to re-enter. We strongly recommend that you DO NOT travel without a valid job offer.
  • Re-entering the U.S. using a tourist visa (B-1/B-2 or the "visa waiver program") will forfeit your F-1 status, and cancel automatically your permission to work in the U.S.! Once you have been admitted on a tourist visa, you will NOT be allowed to quickly "re-gain" your F-1 status by departing and re-entering in F-1 status again.

It is NOT ADVISABLE TO LEAVE THE U.S. with a planned re-entry date that is after your graduation date if you have not yet received your EAD card. If you depart the U.S. without the EAD card, and your pending OPT application is denied within the 60 day grace period, you will NOT be permitted to re-enter in F-1 status any more, and you will forfeit your ability to re-apply for OPT!

The following items are necessary for re-entry after you have graduated and have applied for post-completion practical training:

  1. Valid passport
  2. Valid F-1 visa stamp in passport unless you are a Canadian citizen (Visa stamps may only be renewed outside of the U.S., ideally in your home country.)
  3. Original I-20 that includes:
    • the notation for post-completion practical training on page 3
    • an I-Center signature on page 3 for travel. This signature should be dated within 6 months of the date of re-entry. Once you have applied for post-completion practical training, this travel endorsement is valid for only SIX months, NOT a year. If you need a travel signature for re-entry, mail your I-20 to the I-Center. Be sure to include the address to which you would like the document mailed after it has been signed.
  4. Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
    • If you have applied for Post-Completion OPT and have graduated, do not leave the U.S. until you have received your EAD card.
      Exception– If you have applied for Post-Completion OPT and will re-enter the U.S. prior to the completion date in Section 5 of your I-20, you may re-enter without an EAD card.
  5. Evidence of a job offer in the form of a letter from your employer that states that you will be employed by that company for the period indicated on your EAD. You may also provide proof of volunteering/internship.
  6. Proof of sufficient funds in the form of a bank statement if your employment letter does not specify a salary.

Traveling after graduation while on J-1 Academic Training

If you are traveling temporarily outside the U.S. following completion of your studies, and you plan to re-enter to work under J-1 Academic Training, you will need the following items to re-enter the U.S.:

  1. Valid passport
  2. Valid DS-2019 (Note: DS-2019 must be signed for re-entry.) You may not enter the U.S. after the expiration date on page 1, section 3.
  3. Job offer letter from current or future employer.

If your current J-1 visa has expired in your passport, you must obtain a new visa before re-entering the U.S. You may only obtain the J-1 visa outside the U.S., and ideally, in your home country. You will need to have a valid DS-2019 (see the end date on page 1, section 3), a valid passport, and your Academic Training authorization letter in order to apply for a new J-1 visa.

Remember to request and obtain the authorization for Academic Training before you depart the U.S., and ideally, before you graduate. If you fail to apply for Academic Training in a timely manner, you may not be able to return in J-1 status or forfeit your ability to work under Academic Training.

NOTE: Do NOT re-enter using a tourist visa, or you will forfeit your J-1 status and your ability to work in Academic Training.

  • Your DS-2019 would have been signed for travel on the day that the Academic Training based DS-2019 was issued. That signature is valid for 12 months or up to the end date of your DS-2010 (which ever is less).
  • You are not required to have a job offer letter from the employer upon re-entry, but if you do have a copy of the letter, keep that with you in case you are asked about your employment.

Renewing Your Visa

Click here for information regarding Renewing your Visa



Top of page

© Stanford University. All Rights Reserved. Stanford, CA 94305. (650) 723-2300. Terms of Use | Copyright Complaints | Report web accessibility issue