If you are traveling from the U.S. to another country, you must meet the immigration requirements of the country you plan to visit, as well as the U.S. requirements to reenter the United States. This includes short trips to Mexico and Canada for which special rules may apply as noted below.
Travel Home or Abroad
To re-enter the U.S., you will need to present the following documents to the immigration service officer:
- Valid passport
- Valid visa stamp (unless exempt)
- I-20 ( F-1 students) or DS-2019 ( J-1 students) with a current Travel Validation signature. You must have a current Travel Validation on your I-20 or DS-2019. Travel Validation (also called a Travel Signature) shows that OISS have verified your immigration status and has confirmed that you are a continuing student at UCSB and are eligible to return in the F-1 or J-1 status. Travel Validation is current for 6 months . (F-1 students please note that the back of your I-20 form states that the endorsements are valid for 1 year .This has been changed to 6 months).
Traveling without a current Travel Validation signature? If you lost your signed I-20 or forgot to get a signature from OISS, you will have to go through secondary inspection on your way into the U.S. It will be up to the immigration officer to decide if you can enter the U.S. If you are allowed in, you will get a Form I-515A which allows you temporary access into the U.S. for 30 days. When you get back to UCSB, you will need to bring your Form I-515A to OISS as quickly as possible, so OISS can help you replace your I-20. If you are given a form I-515A, you MUST check in at the UCSB Office of International Students & Scholars with your Form I-515A as quickly as possible.
What is Travel Validation?
Your Certificate of Eligibility (Form I-20 or Form DS-2019, depending on your visa status) shows that you are in eligible to enter the U.S. as part of a UCSB program. U.S. Immigration officials will ask for your I-20 or DS-2019 whenever you enter the U.S.
So, if you travel out of the country for a vacation or a conference, you will be required to show your 1-20 or DS-2019 as you re-enter the U.S.. The good news is that you do not need to get a new document each time you enter the U.S
. However, you must have your existing document validated by OISS.
Once your document is validated, the validation is good for 6 months.
How Travel Validation Works
At least 2 business days before you plan to travel, drop off your I-20 or DS-2019 to the OISS office (3rd floor of the Student Resource Building). OISS staff will check your immigration record and confirm that you are still eligible to enter the U.S. You will be able to pick up your signed and validated document at the front desk after 2 business days. Easy!
If your F-1 or J-1 visa stamp has expired, you will need to obtain a new visa to reenter the US. You can apply for a visa stamp at an American Embassy/Consulate when you are abroad. A U.S. visa stamp cannot be obtained inside the U.S. To apply for a visa stamp you will need to present:
- Valid Passport
- Valid I-20 or DS-2019, with current signature on the back
- Documentation of sufficient financial support - for at least one year
- Copy of current transcripts -an unofficial copy is sufficient and can be requested from the Registrar's office via GOLD or you can print your unofficial transcript from GOLD on your own private computer.
- Letter from academic department regarding your status or progress in the program-primarily for graduate students.
The visa renewal process will be the same procedure that you followed the first time you applied for the visa. Each time you apply for a visa you must prove to the consular officer you have enough funds to continue studying, you have been a full time student, and that you plan to return to your home country after completion of your degree.
Please note that it may be difficult to obtain a visa from a consular post that is not in your home country. The application procedures and processing time for a visa may vary depending on the US Embassy/Consulate you visit. Many consular posts are taking several weeks to process visa applications, so you will need to make sure that you will have enough time in your travel plans to obtain the visa. You may want to contact the US Embassy/Consulate you intend to visit to inquire about their procedures. Then you can make your plans accordingly. Information on US Embassies and Consulates can be found at the State Department website.
Travel to Mexico and Canada
Before traveling to Canada or Mexico you should find out if you require a visa to enter those countries. See the Mexican Consulate for information on the Mexican Consulate and the Canadian Consulate for information on the Canadian Consulate.
Generally, it is not necessary to have a valid US visa for re-entry to the US if your stay in Mexico or Canada is 30 days or less. The visa is considered automatically revalidated, as long as you have a valid passport, I-20 or DS-2019 form with recent signature, the I-94 form and a visa stamp in your passport. It is absolutely essential that you have the I-94 form. Without it, you are not eligible for the automatic visa revalidation.
There are circumstances when the automatic revalidation will not apply:
- If you apply for a new visa while in Mexico or Canada, you may not re-enter the U.S. on an expired visa. You will need to remain in Mexico or Canada until your new visa is issued. If a new visa is not issued to you in Mexico or Canada, then you will have to travel to your home country and apply for a new visa there.
- If you are a citizen of Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Syria or Sudan, you may not re-enter the U.S. from Mexico or Canada on an expired U.S. visa.Generally the U.S. consulates in Mexico and Canada will not permit you to apply for a visa. Rather you may need to apply for a new visa in your home country.
Automatic Visa Revalidation is also available for travel for short tips to certain islands adjacent to the U.S. (e.g., Bermuda, The Bahamas, Jamaica). If you plan to visit one of these islands and use the automatic visa revalidation, please check first with an advisor in OISS.
If you are not sure your documents are current or have questions about traveling and reentering the US please make an appointment at OISS well in advance of when you plan to leave.