Travel - U.S. Departure & Re-entry
International students must have a valid travel signature on their immigration Form I-20 or DS-2019 to re-enter the United States. Immigration forms may only be signed by an approved DSO (Designated School Official) or ARO (Alternate Responsible Officer) in the SEVIS Compliance Office under the International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) of the University. At Kennesaw State, this is either the Deputy Director of SEVIS or the SEVIS Administrator (see Our Team) for contact information.
Please be advised that Academic advisors and faculty members cannot sign immigration documents.
My Travel Signature
Where is it?
- On form I-20, travel signatures appear on the middle of page 2.
- On form DS-2019, travel signatures appear at the bottom of page 1.
When Does it Expire?
- The immigration document states “Each certification signature is valid for one year.” However, we know from experience that signatures near expiration have caused problems at U.S. re-entry.
- Therefore, the SEVIS Compliance Office recommends a new (updated) travel signature if the current one will be more than 6 months old at the time you re-enter the U.S.
- For students on OPT, travel signatures are only valid for 6 months
How Do I Get Updated?
- Send an email to SEVIS@kennesaw.edu stating that you are travelling, give the dates of travel, and request a travel authorization signature on your I-20.
Important Reminders to Know
- Grace Period: If you are in a post-completion (you graduated) grace period, and you depart the
U.S for any reason, such as a cruise, the grace period automatically ends. You cannot re-enter
- 5 Month Rule: If you will be outside the U.S. more than 5 months, your I-20 will automatically
expire, regardless of the date of the travel signature. You will need a new SEVIS
fee and new I-20.
- Forgot your Immigration Form: If you arrive back in the U.S. without your I-20 or DS-2019, you will not be allowed
immediate entry. You will go to secondary inspection (a waiting area for further questioning
that can take several hours), or possibly refused entry to the U.S.
- Questions or Concerns: Please see your F-1 Admissions Advisor or a SEVIS Administrator if you have questions or concerns before traveling. Normal processing time is 2 days, except in emergency cases.
Canadians must carry a valid passport, I-20 or DS-2019 and a NEXUS card (if applicable) to enter the U.S. If you do not show your I-20 or DS-2019, you will be admitted as a tourist in the B Visa category, which does not allow study in the U.S.
Other Common Travel Questions
What is the processing time for travel signature requests?
You should expect to have your request processed in 2 business days. However, your travel request should be submitted at least two weeks before your departure in case you need to resolve issues, such as holds or balances on your account. In addition, most students tend to travel at the end of the semester, and this large number of requests might delay the time travel requests usually take to be processed.
What if I forget to request a travel signature and I’m already outside of the U.S.?
First, don’t panic. Contact International Student & Scholar Services to explain the situation. You will be required to pay the mailing fee if your I-20/DS-2019 needs to be express mailed to you.
Is it a problem if I get a travel signature and decide not to travel?No, it is not a problem. You can use the same travel authorization for a later trip.
Do I need to have my I-20/DS-2019 signed for travel if I am on OPT or Academic Training?Yes.
What is form I-94?Paper I-94 cards are no longer issued. Customs officials will stamp the passport of the traveler indicating the date of admission, visa type and authorized period of stay. Travelers who still have a paper I-94 card are advised to turn it into the airline official when checking into an international flight. To obtain the I-94 information valid for any official use, travelers can print it for free at: http://www.cbp.gov/I94.
When should I extend my passport?You are responsible for maintaining a current passport at all times. Your passport should always be valid for at least 6 months into the future. Depending on your country, you might be able to extend your passport here in the U.S. or might have to go home to do it. If you get a new passport, make sure you always travel with the new one and the old one if your valid visa is on the latter.
My F-1/J-1 visa is expired. Should I renew it?You only need to renew your visa if you are planning to re-enter the U.S. You cannot re-enter if your visa has expired. However, as long as you are maintaining status, you can stay in the U.S. with an expired visa.
I’m planning to renew my F-1/J-1 visa. Do I need to pay the SEVIS fee again?Generally you do not need to pay the SEVIS fee again for a renewal of a student visa. However, you should take your receipt from your first SEVIS payment with you to the visa interview. More information on SEVIS fee payment.
Can I go to Canada, Mexico, or one of the islands (other than Cuba) adjacent to the U.S. and come back to the country with an expired visa?Students can usually travel to these places and come back with an expired visa as long as they have a valid I-20/DS-2019, passport and I-94—there are some restrictions though. This is called Automatic Visa Revalidation If you are interested in this option, come talk to an the SEVIS Compliance Office advisor.
My visa is expired; can I go to Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands and come back to the U.S.?Yes, but you need to have been maintaining your status in the U.S. and have your I-20/DS-2019 endorsed for travel.
Where can I get information regarding applying for F-1/J-1 visas?Find more information at the State Department's Travel Site.
Where can I get information regarding foreign consular offices in the U.S.?