Travel and Visa



Travel Signature

Travel to Canada

I-94 Arrival/Departure Record

USICE FAQ for Travel




Reentry Into the U.S.

Be prepared to present the following items at the port of entry into the U.S.:

I-20 (F-1 Students) With Valid Travel Signature
Your I-20 must be signed by an adviser in International Student Services (ISS) (not an academic adviser, not a professor, not the registrar) before you leave the U.S. All students are required to obtain a travel signature that allows you to return to the U.S.  This signature will be valid for one year (12 months) and can be used for multiple entries.  If you are on OPT, you must obtain a travel signature every 6 months. To obtain a travel signature, submit your I-20 to ISA.  We require 1 business day to process the travel signature so please plan ahead before you travel. Carry all I-20s you have ever been issued, not just the most recent one.

Valid Passport
Your passport must be valid for at least six months when seeking admission or readmission to the United States, unless your country has an agreement with the United States. For a list of countries under this agreement, see the list on the Immigration Customs Enforcement website. Your passport should remain valid throughout your stay in the U.S.

Valid U.S. Visa
You must present a valid, unexpired visa in the category for which admission is being sought each time you enter the U.S. (Canadian citizens are exempt from the visa requirement; however, landed immigrants of Canada are generally required to obtain a visa.) If your visa expires while you are in the U.S., the next time you travel abroad you must obtain a new visa in the proper category in order to be readmitted to the United States. Apply for the visa in your home country, unless circumstances or travel plans make this impossible. If you apply for a visa at a U.S. consulate in another country, your application may be reviewed more critically than if you applied at home. In-person interviews are required for most visa applicants. You are encouraged to contact the U.S. consulate as early as possible to schedule the visa interview appointment. Anticipate delays in visa issuance due to enhanced security reviews.

An exception to the rule requiring a valid, unexpired visa exists for students in F-1 and J-1 status who travel for less than 30 days solely to Canada or Mexico or islands in the Caribbean except Cuba. Your visa will be considered to be "extended" (and "converted" to the proper visa category if you had changed status while in the U.S.) to the date of re-entry, eliminating the need to obtain a new visa at a U.S. consulate before that particular re-entry. This procedure is known as "automatic visa revalidation." Note that if you apply for a new visa while in Canada, Mexico and islands in the Caribbean, you will not be able to return to the U.S. unless the visa is granted. Also, citizens of Iran, Syria, and Sudan are not eligible for automatic visa revalidation.

Financial Evidence
You must carry evidence detailing the source and amount of your funding. Consular and immigration officers exercise considerable discretion in determining whether your financial support is sufficient to cover all academic and living expenses.

Current Class Schedule
You can print your current class schedule from your SBU portal.

New Students for initial entry: bring a copy of proof of admission to the SBU.

 SEVIS I-901 Fee Receipt
If you cannot find your SEVIS fee receipt, visit the Student and Exchange Visitor Program SEVIS I-901 fee processing website to request a copy of your receipt. Students with I-20s issued prior to September 1, 2004, did not pay the SEVIS fee.


Travel Within the United States

Federal law requires you and your dependents that you carry "registration" documentation at all times. This includes a basic identity document such as a passport, plus your current I-20 and I-94 card. If you are traveling within the U.S. you should carry these documents with you. If you are traveling by air, train, bus, or ship, you may be required to produce these documents before boarding. Keep photocopies of all your documents in a separate location, in the event your documents are lost or stolen.


Entry Into Another Country

Before you leave the United States, contact the consulate of the country to be visited to inquire about visa and travel procedures. If you plan to visit Canada, contact the Canadian Consulate in Los Angeles to determine if you need a visa to enter Canada.


Travel After Completion of Studies

F-1 students: 
If you do not apply for OPT, you have a 60-day grace period after the last day of your final quarter. Once you leave the U.S. (including short trips to Canada and Mexico) after completing your studies, you cannot reenter the U.S. with your current I-20. The grace period is for travel within the U.S. and preparation for departure.

SBU does not provide J1:
This information is reserved for future use.  J-1 students: If you do not apply for Academic Training, you have a 30-day grace period after the last day of your final quarter. Once you leave the U.S. (including short trips to Canada and Mexico) after completing your studies you cannot reenter the U.S. with your current DS-2019. The grace period is meant for travel within the U.S. and preparation for departure.


Travel and OPT

Before graduation, if your post-completion OPT application is pending, you may travel and reenter the U.S.

After graduation, if your post-completion OPT has been approved and your EAD issued, you may not reenter the U.S. unless you have evidence of employment. You should carry the following documents with you:

  • I-20 signed for travel by an international student adviser within the last 6 months
  • EAD card
  • Valid passport
  • Unexpired F-1 visa (unless returning from a short trip to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean)
  • Evidence of employment in your field of study (letter of employment, written job offer)


Travel Signature Requirement

You should get a travel signature from an ISA prior to international travel!

  • You must have a valid travel signature on your I-20 or DS-2019 to return to the U.S. after travel abroad.
  • Each signature is valid for one year. (F1 students on OPT: the travel signature is valid for six months).
  • A travel signature is issued by an International Student Advisor (ISA) to confirm you are maintaining your F1 student status.
  • The travel signature is required for returning to the U.S. It is not required for leaving the U.S.
  • If your current travel signature will expire before you will return to the U.S., you must request an updated travel signature.


How To Obtain a Travel Signature

In Anaheim and Los Angeles Areas

  • Submit your I-20 or DS-2019 to an ISA at the SBU Anaheim campus
  • An ISA requires one business day to issue a new travel signature.
  • You can pick up your signed document the next business day after 10 am.
  • If you are leaving too soon to pick up the signed document, ISA can mail the document to you.
  • Same-day travel signatures are not issued except for emergency travel.

From Outside the Anaheim and Los Angeles Areas:

  • Mail your I-20 or DS-2019 to an ISA.
  • Include a note about how you would like your I-20 or DS-2019 returned to you. ISA can pay for air mail. An air mail fee will be charged to your account.
  • If you are returning to the U.S. so soon that there is not time to mail an original I-20 or DS-2019 to you, contact an ISA.


Emergency Travel

The International Student Services (ISS) office is closed on weekends and federal holidays. If you have an emergency travel need when the ISS is closed, go ahead and depart the U.S. The travel signature is required for returning to the U.S. It is not required for leaving the U.S. You can contact an ISA when the office reopens to coordinate obtaining a travel signature.


Travel to Canada

Visiting Canada

If you plan to visit Canada you might need a visitor visa. Check the Canadian Consulate's website to see if you need a visitor visa and if so, how to apply. Plan ahead, as processing can take approximately one month or longer. Applications are accepted online or by mail.

Citizens of many countries might also be required to provide biometrics (fingerprints and photograph) when applying for a visitor visa to Canada.

You must have a valid travel signature on your current I-20 or DS-2019 before you apply for a Canadian visa.  Drop-off your I-20 or DS-2019 at the ISS office to get a travel signature. There is a one day turnaround to process the travel signature, so please plan ahead. 

Transit through Canada

You might need a visa to transit through Canada even for a short stop in flight elsewhere. Check the Canadian Consulate's website to see if you need a visa to transit Canada.


I-94 Arrival/Departure Record

  • What is an I-94 record?
  • How do I access my electronic I-94 record?
  • What if there is a mistake on my electronic I-94 record?
  • What happens to my I-94 record when I leave the country?
  • How can I get more information on I-94 records?

What is an I-94 record?

Your travel in and out of the U.S. is recorded electronically by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) through the I-94 Arrival/Departure Record. This important record lists your entry date, port of entry, and visa status in which you were admitted to the U.S. The I-94 record may be required as proof of status for F-1 benefits applications, employment verification, and other official purposes.

When you travel through an air or sea port into the U.S. usually you will receive an F-1 stamp in your passport. You can use the information in this stamp to access and print your electronic I-94 record. Students who come through a border crossing will still receive a paper I-94 card. (Historically, the paper I-94 card was issued to all students and always stapled into your passport when you entered the U.S. The shift to electronic I-94 records began May 2013). If you receive a paper I-94 card, keep the card stapled into your passport at all times.

How do I access my electronic I-94 record?

After you arrive in the U.S., you should print a paper copy of your electronic I-94 card record from the Customs and Border Protection website. It's important to check that your electronic travel record is accurate and accessible. Keep the I-94 record paper copy with your other immigration documents.

What if there is a mistake on my electronic I-94 record?

Sometimes CBP officers make errors in students' electronic I-94 records. Some errors, especially those regarding visa type or date of expiration, can be harmful to your immigration status. If you see an error on your electronic I-94 record, it may be possible to have it corrected. Contact an ISA immediately if you notice an error.

What happens to my I-94 record when I leave the country?

If you have a paper I-94 card, that card will be removed from your passport when you exit the country to go overseas, but not if you exit the country to go to Canada, Mexico, or most islands in the Caribbean. A new I-94 record will be issued when you reenter the country. If you have an electronic I-94 record, your departure information will be collected by the U.S. government from airline manifests; under these circumstances, nothing will be collected from you. If you have an electronic I-94 record, but leave the U.S. by a border crossing, Customs and Border Protection recommends that you take other proof of your exit with you.

How can I get more information on I-94 records?

If you have questions about your I-94 record, or want to share an experience you’ve had with the new electronic I-94 system, please feel free to contact ISA. If you want more information regarding the electronic I-94 system, please check the CBP website.



The link below will take you to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement website of frequently asked travel questions.

Please go to USICE FAQs



We advise students to prepare for taking a cruise in the same way that you would for international travel.  Continuing students should carry:

  • your I-20, signed within one year
  • passport
  • visa
  • copy of your course schedule

Although the cruise may not have a planned stop at an international port, it may travel through international water, or it might need to make an unscheduled stop for mechanical reasons. Good preparation will ensure you are able to board the ship and return to the United States smoothly.