Travel Information

Special note related to COVID19: Please visit our Travel Restrictions page for further information about entry into the U.S.

Travel Inside the United States

Travel within the United States for any international student or scholar on a non-immigrant visa does not require any special documentation, letters, or travel signatures from the Office of Immigration.  However, anyone on a non-immigrant visa should be able to present proof of their legal status within the United States at any time, and Alabama state law requires that you be able to document your legal visa status.

It is recommended that for travel outside of Mobile, you take your passport and accompanying documentation (i.e. I-20 or DS-2019 and I-94). Also, it is recommended that you keep photocopies of your main passport page, visa page, I-94 record, I-20/DS-2019 and any other visa documentation with you at all times even when not traveling.

Travel Outside the United States

Travel information below is listed by visa type. Please make note of the particular advice given to your specific immigration status. If your immigration status is not listed, please contact your Immigration Coordinator for information prior to making travel arrangements.

▼   H-1B Employee Travelers

When traveling, H-1B Temporary Workers will need a valid entry visa in their passport to enter the United States. Those who changed their immigration status to H-1B since entering the United States and have not yet traveled abroad will need to apply for an H-1B visa in order to re-enter the United States. Others may have an expired H-1B visa stamp in their passport and will need to have the H-1B visa renewed.

Additionally, H-1Bs and H-4 dependents seeking to re-enter the United States must have a passport which will be valid for at least 6 months after the date you intend to return to the United States.  If your passport is expiring, you should make plans to renew or extend your passport before your travel.  Please contact your home country’s Embassy or Consulate in the U.S. for information on how to renew or extend your passport from within the U.S.

Documents Required for H-1B Travel and Re-Entry to the U.S.
If you are traveling outside the United States, you will need the following items to re-enter the U.S.:

  • Valid passport
  • Original Form I-797A (H1B Approval Notice for your current position)
  • A letter from your employer confirming current employment in the position described in the H-1B petition
  • Valid H-1B visa in your passport.  (If you do not have a valid H-1B visa in your passport, you must apply for one at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad.  Canadian citizens do not require a visa foil.)

Obtaining an H-1B Visa
Scholars who are abroad and fall under the statement(s) below must make an application with a U.S. Embassy or Consulate outside of the U.S. to obtain an H-1B visa for re-entry:

  • Will be entering the U.S. in H-1B status for the first time
  • Have changed nonimmigrant status while in the United States and have never had an H-1B visa 
  • Your current H-1B visa has expired

*Special note for Canadian citizens: You are exempt from the visa foil requirement. H-1B status will be granted at the port of entry with the I-797A Approval Notice and a copy of the H-1B Petition paperwork.

For the visa interview, you will need to present the following documentation:

  • Original Form I-797A (H-1B Approval Notice for your current position)
  • Copy of Form ETA-9035 Labor Condition Application (LCA)
  • Copy of Form I-129 (petition for H-1B submitted to USCIS on your behalf)
  • A letter from your department confirming employment and that you are expected to return to the U.S. to resume the terms of your contract
  • Original waiver or proof of fulfillment of the two-year home residency requirement (if you were previously in J-1 visa status, were subject to the two-year requirement, and received a waiver)
  • Valid passport (valid 6 months into the future)
  •  Form DS-160 

Please contact the specific U.S. Consulate or Embassy for other requirements, such as photos and fees.  Please confirm application procedures prior to your trip.  

Department of State 
Locate a U.S. Embassy or Consulate  

▼   F-1 Student Travelers

Many students travel within and outside the U.S. during holidays and breaks. We encourage travel as part of the experience of being an international student. Please read the instructions below before setting off on your adventures.

Students with valid F-1 visas may travel outside the U.S. and apply for re-entry once their trip is finished. A travel signature on the student's I-20 is required prior to exiting the U.S. Travel signatures are valid for one year. It is recommended that you only travel during official break periods, such as Summer Break and Winter Break. Travel outside the U.S. during the regular semester may present academic issues if you are not allowed to re-enter the U.S. Please speak to your Immigration Coordinator about your plans prior to travel.

My visa expired. Do I have to get it renewed if I'm not traveling outside the U.S.?

Students in F status may remain legally in the U.S. on an expired visa provided they have a valid, unexpired Form I-20. An F visa cannot be renewed inside the United States. Students must apply for an F visa at a U.S. Embassy located outside the U.S. Before re-entering the U.S., an F-1 student must provide a valid, unexpired visa at the port of entry.  Canadian citizens are not required to have a visa foil.

How do I renew my F-1 visa? 

First, verify that your name, date of birth, country of birth and citizenship listed on your Form I-20 matches what is written in your passport. If changes are needed on your I-20, submit an F-1 Student Application for I-20 Issuance form and required documents to your Immigration Coordinator two weeks before travel.

What do I need to take to my visa appointment?

  • Active Form I-20 – must be signed for travel by an Immigration Coordinator. Travel signatures are valid for one year.
  • Proof of full-time enrollment – Letter of enrollment or transcript from Office of the Registrar.
  • Proof of current financial support – financial statements, affidavit of support from sponsor, and/or scholarship letter.
  • Valid passport with a minimum of six months beyond the re-entry date to the U.S.
  • Copy of last I-94 Arrival Page.
  • Form DS-160  *Please note that applicants are now required to indicate each social media platform they have used within the past five years and list their username or handle for each platform.
  • Complete visa application packet – form, fees, and photographs, etc.

Applicants with dependents must also provide:

  • Valid passport and I-20 for each dependent
  • Additional funds are needed for each F-2 dependent, thus the amounts on financial documents will need to be higher.
  • Proof of relationship to spouse or children in English (e.g. marriage, birth certificate).
  • If dependents apply for a visa without the presence of the principal F-1 student, they need to bring copies of the student’s I-20.

What should I do before I leave the U.S.?

  • Students must identify the visa application requirements for the Embassy or Consulate where they plan to apply for a visa renewal. Visit www.usembassy.gov for more information.
  • Acquire all documents the Embassy or Consulate needs to issue a visa.
  • Make a visa appointment.
  • Reserve a flight that allows sufficient time to obtain a visa. Certain individuals may be subject to security clearances which can result in delays of 20 additional business days or more. Students should be aware of the negative effect a delay may have on completing courses when traveling in the middle of a semester.
  • Inform the Immigration Coordinator of visa renewal plans a few weeks in advance. The Immigration Coordinator will verify the student’s enrollment and endorse the Form I-20 for travel.
  • Preparation and organization is important during a visa interview. Students must be mindful that the purpose of a student visa is to study. They must also show they have reasons and plans to return to the home country.

What if I want to apply for my F-1 visa in Mexico or Canada?

Not all Embassies accept third-country visa applicants (those who are not citizens of the U.S., Mexico, or Canada) and the decision to accept applications vary throughout the year. Students must contact the preferred Embassy prior to making travel plans and ensure their application is accepted.

  • Canada and Mexico are popular locations for visa renewals and have various locations. Students may visit the ICE Travel site for locations and information on how to make an appointment. Please note that citizens of countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism are ineligible to apply at an Embassy or Consulate at a U.S. border. Students who have violated their immigration status may not be eligible to apply for a renewal at U.S. border sites.
  • Students who have applied for a visa renewal in a contiguous territory (Canada, Mexico and Caribbean Islands) and are awaiting a decision may not re-enter the U.S.. until their visa has been issued. Certain individuals may be subject to a security clearance and should expect delays of 20 business days or longer. If the visa application is denied, students cannot re-enter the United States until they obtain a new visa from the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their home country. 

*Please remember that you may be required to obtain a visa to enter Canada, Mexico, or the adjacent Caribbean islands.

 For Canadian Visas
 
For Mexican Visas

Automatic Revalidation

For visits to Canada and Mexico for less than 30 days [22 C.F.R. § 41.112(d); 8 C.F.R. § 214.1 (b) (1)], it is possible to return to the United States without having to renew an expired U.S. visa.  Those in F status also may visit a limited number of adjacent Caribbean islands under the automatic visa revalidation program.

• Information on Automatic Revalidation of Visa
 List of Adjacent Islands for those in F visa status

Note: Citizens of Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria are not eligible for automatic visa revalidation and must always have a valid U.S. visa in order to return to the United States.

*Please remember that you may be required to obtain a visa to enter Canada, Mexico, or the adjacent Caribbean islands.

Security Checks

Security checks during application for a visa are common for people studying or working in scientific fields.  They are even more common in specific countries such as China, India, Korea and Middle Eastern countries.  While these checks are usually completed within a couple of weeks, a few have taken as long as 9 months and, unfortunately, there is nothing we can do to shorten the period of time it will take.  Please plan accordingly and let your supervisor know about this possibility.

Helpful Sites

Travel FAQ

Student Visa

Study in the States

Travel on Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Traveling When OPT is Pending or Approved (Prior to Degree Completion)
If you will return to the U.S.  before you complete your degree requirements (before the end date noted in the Program of Study section on page 1 of your I-20), you may re-enter the U.S. with the following immigration travel documents:

  •  Original current, valid I-20 with a travel signature no older than one year
  • Valid F-1 visa 
  • I-94 Arrival Page
  • Valid passport
  • Transcript or letter of enrollment from the Office of the Registrar
  • Financial documentation (e.g., bank statements, assistantship letter)
  • A copy of the I-797C petition receipt notice
 

Traveling When OPT Has Been Approved (After Degree Completion)
If you will return to the U.S. after you complete your degree requirements (after the end date noted in the Program of Study section on page 1 of your I-20), you must have the following documents to re-enter the U.S.:

• Original new, valid I-20 endorsed for OPT no older than 6 months
• Your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) 
• A letter from an employer indicating a job offer in your major field of study or that you will be returning to resume your employment
 I-94 Arrival Page
• Valid passport
• Valid F-1 visa 

▼   J-1 Exchange Visitor Travelers

Many exchange visitors (students and scholars in J status) travel within and outside the U.S. during holidays and breaks. We encourage travel as part of the experience of being an exchange visitor and requirement of the J-1 category. However, all travel must be documented with the Office of Immigration prior to your departure. Please read the instructions before setting off on your adventures.

Exchange Visitors with valid J-1 visas may travel outside the U.S. and apply for re-entry once their trip is finished. A travel signature on the student's or scholar's DS-2019 is required prior to exiting the U.S. Travel signatures are valid for one year or until your program completion date. It is recommended that you only travel during official break periods, such as Summer Break and Winter Break. Travel outside the U.S. during the regular semester may present issues if you are not allowed to re-enter the U.S. Please speak to your Immigration Coordinator about your plans prior to travel.

My visa expired. Do I have to get it renewed if I'm not traveling outside the U.S.?

Exchange Visitors in J status may remain legally in the U.S. on an expired visa provided they have a valid, unexpired Form DS-2019. The J visa cannot be renewed inside the United States. Students and scholars must apply for a J visa at a U.S. Embassy located outside the U.S. Before re-entering the U.S., a J-1 student/scholar must provide a valid, unexpired visa at the port of entry.  Canadian citizens are not required to have a visa foil.

How do I renew my J-1 visa? 

First, verify that your name, date of birth, country of birth and citizenship as listed on your DS-2019 form match what is written in your passport .  If changes are needed on your DS-2019, submit a request to your Immigration Coordinator with the required documents 2 weeks before travel.

Exchange Visitors should contact the U.S. Embassy they plan to visit for detailed requirements. Below are the basic documents needed to apply for the renewal of an J-1 visa.

What do I need to take to my visa appointment?

  • Active Form DS-2019 – must be signed for travel by the Immigration Coordinator. Travel signatures are valid for one year.
  • Proof of full-time enrollment (students) – Letter of enrollment or transcript from Office of the Registrar.
  • Proof of employment (scholars) - Letter of employment from your department supervisor.
  • Proof of current financial support – financial statements, affidavit of support from sponsor,  scholarship letter, or pay stubs.
  • Valid passport with a minimum of six months beyond the re-entry date to the U.S.
  • Copy of last I-94 Arrival Page.
  • Form DS-160  *Please note that applicants are now required to indicate each social media platform they have used within the past five years and list their username or handle for each platform.
  • Complete visa application packet– form, fees, and photographs, etc.

Applicants with dependents must also provide:

  • Valid passport and DS-2019 for each dependent
  • Additional funds are needed for each J-2 dependent, thus the amounts on financial documents will need to be higher.
  • Proof of relationship to spouse or children in English (e.g. marriage, birth certificate).
  • If dependents apply for a visa without the presence of the principal J-1 exchange visitor, they need to bring copies of the student's or scholar's DS-2019.

What should I do before I leave the U.S.?

  • Exchange visitors must identify the visa application requirements for the Embassy or Consulate where they plan to apply for a visa renewal. Visit www.usembassy.gov for more information.
  • Acquire all documents the Embassy or Consulate need to issue a visa.
  • Make a visa appointment.
  • Reserve a flight that allows sufficient time to obtain a visa. Certain individuals may be subject to security clearances, which can result in delays of 20 additional business days or more. Exchange visitors should be aware of the negative effect a delay may have on completing courses or returning to employment when traveling in the middle of a semester.
  • Inform the Immigration Coordinator of visa renewal plans a few weeks in advance. The Immigration Coordinator will verify student’s enrollment or scholar's employment and endorse the DS-2019 for travel.
  • Preparation and organization is important during a visa interview. Students must be mindful that the purpose of a student visa is to study. Scholars must be mindful that the purpose of a scholar is listed on their DS-2019 and offer letter. They must also show they have reasons and plans to return to the home country.

What if I want to apply for my J-1 visa in Mexico or Canada?

Not all Embassies accept third-country visa applicants (those who are not citizens of the U.S., Mexico, or Canada) and the decision to accept applications vary throughout the year. Exchange visitors must contact the preferred Embassy prior to making travel plans and ensure their application is accepted.

  • Canada and Mexico are popular locations for visa renewals and have various locations. Exchange visitors may visit the ICE Travel site for locations and information on how to make an appointment. Please note that citizens of countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism are ineligible to apply at an Embassy or Consulate at a U.S. border. Exchange visitors who have violated their immigration status may not be eligible to apply for a renewal at U.S. border sites.
  • Exchange visitors who have applied for a visa renewal in a contiguous territory (Canada, Mexico and Caribbean Islands) and are awaiting a decision (visa has not been issued) may not re-enter the U.S.. until their visa has been issued. Certain individuals may be subject to a security clearance and should expect delays of 20 business days or longer. If the visa application is denied, exchange visitors cannot re-enter the United States until they obtain a new visa from the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their home country. 

*Please remember that you may be required to obtain a visa to enter Canada, Mexico, or the adjacent Caribbean islands.

 For Canadian Visas
 
For Mexican Visas

Automatic Revalidation

For visits to Canada and Mexico for less than 30 days [22 C.F.R. § 41.112(d); 8 C.F.R. § 214.1 (b) (1)], it is possible to return to the United States without having to renew an expired U.S. visa.  Those in J visa status may visit a limited number of adjacent Caribbean islands under the automatic visa revalidation program.

• Information on Automatic Revalidation of Visa
 List of Adjacent Islands for those in J visa status 

Note: Citizens of Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria are not eligible for automatic visa revalidation and must always have a valid U.S. visa in order to return to the United States.

*Please remember that you may be required to obtain a visa to enter Canada, Mexico, or the adjacent Caribbean islands.

Security Checks

Security checks during the application for a visa are common for people studying or working in scientific fields.  They are even more common in specific countries such as China, India, Korea and Middle Eastern countries.  While these checks are usually completed within a couple of weeks, a few have taken as long as 9 months and, unfortunately, there is nothing we can do to shorten the period of time it will take.  Please plan accordingly and let your supervisor know about this possibility.

Helpful Sites

Department of State Consular Affairs

J-1 Visa