Travel Outside the U.S.

COVID 19 Travel Information


When traveling outside the United States, you need to have in your possession the proper documents to re-enter the U.S., if you plan on returning to KU to resume studies. These documents differ depending on your current immigration status.

F-1 & J-1 students: Documents Needed to Re-enter the U.S.

REQUIRED (OPT students see below) RECOMMENDED
I-20 or DS-2019
Travel Signature on I-20/DS-2019
Proof of Finances

Proof of Full-Time Enrollment
All Old I-20s or DS-2019s/IAP-66s
SEVIS Fee Receipt
Transit Visas
Any documentation needed to
apply for a visa, if applicable (see below)

Details About Documents Needed

Passport:  Generally, the passport must be valid at least 6 months into the future from the date of entry into the U.S. at the time of entry.

Visa:  You must have a valid visa for the appropriate category (F-1, J-1, etc.) at the time of entry to the U.S.  If your visa has expired or is for a different category, you will need to apply for a new visa.  A visa cannot be obtained from within the U.S.  See Applying for a New Visa section below.

I-20 or DS-2019: Your I-20/DS-2019 should be valid and all information such as major, program level, financial source and expiration date is current.

Travel Signature:  Travel signatures are typically valid for one year from the date of signature, but we recommend obtaining a new signature every semester you plan to travel. To request a travel signature, drop off your I-20 or DS-2019 at ISS or log into iHawk and complete the “COVID-19 Travel Signature I-20/DS-2019 Request” under “F-1 Student Services” or “J-1 Student Services”. Documents dropped off at ISS are typically ready for pick up in 2 business days. (If dropped off Friday, it can be picked up Tuesday). Travel signature requests submitted in iHawk are typically processed in 5 business days and issued via the delivery method selected on the e-form. If KU is not your J-1 program sponsor (listed in #2 of DS‑2019), you will need to mail it to your sponsor (e.g. IIE, Fulbright, LASPAU, ACTR) to get a travel signature.

Proof of Finances:   This is required by law; although it is rarely requested.

Proof of Full-Time Enrollment:  

Transcript. Order from the Registrar’s officeThis is an official record of your academic record listing all classes taken, grades received and future enrollment. It also includes the number of transfer credit hours accepted by KU, your degree level and major. Usually required for visa applications. Usually required for visa applications (fees vary from $12.00-$50.00). 

Enrollment Certification. Order onlineThe document does not show classes taken but indicates if you were full time or part time each semester.  You can request the following information to be included:  Term GPA, Cumulative GPA, Number of Credit Hours, if in Good Academic Standing and Anticipated Date of Graduation (fees vary from FREE to $20.00). 

SEVIS Fee Receipt: Most of the time the SEVIS database will accurately have a record of SEVIS fee payment; however, it is recommended you carry a copy of your receipt as verification of payment in the rare circumstance that it is not in SEVIS.  This may be more important for people trying to regain legal status with a new I-20/DS-2019 or individuals changing their status to F-1 or J-1 through travel. SEVIS fee website.

Transit Visas: If you are passing through other countries, contact the Embassy of those countries to verify if you need a transit visa.


If traveling with you or separately, they need a valid passport, visa and I-20 or DS-2019 with current travel signature.

Students on Post-Completion OPT (including STEM extension)

Travel out of the U.S. while waiting for OPT approval is not advised unless you have a job offer and you have a way of getting the EAD should the OPT be approved while you are overseas.  

If the OPT is Pending

OPT Receipt
F-1 visa
I-20 with a recent travel signature

Once OPT is Approved

OPT EAD (Employment Authorization Document)
Proof of Employment (i.e. job offer or recent paycheck stub)
F-1 Visa
I-20 with a travel signature within the last six months

  • If your F-1 visa has expired you will need to apply for a new one while abroad if you plan to return to the U.S. to continue with OPT.  It is sometimes more difficult to obtain an F-1 student visa while on OPT since you have already completed your degree and you are only returning to work.  In addition, all new visas require a security check that could take time.  Please carefully consider these risks before traveling outside the U.S.
  • If traveling to Canada, Mexico or adjacent (Caribbean) islands for less than 30-days, automatic revalidation may be a possibility and a need for a new visa may not apply. 


Additional Resources

Applying for a New Visa (Visa Renewal)

 Important: Visit Appropriate U.S. Embassy/Consulate Website

Find the specific procedures and documents required for the individual office where you will apply at the US Embassies website. Often additional, specific documents are required. For example, you may need: Official transcript, CV, copies of publications, detailed descriptions of research, etc.

Where to Apply for U.S. Visa

A visa cannot be obtained from within the U.S. You may apply at any U.S. embassy or consulate office that issues visas; however, for best results it is highly recommended you apply in your home country. If you apply at a location outside your home country, you need to first confirm the office will accept applications from third country nationals (a person who is not a citizen or resident of that country).

Timing Considerations

Please take careful consideration before deciding to travel if you will need a new visa. All visa applications require a security check that could delay the application. If you decide to travel, we suggest applying for a visa as soon as possible after arriving at your destination.  

Helpful Visa Application Websites

F-1 Student Visa

University Student Exchange Visitor Visa (J-1)

Online U.S. Visa Application (DS-160)  

Visa Wait Times by Consular Office

Visa Reciprocity Fee and Validity Table

Verify New Visa for Accuracy

If you get a new visa, be sure to verify you were given the correct category (e.g. F-1 or J-1) and that your name matches your passport exactly (including spelling and spacing) while at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  Mistakes not noticed immediately may require another application for another visa with fee.

Travel to Canada/Mexico/Caribbean with Expired U.S. Visa 

If you are traveling to Canada, Mexico or an adjacent Caribbean island for 30 days or less, you might be able to re-enter the U.S. with an expired visa.  Read “Travel to Canada, Mexico, Caribbean” or pick up the handout in ISS titled “Automatic Extension of Visa Validity.”

Departure and Arrival In The U.S. Processes

Departing the US

If traveling on a major international airline, your departure is automatically recorded electronically. 

Electronic I-94 Record

As of May 2013, Customs and Border Protection issues electronic I-94s. These may be printed upon entry by entering your passport information at the official website. This printout is proof of your legal status and should be in your possession at all times.

I-94 Not Found Electronically 

If the database is unable to find your I-94, the entry stamp in your passport is also proof of legal status and should remain in your possession.  The name on your electronic I-94 info may match the way it is listed on your visa. Try entering your name as listed on both your visa and passport.  Inform ISS if the I-94 record is still not found; we will contact CBP to resolve the error. 

Arrests in the U.S.

If you have had ANY arrests while in the U.S. you should consult Legal Services for Students or a reputable immigration attorney to learn and understand what impact this could have on your visa or travels.  It doesn’t matter if you got a diversion or if you were/were not convicted.  Legal Services for Students is located in Green Hall, Room 212.  Phone: 785-864-5665.

Problems? Contact ISS

International Support Services

1450 Jayhawk Blvd (Strong Hall) Rm 2

Lawrence, KS 66045-7535


Phone: (785) 864-3617 (8am-5pm CT)

Fax:  785.864.5244


Emergencies After Hours: (785) 380-8937

Immigration Advising Hours

Virtual Remote Advising

Monday, Wednesday, Friday 1:30pm to 4:00pm. These virtual zoom sessions are only for questions that will take 15 minutes or less.

>>Virtual Drop-in Request

Walk-In (In-person) Advising

Tuesday, Thursday 1:30pm to 4:00pm.

Schedule an Appointment

Call 785-864-3617 to set up an appointment for all processes (except a reduced course load with approval on an electronic I-20).


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