Travel Outside the US & Re-entry

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.

Documents Needed to Re-enter the U.S.

F-1 & J-1 Students

Required Documents

  • Passport 
  • Visa
  • I-20 or DS-2019
  • Travel Signature on I-20/DS-2019
  • Proof of Finances


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

Travel Documents

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: F-1 students have two options: 1) Leave your I-20 at ISS for 2 business days OR 2) Submit a Travel Signature I-20 Request in iHawk (which may take up to 7 days for processing). J-1 students must leave your DS-2019 at ISS for 2 business days.  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: There are two different documents. Transcripts are usually the more complete option.

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-$65.00). 

Enrollment Certification. Order online(FREE). The “Self-Service” document does not show classes taken but indicates if you were full time or part time each semester.  You can use the “Form Request” to include more information such as GPA or Good Standing (fee applies for same day processing).. 

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.

Travel out of the U.S. while waiting for the initial 12 months of post-completion 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.  Students with a pending STEM OPT extension application should NOT travel outside the U.S. if the EAD is expired.

If the Initial 12 months of Post-Completion 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.