Travel and Re-Entry to the U.S.

Travel and Re-Entry to the U.S.

To re-enter the U.S. after a temporary absence you must carry the following documents

  • Valid and updated I-20 or DS-2019 with travel endorsement (also known as a travel signature) from ISSO staff within last year (6 months while on OPT)

Click Here To Apply For a Travel Signature 

(A signed scanned copy of your I-20 will be uploaded into your ISSOConnect.uncc.edu portal within 5 business days of submission. You will be able to print the I-20 and use it for travel purposes. All U.S. government agencies are accepting e-signed I-20s.)

  • Valid passport (at least 6 months into the future)
  • Valid U.S. visa (some exceptions may apply for travel to Canada or Mexico)
  • Current proof of financial support
  • Unofficial transcript
  • OPT & STEM OPT students must have their EAD and employment verification letter from their employer
  • Make sure that you are in lawful immigration status and eligible to return to the U.S.
  • Upon your re-entry to the U.S. you can print your I-94 here

Additionally, please read the sections below if they apply to you or you have concerns.

Many students want an answer to the question, "Is it safe to travel internationally during the COVID-19 pandemic?". The ISSO cannot answer this question for you -- it's impossible. What one person considers "safe," another person may consider "unsafe," to point out one problem -- "safety" is subjective. Therefore, the ISSO can say the following: if you have all the required re-entry documents (listed at the top of this page) you are eligible to travel. Whether you decide to do so or not must be up to you. 

Additionally, as of November 8th, all foreign nationals, including essential travelers (including all F-1s), require proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter the U.S. For purposes of entry into the United States, the accepted vaccines will include FDA approved or authorized and WHO Emergency Use Listing vaccines. In addition to proof of vaccination, travelers entering the U.S. must also show proof of a negative COVID test administered within 1 day prior to travel to the U.S.

Please monitor the CDC’s website for more COVID-19-specific information if you have upcoming travel plans.
If you decide to travel abroad during your studies, before you can re-enter the U.S., you will need a valid visa stamp in your passport. If you notice that your F-1 or J-1 visa will be expired by the time of your re-entry, before you can return to the U.S., you must apply for and receive a new one. There is actually no separate process for renewing a visa vs. applying for your first one -- it's the same process. Also: there is no way to get a visa stamp from within the United States itself. Finally, make sure your trip abroad is long enough to accommodate the visa process if you do need to apply for a new one. More information about the visa process can be found here. Additionally, exceptions may apply for short trips to Canada or Mexico; click here for more on that. 
Travel within the U.S. (between states, cities etc.) is generally not restricted. However, if you are traveling inside the U.S., you should carry the following documents (or copies of these documents):
  • Passport
  • I-94 (Can be accessed here)
  • I-20 or DS-2019
  • EAD card if on OPT
When you re-enter the U.S., a Customs and Border Protection agent may ask to see your documents and may ask you questions. Answer any questions honestly, especially regarding drug or alcohol offences. If you have ever been arrested, this information is available to visa and port of entry officers. Be aware that visas can be revoked for those arrested for DUI (driving while under the influence of alcohol) and other offenses.