Carnegie Mellon University

FAQs: Travel

Below are frequently asked questions related to travel. International students and scholars should carefully research entry requirements and/or restrictions for the countries they plan to travel to or through before finalizing travel plans. OIE recommends checking this FAQ page when planning any travel and reviewing any new or updated OIE News & Updates.

F-1 and J-1 students must carry specific documentation to re-enter the U.S. to study after a temporary absence or vacation. 

International students in F-1/J-1 status must present the following documents to re-enter the U.S.: 

  1. Unexpired I-20 or DS-2019 with a current travel signature (document must have been signed less than 12 months ago)
  2. Unexpired passport valid 6 months into the future
  3. Unexpired U.S. F-1 or J-1 visa sticker affixed in your passport
  4. I-901 SEVIS Fee Payment Confirmation

OIE recommends that you also include the following documents in your carry-on and present them only if asked:

  1. Copies of all previous I-20s or DS-2019s
  2. Enrollment Verification Letter from the University Registrar's Office
    • Request this letter through Student Information Online at least 3 business days prior to your departure. 
  3. Financial documentation/proof of necessary funds plus expenses 

Students in F-1 status with pending or approved OPT must present the following documents to re-enter the U.S.: 

  1. Unexpired passport valid 6 months into the future
  2. Unexpired U.S. F-1 visa sticker affixed in your passport
  3. Unexpired I-20 with a current travel signature (document must have been signed less than 6 months ago)
  4. If OPT has been approved, travel with your EAD card
    • If your OPT is pending, travel with your USCIS OPT Receipt Notice 
  5. Job offer letter or proof of a future job interview, etc. 

Schedule an appointment with your OIE advisor if you have any questions about upcoming travel plans. 

Travel signatures are not required to exit the U.S.; valid travel signatures are only needed for re-entry into the U.S. Travel signatures must be signed by an OIE advisor within 12 months of the date of re-entry for current students or within 6 months of the date of re-entry for students on OPT. Please note that travel within the U.S. does not require an updated travel signature on the I-20 or DS-2019.

Instructions for obtaining a travel signature from OIE:

Current F-1 students should submit the I-20 Signature Request E-Form in the MyOIE Portal. You will receive a new I-20 (with a new travel signature) by email (to your Andrew email account). The current government guidance allows the use of electronic I-20s for travel.

Students on OPT may obtain an I-20 with a travel signature by submitting the Request for Travel Signature or Reprint I-20 E-Form in the Limited Services section of the MyOIE Portal. The signed I-20 will be sent to the email account listed in the SEVP portal.

J-1 Students and J-1 Scholars who need a new travel signature should complete and bring the OIE Request for Services Form (pdf) and their DS-2019 to the OIE office in Cyert Hall to obtain a signature. Students who are not in Pittsburgh will need to arrange for the shipping (with eShip Global) of their DS-2019 Form, since electronic distribution of DS-2019s is prohibited by law.

You must have a valid visa to enter the U.S. (except Canadians). Your F-1/J-1 visa sticker is valid until its expiration date. If you need to travel after the expiration date, then you will need to apply for a new F-1/J-1 visa. 

Obtaining a new F-1/J-1 visa is not a guaranteed approval and can result in significant visa delays (weeks to months).  This is the risk you will have to take into account when deciding if you want to travel after your current F-1/J-1 visa expiration, or if you have a valid visa and would like to obtain a new one before it expires. Note: If you apply for a new visa before your current one expires, your current visa may be canceled. 

Plan ahead and contact the U.S. Consulate or Embassy where you will apply for your new visa before you leave the U.S. More information, including instructions and visa wait times, can be found on the State Department's website.

If have additional questions regarding your specific case, schedule an appointment with your OIE advisor.

OIE recommends that students (from all countries) consider international travel plans carefully as travel bans/restrictions may be in place at the time they want to return to the United States. Visa processing may be delayed or unavailable due to health and safety concerns at many U.S. Consulates. 

Students who have concerns about traveling can schedule an appointment with their OIE advisor.

Please note that the U.S. government requires OPT applications to be sent from within the U.S. Additionally, remote instruction may be restricted in some countries.

Foreign country visitor and transit visas may be required depending on your country of citizenship and legal permanent residence. Check with the Embassy or Consulate of each country to find out if you need a visa.

Applying for visas is costly and time consuming, so plan ahead. If your plane is landing in another country, you may need a visa for that country, as well, even if you do not plan to exit the plane.

The best way to contact OIE is to email oie@andrew.cmu.edu

In case of emergency while the university is closed, call University Police at 412-268-2323. Emergency situations include being denied entry/re-entry to the U.S., or being detained by a government official.

For all other issues, including the need for an updated travel signature, OIE will be happy to assist during normal business hours once the university has re-opened.