Carnegie Mellon University

Travel Documents for Re-Entry to the U.S.

For F-1 & J-1 Students

Foreign students are encouraged to carefully prepare ahead of time when planning to travel outside the U.S. to avoid encountering issues or delays when re-entering the U.S. 

If you plan on being outside the U.S. for more than five months, your immigration status could be impacted. Therefore,  we advise that you schedule an appointment to discuss travel plans with an OIE advisor.

If you are planning on traveling outside the U.S. for a temporary absence or vacation, the following documents are required for re-entry back into the U.S. Please remember to keep these documents securely in your carry-on luggage at all times.

Your passport must be valid at all times and at least six months into the future to enter the U.S. To renew your passport within the U.S., contact your country of citizenship’s embassy.

Your I-20/DS-2019 needs to be from the school you are attending or will attend upon re-entry. To re-enter the U.S. using your Carnegie Mellon I-20/DS-2019, you must be currently enrolled or planning to enroll for the next academic semester at CMU.

The I-20/DS-2019 must have a valid travel signature signed within the past 12 months and must have a future end date. You may not re-enter the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 status during your grace period.

If you received an electronic I-20, you must print a copy and sign it for travel.

Travel within the U.S. does not require an updated travel signature on the I-20 or DS-2019. To obtain a travel signature on your I-20 or DS-2019 for international travel, follow the instructions and guidelines below:

F-1 Students

For new F-1 students, a travel signature is not necessary for your initial entry.

For current F-1 students, the I-20 must be signed by an OIE advisor within 12 months of the date of re-entry. To request a signature, 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. Print the I-20 and sign and date the first page in ink. Current government guidance allows the use of electronic I-20s for travel.

For F-1 students on OPT, the I-20 must be signed within 6 months of the date of re-entry. To request a travel signature, submit 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. Print the I-20 and sign and date the first page in ink.

Note: The processing time for travel signatures is five (5) business days. 


J-1 Students

For new J-1 students, a travel signature is not necessary for your initial entry.

Since J-1 students will need to obtain a signature on their hard copy DS-2019, you are encouraged to plan ahead to avoid traveling without your document and arranging shipping, paying an expedited mailing fee, or postponing travel plans. 

To obtain a travel signature, complete and bring the OIE Request for Services Form (pdf) and your DS-2019 to the OIE office in Cyert Hall (First Floor Atrium). We are open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Students who are not in Pittsburgh will need to arrange for the shipping (with eShipGlobal) of their DS-2019 since the electronic distribution of DS-2019s is prohibited by law.

The U.S. entry visa sticker must have an expiration date in the future and a valid entry/multiple entries. Exceptions to the visa requirement include:

  1. Automatic Extension of Visa Validity for travel to "contiguous territory." If you are traveling to Canada, Mexico, or one of the adjacent islands off the U.S. (i.e., Saint Pierre, Miquelon, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, the Windward and Leeward Islands, Trinidad, Martinique, other British, French, and Netherlands territory or possessions in or bordering the Caribbean Sea [INA, Section 101(b)(5)] other than Cuba) for pleasure or vacation for fewer than 30 days, you can return to the U.S. using an expired U.S. entry visa of any type, as long as you have a valid passport, I-94, and signed I-20/DS-2019 as specified above. This does not apply to residents of Mexico or the islands who are returning to their home countries. Automatic revalidation also does not apply to citizens of Cuba, Iran, Syria and Sudan. Learn more about Automatic Visa Revalidation

  2. Citizens of Canada and Bermuda do not require entry visas to enter the U.S. but must present an I-20 or DS-2019, as well as financial and program information when going through a U.S. Port of Entry.

  3. A valid visa is not needed to visit Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, or the Northern Mariana Islands unless your travel plans include entry to any other country en route to these U.S. territories. You will need a valid I-20/DS-2019.

You may be asked to present confirmation that you paid the I-901 SEVIS fee. A copy of this payment confirmation can be printed out from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) website. 

Either a printout from the Department of Homeland Security website or a hard copy provided by CBP at a land port or by USCIS after a change of status application.

Important Note Regarding Your I-94 Document:

After each entry to the U.S., enter your information on the Department of Homeland Security website to check and download your new I-94 arrival document. Save an electronic copy and/or print a hard copy and keep it with your immigration records. If the I-94 does not indicate D/S and J status OR if you cannot find your electronic record, notify OIE immediately.

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

  1. Financial Documentation/Proof of Necessary Funds Plus Expenses

    1. Finances may be demonstrated by:

      1. A letter from your department stating the amount of funding you are receiving, or

      2. A letter from another financial sponsor stating the amount they are giving you, plus supporting financial documents, such as bank statements or salary statements. Personal funds can be demonstrated with relevant supporting documents.

  2. Admission Letter or Enrollment Verification Letter from The HUB 

    1. New students should carry their admissions letter. Continuing students should carry an enrollment verification letter. The HUB can provide an enrollment verification letter. Currently enrolled students may print verifications on Student Information Online (SIO) by selecting "Request Verification" under the Academic Info tab. 

  3. Copies of all previously issued I-20s and DS-2019s