Travel Outside the U.S.

While you are studying at IUPUI you may want to travel outside the United States, such as:

  • to return to your home country over summer break.
  • to explore another country on spring break.
  • to participate in a study abroad program.

But, before you pack your luggage, there are some steps you need to take to protect your F-1 status.

I-20 Requirements for Traveling Outside the United States

Get a Travel Signature on Your I-20

Before you leave the country, make sure you have a valid travel signature from an OIA advisor on page 3 of your I-20. You will not be able to re-enter the United States without one.

To get a travel signature, make a request through iStart at least two weeks before you plan to travel, and bring your I-20 to OIA.

Travel signatures are valid for one calendar year or until the completion of your program, whichever comes first.

Once you have returned to the U.S., be sure to check your I-94 information. It’s important that this information is accurate!
Make Sure Your I-20 Reflects Your Current Situation

If there have been any changes in your situation (for example, if you have changed your major, degree level, or source/s of financial support) that are not indicated on your current I-20, you will need to get a new one.

For changes in major or source/s of funding, request a travel signature through iStart and note the changes in the “Note any Special Requests” section. You may be asked to provide updated financial documents.

For a change in degree level, you will need to complete the “New Program I-20” request in iStart. However, you do not need to request a travel signature. When your new degree program request is approved, a new I-20 will be printed and signed for travel.

Timing can be critical for all of these changes, so start the process early. In most cases, updated financial documentation will be required to process your new I-20.

Make Sure Your I-20 Will Not Expire While You Are Out of the Country

Check the completion date in section 5 of your I-20 to see whether it is about to expire. If it expires while you are outside the U.S., you will not be able to re-enter the U.S.

If your I-20 is about to expire and you have not yet completed your program, you will need to apply for an I-20 extension through iStart. You do not need to make a separate request for a travel signature. When your extension is approved, a new I-20 will be printed and signed for travel.

Updated financial documentation will be required to process your I-20 extension.

Make Sure Your Visa is Valid

Is the F-1 visa stamp in your passport valid beyond the date you plan to re-enter the United States? If not, you must apply for a new visa stamp while you are abroad.

Read about renewing your visa »

Travel to Countries Other Than Your Home Country

If you are traveling to a country other than your home country, you may need a visitor or transit visa. To find out, visit that country’s embassy website at Foreign Embassies of Washington, D.C., and search for the consular section nearest you.

If you are traveling to the European Union, and your home country is not within the European Union, you may apply for the Schengen Visa, which permits travel within E.U. countries.

For the latest travel advisories, visit the U.S. Department of State’s website.

Traveling to or through Canada?

Canada now requires Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) for many citizens of visa-exempt countries who enter or transit through Canada. This means that you may need to apply for authorization even if you are only changing flights in Canada. Learn more on the Canadian Immigration & Citizenship website »

Short trips to Mexico, Canada, or islands adjacent to the United States (such as the Bahamas)

You may be eligible to return from Mexico, Canada and islands adjacent to the United States even if you have an expired visa. This is generally allowable for trips of 30 days or less. It is essential that you read all eligibility criteria on the Immigration and Customs Enforcement website before you decide to use this exception.

Don’t forget, you need a travel signature on your I-20 even for short trips to nearby countries!