F-1: Travel Abroad

General Information

For travel outside the United States, please carry the following documents with you (in hand, do not check in checked luggage):

  • Passport valid six months into the future 
  • Valid F-1 visa stamp in your passport (Note: Canadian and Bermudian citizens are exempt from this requirement)
  • Original financial support as listed in item #8 of the I-20
  • I-20 with valid travel signature

More information about traveling abroad on Travel Abroad Information for International Students | ISS (purdue.edu)

Travel Signature Requirement

Your I-20 must be endorsed for travel if you plan to exit and reenter the US. The travel signature is required upon reentry into the US. It is not required for leaving the US.

Travel signatures are valid for a one year period from the date it was signed or until the I-20 expiration date, whichever comes first.

Exceptions to the one-year endorsement
  • Degree/program completion: The endorsement is no longer valid.  This may be the date you deposit your thesis, complete the semester, or graduate.

  • Students on Optional Practical Training (OPT):  Travel signatures are valid for only 6 months during OPT period. Proof of US employment is required.

  • Academically dropped, suspended, expelled or terminated:  Contact ISS immediately concerning your nonimmigrant status.  Do not use the Purdue I-20 to reenter the US.

  • Foreign visa requirements: The country where you are travelling may require a new I-20 travel signature. Check with that country's consulate for their advice.

  • Out of the US for more than 5 months: I-20 will no longer be valid for reentry.  Notify ISS of prolonged absences so we may best advise for future reentry into the US.  Exception:  Students participating in Purdue Study Abroad programs.

How to Request a Travel Signature

To request a travel signature, please submit MyISS>F-1 and J-1 Student Services>Reissue/Travel Signature Request.

Please be aware that travel signature processing can take a maximum of 14 calendar days in very busy times, but typically takes much less time.

Plan Ahead!
ISS suggests that you always keep your travel signature valid. You can request a travel signature at any time of year: you do not need to wait until you have specific travel plans. Plan well in advance when traveling out of the US. More than 10,000 international students and scholars attend Purdue. End of semester periods can be very busy at ISS with many travel and other types of requests.
Emergency Travel

If you have an emergency and need to travel before you have time to receive a new travel signature or when ISS is closed (weekends, federal, and university holidays), please go ahead and travel.

Remember that the travel signature is required upon returning the US, not for leaving the US. Follow the instructions above to submit a travel signature request online while you are abroad.

What happens if I do not have time to get a travel signature?

If you do not allow enough time for you to receive a new travel signature before you travel, please be aware that most likely, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the US port of entry will issue you a Form I-515A Notice to Student and Exchange Visitor, granting temporary admissions. Please note that the temporary admission with the Form I-515 is at the discretion of the CBP officer and ISS has no authority to persuade CBP to grant you temporary admission. On rare occasions, you may be denied entry to the US, and you should be aware of this risk before travelling to the US.

If you are issued an I-515A, you will be granted temporary admission into the US for 30 days. The I-515A form contains instructions for what you need to do to extend your stay beyond the 30 day admission. You should submit MyISS>General Services>Ask Student Counselor requesting assistance with your I-515A. ISS will provide instructions and the required documents to mail to the Department of Homeland Security within the 30-day submission deadline in order to maintain status.

Within four to six weeks, you will receive your new I-20/DS-2019 and I-94 arrival/departure card marked D/S, or duration of status. This notation extends your stay to its original length. You will not be able to travel outside the United States until you receive your documents marked D/S, so please plan accordingly.

If you do not send the I-515 and supporting documentation by the submission deadline, your visa status will be terminated and you will need to exit the United States immediately or file immediately for reinstatement with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Make sure to read through the Travel Abroad Information sheet on the ISS website on traveling, maintaining status, and important information about your student visa. Also check the ISS website for the latest updates on Immigration Changes before traveling. 

F-1 Visa Renewal

You may legally remain in the United States with an expired F-1 visa as long as you continue to otherwise maintain your F-1 status.  If your visa expires and you exit the United States, in most cases, you will need a valid, unexpired F-1 visa to reenter the United States.

You must be outside the U.S. to apply for or renew a US visa. ISS can provide general tips on how to apply for a re-entry visa at a US Embassy or Consulate abroad: Renewing Your Student Visa However, you must do research yourself as to what specific requirements are for your citizenship. Please ensure that your passport, I-20, and travel signatures are all valid before applying for a visa. If you need to request a new travel signature, plan to do so at least two weeks prior to departure date.

Automatic Revalidation of Visa

Certain nonimmigrants may be able to reenter the US with an expired visa if they meet requirements. The travel may be for business or pleasure and for a maximum stay of 30 days. Visit the US Department of State website to determine whether you qualify for this type of travel: 

US Dept of State Autorevalidation Site

If you determine you would be eligible to reenter the US under the automatic revalidation provision, ensure that you have a valid passport, I-20, and travel signature. Please read this bulletin carefully as it mentions additional restrictions from using this regulation that may apply to your situation.   

Please note that you may need a visa to enter the country to which you are traveling.  Be sure to check with that country's consulate concerning visa requirements.

Note regarding the I-94: It is also recommended to carry a print of your electronic I-94 when using the auto-revalidation option (and keep a copy for your records). Access your I-94 on USCBP's I-94 site. If you still have a paper I-94, it is recommended that you retain it for your reentry to the US.

Visa Appointments in Canada and Mexico

Some students choose to renew their US visa in Canada or Mexico, although ISS typically advises students to do this in their home country in case there are delays in visa processing. You must research whether applying for a visa in Canada or Mexico is a possibility for citizens of your country, and what the requirements are. Please see the following US Embassy & Consulates websites for more information.