Student Travel

International students in F-1 or J-1 status may travel within the U.S. or abroad during their tenure at Northwestern.

Travel within the U.S.

Traveling within the country is un-complicated and simple:

  • Carry two forms of photo identification (including your passport) and your form I-20/DS-2019.
  • You do not need an additional visa stamp or travel signature to travel within the US. Looking to visit somewhere warm? That includes Hawaii, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Traveling abroad

International students in F-1 or J-1 status, and their dependents, need the following to leave and re-enter the U.S.

  • SEVIS Form I-20 or DS-2019 with a valid travel signature endorsed within the last twelve months by the IO;
  • Valid visa stamp (pasted inside your passport); and
  • Current passport, valid at least six months after the date of your re-entry.

Make sure your documents are valid.

  • In order to re-enter without needing a new visa stamp, you should have not have been absent from the U.S. for more than five months.
  • If your current SEVIS status is terminated, or you think it might be, please contact the IO before traveling outside of the U.S.
  • If you are planning to take a cruise, please check with your cruise provider to find out whether you will pass through Customs in any country you may enter, and whether you will be subject to U.S. Customs & Border Patrol inspection upon your return to the U.S.

How to obtain a travel signature

Getting a travel signature is easy! You can either:

  • Drop your I-20/DS-2019 off at the front desk of the IO and pick it up with a new travel signature the following business day after 12noon;
  • See an advisor during walk-in hours;
  • Drop by one of our scheduled 'Travel Signatures To Go' sessions and get a travel signature on the spot.  Once scheduled, these times and locations will be posted via the IntNews listserv and event calendar.
  • If you do not live in the Evanston/Chicago area: Please follow these steps:

Step 1: Contact your advisor to request a new document
Step 2: Create a shipment within eShipGlobal. Specify document type (Ex: I-20, EAD card, receipt notice, etc.)
Step 3: The IO will send the document!

Required documents for Optional Practical Training (OPT) students

Students on OPT must carry the following when traveling abroad:

  • SEVIS Form I-20 with valid travel signature within the last six months;
  • Valid F-1 visa stamp inside passport;
  • Current passport, valid at least six months after the date of last entry;
  • Employment Authorization Document (EAD) Card (Note: All EAD cards say 'not valid for reentry' This means that the card alone does not guarantee reentry but that you must also carry the I-20 and passport with valid visa.)
  • If you are, or will be employed, we recommend that you carry your offer letter.

F-2 dependents of F-1 students on OPT should carry photocopies of their spouses EAD card and employment offer letter, in addition to a SEVIS Form I-20, valid F-1 visa stamp, and current passport.