Traveling Inside and Outside the U.S
Traveling Within the U.S
All students: Since September 11 2001, it is also recommended that students carry all of their immigration documents with them even when traveling domestically within the U.S., although no signatures on the I-20 or DS-2019 are required.
Traveling Outside the U.S
If you plan to leave the U.S. to visit another country, you must have the following documents in order to return to the U.S.:
- Valid Passport: Your passport should be valid at least six months into the future. You can usually renew your passport at your country’s embassy in the U.S. For a list of foreign embassies in the U.S., go to www.state.gov, click on “Countries and Regions,” then “Foreign Embassies in the U.S.”
- Valid Visa (the multicolored stamp in your passport): If your visa has expired and you are traveling outside of North America (Canada, Mexico, and adjacent islands) you must renew your visa to return to the U.S. Do NOT re-enter on a visa other than your J or F visa! Important! As of August 1, 2003, interviews are required for most non-immigrant visa applications. Procedures vary for each consulate, so be sure to check with your U.S. Consulate or Embassy for specific procedures. You can find links to U.S. Consulates worldwide at http://usembassy.state.gov. In some cases, you will not need an interview for visa renewal, but you should still expect a longer processing time. Please plan accordingly so that you can return in time for classes.
- A Valid I-20 (F students) or DS-2019 (J students and scholars): You must have a valid I-20 or DS-2019 with a valid travel signature (found on page 3 on the I-20 form and on the lower right-hand corner of page 1 on the DS-2019). Once signed, the travel signature is good for one year after the date of the signature. If you are a citizen of Canada or on post-completion OPT, the travel signature is valid for only 6 months. You will need a new I-20 if you have recently had a change in financial support, degree, field of study, or graduation date.
*If you are applying for a new visa, you will want to get a new travel signature even if your current one is less than a year old. This may also require the issuing of a new I-20 or DS-2019.
- I-94 form: Your I-94 Form will be taken from you by an airline official when you leave the country, and you will be issued a new one by an immigration officer when you re-enter the U.S. Also, if you are traveling to a country other than your own, you need to check with the Consulate of that country to see if you need a visa in order to enter that country
Post-completion OPT students:
- Valid F-1 visa stamp in your passport. (This does not apply for travel to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean islands). You are still in F-1 status while on OPT!
- I-20 form with a travel signature on page 3 from the OISS dated within the last 6 months.
- EAD Card: If you have not yet received your EAD Card you may be able to travel with your I-797 receipt. Please contact the OISS for advice on travel.
- Job offer letter: Upon entry into the U.S. (and at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate if you have to renew your F-1 visa) you could be asked for a job or internship offer letter. If you do not have a job offer letter there is a risk that you may not be able to re-enter the U.S. or renew your F-1 visa. Please consult with the OISS if you want to travel and do not have a job offer.
Important! NEVER enter the U.S. on any visa status other than F-1 – it will cancel your OPT!!!
I-20 and DS-2019 Signature Requests
Note: All requests for travel signatures should be made at least 10 working days before you intend to travel. The 2-week period allows time to review your records and process your request. According to Immigration regulations, each signature the Office of International Students and Scholars provides on an immigration form verifies that the student is enrolled full time, is in good academic standing, and has sufficient financial support for the following year. Please bring proof of your funding for the next 12 months with you to the office.
Travel to Canada
Documents required for travel to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean are slightly different than the rest of the world. Most importantly, you DO NOT need a valid U.S. visa stamp to return to the U.S. if you visit Canada, Mexico, or the adjacent islands (except Cuba) for less than 30 days. This process is know as “automatic visa revalidation” and applies to all individuals EXCEPT those whose home countries have been identified as sponsoring terrorism (currently Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria). The following documents are needed for travel to Canada:
- Valid I-94: This is the small white card in your passport that should have an entry stamp and read “D/S” (duration of status)
- Valid Passport
- Valid I-20 or DS-2019 with a valid travel signature (see the “I-20 and DS-2019 Signature Requests above”).
- Tourist visa (applies only to certain countries). Citizens of certain countries are required to have a tourist visa (Temporary Resident Visa) in order to visit Canada. To find out if you will need a visa, visit http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/index.asp . Tourist visas must be obtained in person or by mail from the Canadian Consulate in New York City. Applications by mail are normally processed within five working days and then returned, not including mail time. For specific requirements and to download an application, check the website at www.canada-ny.org.
Important reminder regarding renewing visas in Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean!
In the past, if you were denied or delayed in getting a visa while in Canada or Mexico, you could still enter the U.S. with your expired visa under the automatic visa revalidation program. As of April 1, 2002, automatic revalidation is no longer available for anyone who applies for a visa outside the U.S. Therefore, any student or scholar from ANY country who applies for a visa in Mexico, Canada, or any of the adjacent islands and is denied or delayed will NOT be able to return to the U.S.! He or she would have to travel home and apply for a new visa. As a result, it is now very risky to apply for a visa in Canada or Mexico. Please consult the Office of International Students and Scholars for advice prior to making any decisions.
Taking a Leave of Absence
In order to take a leave of absence you must obtain permission from your department or dean’s office and then contact the Office on International Students and Scholars. If you will be out of the country for MORE than five months you will not eligible for certain benefits (for example, practical training) until you have been in legal status for another full academic year (this does not apply to undergraduates on BC approved study abroad programs). Please note that you CANNOT remain in the U.S. while on a leave of absence unless you have been approved for a documented medical leave.
Getting around New England/East Coast:
Boston’s South Station offers a number of buses and trains that travel to a variety of destinations. Fares will vary by company. For more information visit the following website: http://www.south-station.net/
To NYC: BoltBus (www.boltbus.com), Megabus (www.megabus.com), Greyhound (www.greyhound.com), Peter Pan (www.peterpanbus.com), Fung Wah (http://www.fungwahbus.com) out of South Station approximately $15-20 each way.
To Cape Cod: Plymouth & Brockton Street Railway Co., buses to Sagamore, Hyannis, Harwich, Orleans, Eastham, Wellfleet, Truro and Provincetown. Price ranges from $30-50 depending on destination (www.p-b.com)
Amtrak out of South Station and Back Bay. Tends to be more expensive than the bus. www.amtrack.com. There is also an Amtrak train called the “downeaster” that leaves from North Station and goes to Maine. www.amtrakdowneaster.com
This train system is run by the MBTA. It serves areas outside of Boston that are not covered by the T. Price varies depending on destination including. One way cost between $1.75-$7.75
STA Travel offers a variety of services, including information about discount travel, to international students. With the purchase of an International Student Identification Card, students benefit from lower-priced airfares as well as discounts on travel accommodations, theatrical performances, international phone calls, wiring and exchanging money, and other services. For more information about the International Student I.D. or travel-related services, visit the website at www.statravel.com or contact the nearest STA Travel Office (65 Mt Auburn St, Cambridge. Red line to Harvard Square, 617-576-4623).
Places to stay in New York City:
International Student Center
38 West 88th Street, New York, NY 10024
A youth hostel open exclusively to international students ages 18-40. It has dormitory-style accommodations at the bargain rate of $30 per night. Maximum stay is 1-week June-October, 2-weeks November-May. Front desk hours are 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Call after 9a.m. on the day of arrival or make reservations online at www.nystudentcenter.org.
500 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10027
Guest rooms at the International House cost $135-170 per night depending on the number of guests (maximum occupancy is 3 people). Guests suites cost $150-200 per night (maximum occupancy is 4-5 people). Maximum stay is 20 nights. Long-term stays for full-time graduate students working at internships in New York City are available. The house has good facilities, including residence lounges, a cafeteria, a general store, and special programs. The office is open on Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Christmas International House
3434 Roswell Road, NW
Atlanta, GA 30305-1202
CIH is an ecumenical peacemaking program that works to improve relations among people of the world and offers outreach to international students in the U.S. Accommodations are provided in private homes or in a dormitory depending on the facilities of the community. Various recreational activities are planned to acquaint the international participants with local families, local sights, and American home life.
Any international student, age 18 years or older, who is studying at a U.S. university, college, or intensive English program on a J or F visa is welcome to apply to Christmas International House.
As guests of the local community, room and board are free. A registration fee of $100.00 for singles ($125.00 for couples or families) is due with applications received on or before November 1. After that date, a fee of $150.00 for singles ($175.00 for couples or families) must accompany the application form. You are responsible for your round trip transportation to and from your CIH host community and extra expenses indicated by the individual programs on the website.
Applications will be accepted between October 1 and December 1. Apply early because programs fill quickly! For detailed information and a copy of the registration form, visit the website at www.christmasih.org