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Traveling Inside and Outside the U.S

Traveling Within the U.S.

It is recommended that you carry copies of their immigration documents (or have access to copies in your smartphone) with you 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.

IMPORTANT! NEVER re-enter the U.S. on any visa status other than F-1 or J-1 as it will cancel your student/scholar status.

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
  • Valid Visa: 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. Procedures vary for each consulate. Check with your U.S. Consulate or Embassy for specific procedures:
  • I-94 form: If you entered the U.S. after May 2013 by air, you will have an electronic I-94 record that can be accessed online at  If you traveled by land or sea prior to May 2013, you will still likely have a small white card that should have been stapled into your passport. You will surrender this card upon leaving and will obtain a new electronic record when you return back to the U.S. (with the exception of travel to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean).
  • A Valid I-20 (F students) or DS-2019 (J students and scholars) with a valid travel signature from the OISS. See requirements below.  Once signed, the travel signature is valid for one year from the date of the signature. (Canadian Citizens and those on post completion OPT require signatures every 6 months).  If you will need to renew your visa it is recommended that you obtain a new travel signature even if it is less than a year old. The travel signature can be found on page 3 of the I-20 form and on the lower right-hand corner of page 1 on the DS-2019.If you are finishing your program and leaving Boston College, you do not need a signature to leave the U.S.
  • Post Completion Optional Practical Training Students Only: EAD Card and job offer letter.  If you have not yet received your EAD Card you may be able to travel with your I-797 receipt. 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 have the EAD Card and/or job offer letter.

Travel Signature Requirements:

In most cases, travel signatures can be done the same day; however, if no one is available to sign your immigration form, it will be ready the next day. If you require a new I-20 or DS-2019 (see below) it will take 2-3 days to process. Please plan accordingly and try to come in at least a few days before you are traveling.

Funding requirements for travel signatures:

Undergraduate Students: Undergraduate students do NOT need to show proof of funding each year UNLESS you need a new I-20 (see below).

Graduate Students:  For those receiving funding from BC, bring an original or copy of letter or have a direct email from your department sent to confirming any assistantships or tuition remission.  For all those not receiving funding or if the BC funding does not cover the required amount, you will need to show proof of funding*. (if you have to show less than $4,000 in personal funds you are exempt from this requirement).

J-1 Visiting Scholars and Professors: No additional proof of funding is necessary for your signature.

All students needing a new I-20: If you have lost your I-20 or you have run out of signature space we will need to make you a new I-20. In order to process the new I-20 we will need to see proof of funding* for tuition and living expenses the next 12 months or the remainder of your program if you will finish in less than 12 months. Please allow at least 2-3 days for your new I-20 to be processed.

*Acceptable Proof of Funding: Scanned or faxed copies of original bank statements or copies/scans of signed and stamped bank letters are acceptable. If you are showing funds from a U.S. bank we will accept an online printout of your account. 

Travel to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean:

For a visit of less than 30 days to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean (except Cuba), you are allowed to re-enter the U.S. with an expired visa.  This process is known as “Automatic Visa Revalidation.”  You should print off your I-94 record BEFORE you travel and when you re-enter, you should show them your I-94 record print-out.  Please note if you apply for an F-1 or J-1 visa in Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean and are denied, you will not be able to return to the U.S. using Automatic Revalidation. Please consult the OISS before making a decision to apply for a new visa in these countries.

Note! Check with the specific country's embassy website to see if you are required to have a tourist visa in order to visit the country you are visiting.

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 and PhD students enrolled at BC and doing dissertation work abroad). 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.