Students and Scholars
These travel tips have been prepared by the staff of the International
Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) to advise you of important information
that will help facilitate your lawful exit and re-entry to the U.S.
Individuals from Canada, Mexico and Bermuda
should pay particular attention to item E which discusses new passport
requirements for entering the U.S.
This advisory will provide
information related to:
|Travel Endorsements (“Travel Signatures”)
|ISSO Immigration Status Checks
|US-VISIT Entry-Exit System
|Documents Required for Re-Entry into the United States
Requirements for Citizens of Canadian, Mexico
|Applying for a U.S. Visa Stamp at a U.S. Embassy or
|Travel to Canada, Mexico and the Adjacent Islands
| NSEERS Special Registrant Departure Procedure
| Traveling after Completion of Your Program (Students)
after Termination of Employment/Research (Scholars)
|Report to the ISSO upon Re-entry to the U.S.
| Additional Information and Assistance from the ISSO
Travel Endorsements (“Travel Signatures”)
All international students and scholars in F-1 and J-1 immigration
status are required to present an unexpired Form I-20 (if in F-1
status) or an unexpired Form DS-2019 (if in J-1 status) bearing
a valid travel endorsement from an official at the ISSO, usually
referred to as a “travel signature,” at the port of
entry when returning to the U.S. from a trip outside the country.
Travel signatures are valid for one year, except for travel to Canada,
Mexico, and adjacent islands. When traveling to one of these
countries, we recommend that the signature be no older than six
months. The ISSO generally requires 24 hours to process a travel
signature request. For students in F-1 status who are in a
period of Optional Practical Training following graduation, the
travel signature is valid for only six months.
about traveling outside the U.S. can be found at:
For F-1 students:
For J-1 students and scholars:
B. ISSO Immigration Status Checks
All international students and scholars in F-1 and J-1 immigration
status are required to have an electronic record in the Student
and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) created by the ISSO.
Your Certificate of Eligibility Form I-20 (for F-1 status) or DS-2019
(for J-1 status) is a SEVIS-generated document with a SEVIS identification
number on the top right hand section of the document. Your SEVIS
record contains information about your program of study or research
and the dates of your academic activities. When you re-enter the
United States, a port of entry official may check your record in
the SEVIS database. If you would like to ensure that all the information
in the database is accurate, you may stop by the ISSO and request
an “immigration status check” prior to your travel.
To request an immigration
status check, please bring all of your immigration documents to
the ISSO. We will check the validity of your passport, visa and
I-94 card. We will then keep your I-20 or DS-2019 overnight in order
to thoroughly review your SEVIS record. If necessary, we will renew
the travel signature on your document. Status checks verify personal
updates to your record including your compliance with semester verification.
Therefore, it is not necessary to complete a status check more than
once each semester unless you have experienced other significant
changes to your academic program and have questions regarding your
immigration status or your documentation.
C. US-VISIT Entry-Exit System
Many international students and scholars will be required to comply
with the entry and exit requirements of the U.S. Visitor and Immigration
Status Indication Technology (US-VISIT) system when traveling through
a U.S. port.
Upon arrival in the U.S., persons seeking to enter in any nonimmigrant
classification are subject to an inkless fingerprinting process
and a digital photograph. This procedure is currently in effect
in 115 major airports and 15 seaports.
If exit procedures are in place at your chosen port of departure,
you may be required to have your fingerprints, photographs and travel
documents re-scanned so that the exit may be recorded. This
is usually done at a self-service kiosk. US-VISIT exit procedures
are currently operating at 12 airports and two seaports.
More information is available
D. Documents Required to Re-Enter the
United States in F-1 or J-1 Status
The following documents are required to re-enter the United States
in F-1 or J-1 status:
- Valid passport
- Valid F-1 or J-1 visa stamp in your passport (except
for Canadian citizens)
- Valid SEVIS Form I-20 (for F-1 status)
or DS-2019 (for J-1 status), with a
travel signature from the ISSO.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Travel
signatures are generally valid for one year when returning from
most countries. We recommend, however, that the signature
be no older than six months when traveling to Canada, Mexico or
the adjacent islands.
Students on F-1 Optional Practical Training should also have a
signature that will be no older than six months at the date of
entry, regardless of the country visited, as well as their Employment
Authorization Document (EAD) and a letter from an employer verifying
they have a job in the U.S.
New Passport Requirements for Citizens of Canada, Mexico and Bermuda
Beginning January 23, 2007, citizens of Canada, Mexico and the British
Overseas Territory of Bermuda will be required to present a passport
NEXUS card when entering or re-entering the U.S. by air from
within the Western Hemisphere. It is likely that passports
will be required for entry via land ports beginning January 1, 2008.
More information can be found on the Department of State web site
F. Applying For a U.S. Visa Stamp at a U.S.
Embassy or Consulate Abroad
Processing times vary among U.S. embassies and consulates. If you
intend to travel outside of the U.S. and need to apply for a visa
to return, we strongly suggest you contact your advisor at the ISSO
so you may be given the most current information available.
In addition, we recommend
that you contact the U.S. embassy or consulate at which you intend
to apply for the visa to inquire about their specific application
procedures. A list of links to the web sites of all U.S. embassies
and consulates abroad can be found at http://usembassy.state.gov.
You can also get information
on wait times for appointments and visa issuance at http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/wait/tempvisitors_wait.php.
Factors that affect visa application processing
1. Required Personal Interviews
As a general rule, all applicants for nonimmigrant visas are required
to schedule a personal interview with the consulate so that the
consular post can take fingerprints of the applicant. Consular
posts at a few countries have drop-off or mail-in visa application
procedures for students and scholars renewing visas if they have
already been fingerprinted during a prior application.
If you are traveling during a holiday
period, please be reminded that U.S. embassies and consulates
are often closed for extended periods. Please check the U.S. Department
of State web site for updated information – http://usembassy.state.gov.
In recent years, the Department of State has been performing security
checks at all U.S. embassies and consulates particularly for male
visa applicants between the ages of 16 and 45 from predominantly
Muslim countries. Although the DOS has not published an official
list of countries, it is likely that these procedures apply to
citizens of the following countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain,
Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan,
Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, North Korea, Oman,
Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia,
the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
Security checks can
take anywhere from five business days to three months or more,
but most are approved in no more than three to four weeks. Citizens
of the above-mentioned countries who plan to travel and apply
for a new visa stamp must be aware of the potential for security
clearances and plan for possible delays.
Even if you are not
from one of the countries listed above, we recommend that you
consult with an advisor in our office if you plan to travel and
apply for a new visa. Security checks are not limited to citizens
of these countries and are at the discretion of the consular officer.
A security check is based on a number of different factors including,
but not limited to, information in your application forms, and
your field of study or research. An advisor at the ISSO may be
able to help you determine if you are likely to be subject to
a security clearance. Please recognize that potential delays in
visa application processing may make it impossible for you to
return to resume your studies or activities on time. Therefore,
if you need a new visa, please seriously consider your travel
plans. Travel over winter intersession is of particular concern
since, typically, U.S. embassies and consulates experience a high
volume of visa applications during this period and many offices
close or reduce their hours during the holidays.
In addition, many students
and scholars studying or conducting research in areas considered
to be sensitive technology and/or are on the Technology Alert
List (TAL) are subject to special security clearance by the Department
of State when applying for a visa. Although the Department of
State no longer publishes updates to the TAL, the August 2002
version, the last published, will provide you with an overview
of the types of areas the Department of State considers sensitive.
The TAL can be downloaded at http://www.bu.edu/isso/forms/tal.pdf
If visa applicants
apply for a visa stamp at a U.S. embassy or consulate in a third
country (a country other than their country of citizenship) they
must remain in that third country while they wait for visa approval
and possible security clearance.
Finally, please also
be reminded that citizens of countries on the Department of State’s
list of “states that sponsor terrorism” (currently
Iran, Sudan, Syria, North Korea and Cuba) are prohibited from
applying for visas at U.S. embassies and consulates in third countries.
An updated list is maintained on the Department of State’s
web site at http://www.state.gov/s/ct/c14151.htm.
Nonimmigrant Visa Application Forms:
DS-156: All nonimmigrant visa applicants are
required to complete the Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form
DS-156 to apply for a nonimmigrant visa. Please be advised
that the standard machine-readable, nonimmigrant visa application
fee is now $100 plus the reciprocity fee for your country (http://travel.state.gov/visa/reciprocity/index.htm).
The Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form DS-157
is now required of all male visa applicants between the ages of
16 and 45 regardless of their nationality and regardless of the
U.S. embassy or consulate to which they apply for a visa. Please
note that consular officials also have the discretion to require
any nonimmigrant visa applicant, regardless of age or
gender, to complete the Form DS-157. The form requires the applicant
to list all countries to which he/she has traveled, previous employers
and previous schools attended. Please be prepared to provide this
The Contact Information and Work History for Nonimmigrant
Visa Application Form DS-158 is now required of all individuals
applying for student visas. The form requires the applicant to
list contact information of family members and a work history
that includes dates and contact information of previous employers.
Applicants should be prepared to provide this detailed information.
It may be advisable to bring a CV or resume with you.
The above forms can
be obtained at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad as well as on
the Department of State web site at: http://travel.state.gov/visa/frvi/forms/forms_1342.html.
on applying for a visa can be found on the ISSO web site at:
For F-1 students:
For J-1 students and scholars:
G. Visits to Canada, Mexico or Adjacent
Islands with Expired U.S. Visa Stamps
Automatic Visa Revalidation allows most nonimmigrant visa holders
to travel to "contiguous territories" (Canada, Mexico
and the adjacent islands, except Cuba) for a visit of 30 days or
fewer, and return to the U.S. with an expired U.S. visa
stamp, provided they had previously entered the U.S. in a nonimmigrant
visa category and have been maintaining valid nonimmigrant status.
For scholars in H-1B status, and their dependents in H-4 status,
Automatic Visa Revalidation is only available when traveling to
Canada or Mexico, not the adjacent islands.
The adjacent islands include: The Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Hispaniola
(Haiti and the Dominican Republic), Jamaica, Martinique, St. Pierre
and Miquelon, Trinidad and Tobago, The Leeward Islands (Anguilla,
Antigua, Guadeloupe, Nevis, St. Kitts and the British Virgin Islands),
the Windward Islands (Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent)
and other British, French or Dutch territories or possessions in
or bordering on the Caribbean Sea.
Exceptions to the rule:
1. Citizens of certain countries
are not eligible for Automatic Visa Revalidation
Citizens of countries identified by the Department of State as
states that sponsor terrorism (currently Iran, Sudan, Syria, North
Korea and Cuba) are no longer eligible for Automatic Visa Revalidation.
Please be advised that the countries included on this list are
subject to change. An updated list is maintained on the Department
of State’s web site at http://www.state.gov/s/ct/c14151.htm.
2. Individuals who apply for
a new visa stamp are not eligible for Automatic Visa Revalidation
while their application is pending or if they are denied a visa.
An individual who chooses to apply for a nonimmigrant visa stamp
at a U.S. embassy or consulate in a contiguous territory (Canada,
Mexico or the adjacent islands, except Cuba) is not eligible to
return to the U.S. under Automatic Visa Revalidation while the
application is pending or if the application is denied at the
U.S. embassy or consulate.
If the visa application
is denied, the applicant will be required to travel directly elsewhere
(most likely to their home country) to apply again for a U.S.
visa stamp before they may return to the U.S. Please note that
this restriction applies to citizens of all countries, not just
the five countries noted above.
3. Citizens of Mexico and Adjacent Islands
Citizens of Mexico and countries of the adjacent islands
are not eligible for Automatic Visa Revalidation when traveling
to their home country.
In summary, most individuals
traveling to the contiguous territories (Canada, Mexico and the
adjacent islands, except Cuba) for a stay of 30 days or fewer who
have an expired U.S. visa, valid passport, valid immigration documents
(i.e., SEVIS Form I-20 or DS-2019 with a valid travel signature)
and a valid I-94 card are eligible for Automatic Visa Revalidation
unless they are citizens of the five above-named countries. All
others are eligible to take advantage of automatic visa revalidation
and return to the U.S. with an expired visa stamp.
H. NSEERS Special Registration Departure
If you were designated as an NSEERS “Special Registrant”
upon entry to the U.S., you must comply with the established departure
procedures by presenting yourself to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection
officer at a designated port of departure when exiting the U.S.
Failure to depart as specified is considered a violation of nonimmigrant
status and can result in difficulty returning to the U.S.
Detailed information about NSEERS
is available on the ISSO web site at:
I. Traveling after Completion of Your
Students in F-1 status may remain in the U.S. for up to 60 days
after completing their program of study or after completion of Optional
Practical Training. Students in J-1 status may remain for
30 days after completing the program or completing Academic Training
following the end of the program. However, once you depart
during this 60-day or 30-day "grace period," you may not
re-enter the U.S. in F or J status unless you have a new I-20 or
DS-2019 to begin a new program of study. In other words, you
cannot come and go to the U.S. using your same I-20 or DS-2019 during
the grace period. Once you leave, the grace period ends.
J. Traveling after Termination of Employment/Research
Scholars in J-1 status may remain in the U.S. for up to 30 days
following the expiration of their Form DS-2019 or after they terminate
their employment/activity, whichever is earlier. However,
once you depart during this 60-day or 30-day "grace period,"
you may not re-enter the U.S. in J status unless you have a new
DS-2019 to begin a new period of exchange. In other words,
you cannot come and go to the U.S. using your same DS-2019 during
the grace period. Once you leave, the grace period ends.
No other scholar-related nonimmigrant status permits a grace period.
Therefore, scholars in H, TN, O and other non-immigrant classifications
are expected to depart the U.S. immediately upon terminating employment
with Boston University unless they have taken other steps to maintain
a valid status (e.g., a new employer has submitted a petition on
their behalf). You may not re-enter the U.S. using Boston
University-related immigration documentation if you are no longer
employed at BU.
K. Report to the ISSO upon Reentry to the
The ISSO is required to keep copies of your current immigration
documentation on file in our office. Therefore, we ask that
any time you return to the U.S. and receive a new I-94 Arrival/Departure
Record (small white card usually stapled inside your passport),
please bring the card to our office so we may review it and copy
it for your ISSO file. This also serves as an additional check
for you since we will look carefully at the new I-94 to be certain
you were granted the correct status and length of stay.
In addition, if you renew your passport or obtain a new visa at
any point during your time at Boston University, please bring them
to the ISSO so we may make copies for our files.
L. Additional Information and Assistance
from the ISSO
The ISSO is pleased to provide you with information, advice and
assistance on any visa or immigration matter relating to your activities
at Boston University. If you have any questions or would like additional
information, please visit our office or call to make an appointment
to meet with your ISSO advisor.