Summer/Fall 2021 Travel Advisory
Are you considering international travel between now and the start of Fall semester?
- The continuing outbreak of COVID19 around the world continues to involve increased risk for all international travel.
- Effective January 26, 2021, all travelers to the United States must proof of a negative COVID test within 72 hours of their departure. More details can be found on the CDC Website.
- Please pay special attention to Back2BU for latest updates and information about BU’s response to COVID-19 and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts quarantine requirements for anyone traveling from out of state/country.
- Please note details regarding the temporary travel ban for all non-immigrants traveling to the US from China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa and 28 countries in Europe.
- Many countries are extending travel restrictions without advanced warning due to sustained COVID transmission.
- Please note special details regarding visa processing for graduate students and researchers from China and temporary bans on employment visas in ISSO News.
- While ISSO staff will advise you on the US immigration documentation required for travel, unfortunately, we cannot offer any assurances if you choose to travel. You should carefully weigh the risks of departing the United States during this difficult time, as travel restrictions are unpredictable.
Key Considerations for International Travel:
- Can you get to your planned destination?
- Are there flights?
- Are there travel restrictions or quarantine requirements in that country that could prohibit you to be admitted to your destination?
- Do you have appropriate travel and visa documentation for your destination?
- Will you need to quarantine when you arrive at your destination?
- Can you get back to the US?
- Are there flights back to the US?
- Are there travel restrictions that will prohibit you from departing from that country?
- Are there US travel restrictions that prohibit you from entering the US?
- Do you have the appropriate visa and travel documentation to return to the US?
- Routine visa processing at certain US Embassies and Consulates remains suspended. Please visit the website of the US Embassy or Consulate where you will apply to see how and when your visa appointment will be scheduled. If you need a new visa, you should anticipate delays in visa processing during the COVID emergency.
- Are there other MA state or BU requirements for quarantine, testing or vaccinations that you should be aware of?
If you have further questions about international travel or visa renewal please contact your ISSO Student Advisor or your ISSO Scholar Advisor. You can also refer to the ISSO Travel Tips for more information.
In addition, students should pay careful attention to Boston University’s Health and Safety Advisories for travel to high-risk countries.
Do you need to renew your visa on this trip?
The visa in your passport must be valid on the day you will reenter the U.S. in order for you to be eligible to return in a student immigration status. If your visa will expire before the date of your return, you must apply for a new visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy while you are out of the U.S. If this will be your first time applying for a visa renewal, plan to request a new travel signature before you leave the U.S. and to speak with an ISSO advisor to make sure you are prepared for your visa appointment.
Please note: You may need to schedule an in-person visa interview at a U.S. consulate to apply for a new visa during your travel. If you need to apply for a new visa, you may face substantial administrative processing delays at the U.S. Embassy, which could delay your return to the United States to resume classes. If you are unsure of whether or not to travel, you should consult with your academic department about the consequences to your academic progress if you are unable to return to the U.S. right away. The ISSO Advisor-on-Call can provide basic information about the visa application process. If you have questions about your specific travel plans or if you need to request a new travel signature, you can consult with your ISSO advisor.
If your visa has expired and you are planning a short trip to Canada, Mexico or the adjacent islands, read up on automatic visa revalidation to see if this special provision might apply to you.
If you will be applying for a new non-immigrant visa while abroad, please be aware that U.S Department of State has expanded the data they will collect on the DS-160 Application for a Non-immigrant Visa. A consular official may require you to complete additional forms at the point of visa renewal similar to the DS-158 Contact Information and Work History for a Non-immigrant Visa Applicant, the DS-157 Supplemental Application and/or the Form DS-5535, Supplemental Questions for Visa Applicants. These supplemental forms are not be required for all visa applicants, but may be requested at the discretion of a consular officer. If you are asked to complete additional forms, you will need to disclose your travel, address, and employment history, family information, and social media details.
What is a travel signature?
- A travel signature is a signature from an ISSO advisor (sometimes referred to as Designated School Official) on your I-20 or DS-2019.
- This signature is generally valid for one year, and can be used for multiple trips abroad. (The signature is valid for six months only for F-1 students on approved F-1 Optional Practical Training.)
- You need to have a valid travel signature on the date you reenter the U.S. after international travel.
- A more recent travel signature is recommended if you plan to renew your visa on this trip abroad.
- If you have a valid travel signature already, there is no need to come to the ISSO to request one!
Do you need a travel signature?
Check to see if there is a travel signature on page 2 of your I-20 (for F-1 students), or on the right-hand side of your DS-2019 (for J-1 students and scholars). If your travel signature is up-to-date (within one year for continuing F-1 and J-1 students and scholars), or within six months for F-1 students on OPT) then you do not need a new one! A travel signature is considered valid if it is dated no more than one year before the date you expect to return to the U.S. A more recent travel signature is recommended if you will renew your visa on this trip abroad or if you are on Optional Practical Training (OPT).
A valid I-20 travel signature appears on page 2:
A sample DS-2019 signature appears on the right-hand side of the form:
How can I request a travel signature?
What is my SEVIS Fee Receipt?
All F-1 students and J-1 exchange visitors with “initial” immigration documents are required to pay this SEVIS Fee when you first begin your program of study. When entering the U.S. you may be asked to provide proof that this fee was paid. If you have been continuously enrolled with the same SEVIS record, you do not need to pay the fee again, provided you have proof of payment. If you took a leave of absence, had a break in status or traveled to regain status with a new SEVIS number, you will need to pay a new SEVIS Fee for a new SEVIS record. Proof of SEVIS Fee payment can be printed from the I-901 SEVIS Fee website.
What should I do after I return to the U.S.?
When you arrive in the U.S. by air or sea, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) may stamp your passport and will electronically update your I-94 entry record to reflect the immigration status in which you were admitted and the length of lawful stay that you have been granted.
For F-1 students, J-1 exchange visitors, and your F-2 and J-2 dependents, your passport stamp and electronic record should reflect your correct status for “D/S” (duration of status). If you are entering in a status other than F or J (i.e. H-1B, TN, O-1, etc.) your passport stamp and electronic record should reflect the end date on your corresponding immigration document.
Each time you reenter the U.S. it is important to check both your passport stamp (if one is given) and your electronic I-94 record to make certain these are correct. We recommend that you retrieve your electronic I-94 record after each entry to the United States and save a copy of your records. Errors to your admission status or length of stay can jeopardize your ability to study, work and remain lawfully in the U.S. If you discover an error to your passport stamp or your electronic I-94 record, come to the ISSO immediately do discuss how this can be corrected.
Sample U.S. Passport Entry Stamp
“F-1 D/S” = F-1 status for “Duration of Status”
Both your passport entry stamp and your I-94 record (below) should read F-1 or J-1 status (as appropriate) and “D/S” (for “duration of status) if you are a student pursuing a full course of study.
While not all Ports of Entry provide passports stamps, a clear passport stamp may be sufficient to show your admission in a specific immigration status. However, if you need to apply for employment authorization or other benefits from federal government agencies, you will need to present a print out of your electronic I-94 record.