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Washington State University
International On Campus

Traveling Outside the United States

Travel outside the United States may affect your visa status and eligibility for off-campus employment, so you will need to plan ahead carefully.

Before you leave the United States, review the regulations governing travel and re-entry.

Traveling More Than 5 Months

If you travel outside the United States for longer than 5 months, immigration officials will regard you as beginning a new F-1 or J-1 program of study when you return.

At that time, you will need to get a new “initial attendance” I-20 or DS-2019.

If you were issued a new I-20 or DS-2019 to begin a new program of study, and if you need a visa to enter the United States, you will likely need to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee.

Off-campus Employment Eligibility

You will not be eligible for off-campus employment (such as Optional Practical Training or Curricular Practical Training) until you have been enrolled for 1 academic year on a full-time basis.

Traveling for 5 Months or Less

For travel outside the United States lasting 5 months or less, you will need to have the following documents.

Valid I-20 or DS-2019 with Travel Endorsement

To request an endorsement, complete the travel endorsement request form, print the email sent by detailing your request, and your current, original I-20 or DS-2019 to International Student and Scholar Services. Allow 1 week for processing.

If you are an F-1 student who is out of status, you will need a new initial attendance I-20.

J-1 students not sponsored by WSU should contact their program sponsor for their endorsement.

While a travel signature is valid for 1 year from the date of issuance, you should get a new endorsement if your previous one is over 6 months old.

Valid Passport with Current F-1 or J-1 Visa Stamp

A passport is required to re-enter the United States from outside of North America (passports not required for a short trip to Canada, Mexico, and adjacent islands).

You should already have a passport from your initial entry to the United States. If you need to obtain or renew your passport and U.S. visa, you will need to contact a U.S. Embassy/Consulate, preferably in your home country.

Please note that you do not need a valid visa in your passport to remain in the United States. If your visa expires, please plan for your next out-of-country travel to be to your home country where you can renew your visa.

Evidence of Adequate Financial Support

In certain circumstances, the university may need to verify your estimated expenses and availability of funding. If your funding changes, you must notify International Student and Scholar Services.

Documents Needed to Verify Funding

You may need one or more of the following:

  • Bank statement or statement of approved loan in your name
  • Bank statement in your sponsor’s name
  • Letter of support from your sponsor
    • It must be from the same sponsor named on the bank statement
    • The letter must indicate your sponsor’s relationship to you (parent, family member, friend, etc.)
    • Your letter must reflect your current funding situation and must be signed within the past 6 months
  • Letter from your academic department if you are a teaching assistant or research assistant
  • Letters from government/organizations
  • Financial Affidavit of Support (I-134) if your sponsor resides in the United States; a bank statement must be attached

Employment income may be considered if you are authorized to work in the United States.

Requirements for Financial Documents

  •  Must be dated and less than 6 months old
  •  Written in English or accompanied by an English translation
  •  Copies are acceptable, including faxes and scanned documents

Additional Travel Considerations

Traveling While on OPT

If international travel is needed for your Optional Practical Training (OPT), here is some important guidance.

If you have graduated and your OPT is pending

It is recommended that you come in and see a Global Services advisor.

If you have graduated and your OPT has been approved
You may travel outside the United States only if you have a job offer or you are returning to a job. To re-enter the United States, you will need the following.

  • Valid passport
  • Valid F-1 visa
  • I-20 signed for travel within 6 months
  • EAD card
  • Letter from your employer stating that you need to return to the United States to resume working

Travel for F-2 and J-2 Dependents

If you are an F-1 or J-1 student, your F-2 or J-2 dependents generally need the same documents as you do to re-enter the United States. Be sure to obtain an endorsement on your dependents’ I-20 or DS-2019.

Dependents need not travel with you. Your F-2 and J-2 dependents are not required to travel with you, the primary F-1/J-1 student.

They may remain in the United States without you as long as you maintain your current status and will return after a temporary absence (generally 30 days or less) using the same SEVIS ID number.

Trips to Mexico, Canada, and Adjacent Caribbean islands

To enter Canada or Mexico as a visitor, you may not need a valid F-1 or J-1 visa stamp. However, a visitor’s visa may be required depending upon your country of citizenship.

If you are planning a trip to Canada or Mexico, contact the consulate office before your trip to determine if you or your dependents will need a visitor’s visa.

Re-entering the United States on an Expired F-1 or J-1 Visa

With a few exceptions, most students may travel to Canada, Mexico, and adjacent islands and re-enter the United States on an expired F-1 or J-1 visa if the trip does not exceed 30 days. This is known as automatic visa revalidation.


    • Applied for a new visa that has not yet been issued*
    • Applied for a new visa and was denied
    • Has been outside the United States for more than 30 days
    • Has traveled to a country other than Canada, Mexico, or an adjacent island that is not included in the automatic revalidation provisions
    • Is a national of a State Sponsor of Terrorism designated country, including Iran, Syria, and Sudan. Review more about State Sponsors of Terrorism and FAQs.
    • Is in possession of an F student visa or J exchange visitor visa and has traveled to Cuba

*If you apply for a new F-1 or J-1 visa and that visa is denied while you are in Canada or Mexico, automatic revalidation does not apply.

You must have a valid F-1 or J-1 visa to enter or re-enter the United States at all times.

Keep Your Original I-94 Card

If you are traveling to Canada, Mexico, or adjacent islands and plan to re-enter with an expired visa number under the automatic visa revalidation law, it is critical that you retain the original copy of your I-94 card. It will substitute for a valid visa when you re-enter the United States.

When you depart the United States do not relinquish this card to the airlines or an immigration officer. If challenged, you may need to present a copy of the printed regulations to explain why you must retain your I-94 card.

Bring a Copy of the Regulations with You

When traveling, carry a printed copy of a DHS automatic visa revalidation document explaining rules related to automatic revalidation. If there are difficulties processing your re-entry, you can provide these documents to the Customs and Border Protection officer at the port of entry.