Center for International and Cultural Education

Checklist for F-1 or J-1 students traveling outside the United States

Before you travel:

  • Meet with your DSO or RO (Jeff Anderson) in CICE. This meeting is important to help ensure that you will not have immigration problems.
  • Get your I-20 or DS-2019 signed. Bring your I-20 or DS-2019 to your appointment. A recent DSO/RO signature shows US immigration officials that you are still enrolled as a student at Gustavus. 
  • Check your Passport validity. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the date of re-entry to the United StatesImmigration law provides that you will not be allowed to re-enter the United States if your passport expires less than 6 months from the date you enter, unless you are from a country with an agreement to extend passport validity (List of countries in CBP Field Inspector's Manual). Renew your passport if needed. You may renew your passport at the Consulate of your home country in the U.S., which you may find at
  • Check expiration date of your F-1 or J-1 visa. Check your visa stamp to make sure it is for multiple-entry, and is still valid by the date you intend to return. If you need to renew your U.S. visa, you should closely examine the consulate website to determine the procedures for renewing your visa and the documents required. For links to the websites of U.S. embassies and consulates, go to the U.S. Department of State list of Embassies & Consulates.
  • Order a Transcript if you need to renew your F-1 or J-1 visa. Some Consulates require a recent official transcript to renew your visa. Order your Transcript from the Registrar well in advance of your departure. There is no additional charge for transcripts. The transcript you can access on Webadvisor is not considered an "official" transcript.
  • Consider legal issues. If you have had any legal issues (an arrest or citation for any offense that is more severe than a parking ticket), in the U.S. or abroad, at any time in your life, you should consult with Jeff or an attorney before deciding to travel outside of the U.S.
  • Consider what is on your phone, computer, and social media. Any photos, texts, emails, or documents that could be considered as evidence of illegal behavior may be problematic. Immigration officials may check those sources.
  • Consider whether you need a visa for any other countries to which you are traveling. Check to see if you need a visa for any country you will be visiting, or that your flight will be transiting through, and obtain the proper visa well in advance, if required.
  • You may stay in the U.S. with an expired visa. It is legal to stay in the United States beyond the expiration date on your F-1 or J-1 visa, as long as you continue to be a student and maintain your F-1 or J-1 status. You are not required to renew your visa, and you would need to renew your visa only if you plan to travel outside of the U.S. and return after your F-1 or J-1 visa has expired.

What to bring when you return to the United States:

  • I-20 or DS-2019 endorsed by a DSO or RO (recommended within last 6 months / required within last 12 months).
  • Valid F-1 or J-1 visa.
  • Passport valid for at least 6 months from the date of entry.
  • Evidence of Financial Support. Documentation that shows you have sufficient funds to cover your educational and living expenses indicated on your I-20 or DS-2019. This can include bank statements, statements of income, etc. Usually you will not be asked for this, but it is best to have it in case you are.
  • Your Gustavus student identification (Three Crowns Card). This is more proof that you are a student. You student identification is nor required, but it could be helpful if immigration officials question you.
  • Money. If you have more than $10,000 (cash, travelers' checks, bank check, money orders, etc.), you must report that to U.S. immigration when you arrive. You must report that on Form FinCen 105 and give it to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer when you arrive. It is recommended that you download and complete Form FinCen 105 before you travel. If not, you can ask for Form FinCen 105 on the airplane. There is no limit to the amount of currency a traveler can bring into or take out of the U.S. But if you bring more than $10,000 and do not report it, the penalties can be severe. You can lose all of the money. If you bring a check, cash or other funds to pay your Gustavus tuition, make sure to report it. If you bring less than $10,000, you do not have to report it. It is generally not recommended to bring a lot of cash, as there is always a risk of it being lost or stolen.
  • Go to Prohibited and Restricted Items and Bringing Food Into the United States to see what is allowed or not. Generally meats, rice, fresh fruits and fresh vegetables are not allowed. Generally processed foods, spices, coffees and teas, are allowed. Always report products that you have when you arrive to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, as consequences are more severe if they feel that you are being dishonest or hiding something. If you report it, then at worst they may take the item from you. 

After you return to the United States:

  •  I-94 record. The United States Department of Homeland Security uses an electronic system, which records each time you enter or leave the U.S. Soon after each entry to the U.S. you should go to the I-94 Website to retrieve your I-94 record. It is important to check carefully to make sure that DHS properly entered your name, entry date, immigration status (F-1 or J-1), that the "Admit Until Date" is "D/S", and that all of the other information is correct. If there are mistakes, that can be a problem for you later. 
  • Please contact Jeff Anderson if you have any concerns. 

Travel contacts:

If you are traveling inside the U.S. but not leaving the country, you still may want to bring your immigration documents (passport, visa, I-94, I-20 or DS-2019). Some states have immigration laws of their own, and allow local law enforcement officials to check immigration documents, so it can be beneficial to have them, even though they are not required in most places in the U.S. It is very important not to lose your passport, so it is really up to you to make the decision of whether to travel with it. Your I-20 or DS-2019 and I-94 can be easily replaced. You do not need your DSO or RO to sign your I-20 or DS-2019 if you are not leaving the U.S.

COVID-19 travel considerations

Should I travel? The decisions about travel during a pandemic can be difficult, and it is hard to know what is best. We understand how important it is to be able to go home. You must weigh the benefits against the potential risks. I am glad to discuss it with you, if you'd like. You may wish to consider the following.

Restrictions on travel to your destination. Check carefully. Some countries may restrict entry to those coming from the U.S., require a recent negative COVID test, or have quarantine requirements upon entry. You may go to COVID-19 Country Specific Information for the U.S. Department of State analysis of the situation in each country. You should also check local in country sources, your airline, and with your family.

Renewing your F-1 visa. Some U.S. Consulates are closed or severely backlogged. Some allow visa renewals by mail. It may be more difficult than usual, so closely examine the situation at the U.S. Consulate where you would renew your visa.

COVID-19 vaccination required. The U.S. is now requiring proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 for travel to the U.S. Your last dose of an accepted COVID-19 vaccine must have been given a full 14 days before you board your flight to the U.S. Go to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) website for details.

An exception for some countries. If you are from a country on the list of countries with limited COVID-19 vaccine availability (those with less than 10% vaccination coverage), then you may travel to the U.S. and get vaccinated at Gustavus Health Service after you arrive. The list will be updated every 90 days by the CDC. Even if your country is on the list, you should try to get vaccinated for COVID-19 before traveling to the U.S., in case the list changes prior to your departure.

Accepted COVID-19 Vaccines. Check the list of accepted COVID-19 vaccines.

Acceptable Proof of COVID-19 Vaccination. Check carefully to make sure you have the required documentation of your COVID-19 vaccination.

COVID-19 testing before traveling to the U.S. The U.S. requires a negative COVID viral test (a test for current infection) to travel to the U.S. If you are fully vaccinated, the negative COVID test must be within 3 days of your flight to the U.S. If you are not fully vaccinated, the negative COVID test must be within 1 day of your flight to the U.S. You must show your negative result to the airline before you board your flight. Click here for more details, read carefully, and prepare a plan for getting tested prior to your flight to the U.S.

Visa appointment. The U.S. does not require proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or a negative COVD-19 test prior to a visa appointment. So, you may apply for your student visa even if you have not yet been vaccinated for COVID-19.

Restrictions in other countries. If you are going through a third country on your way to the U.S., you should research that third country’s requirements for visas, COVID-19 vaccinations or testing, or restrictions on transit flights through those countries, and obtain the required visa or travel permission or documentation of COVID-19 vaccination or testing, well in advance. Your airline may be able to provide you with information about those requirements.

Travel quarantine. Students arriving from abroad who have not been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 will be required to complete a seven day travel quarantine before participating in in-person activities. That requirement is based on the current recommendations from the CDC and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), which Gustavus and most other colleges follow. Gustavus will provide on campus housing, food, and support for students during the travel quarantine. 

Self quarantine. If you have family or friends who live in the U.S., and you choose to complete your seven day travel quarantine in their residence, prior to arriving at Gustavus, you may do so. If you decide to self quarantine off campus, you should arrive at Gustavus on January 28, 29 or 30.

COVID-19 Testing after traveling to the U.S. The CDC recommends getting tested for COVID-19, between 3 - 5 days after international travel. You may get tested at Gustavus Health Service, at no charge.