Travel

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 Embassy.org.
  • 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 United States with an expired visa. It is legal to remain in the United States beyond the expiration date on your F-1 visa or J-1 visa, as long as you continue to be a student and maintain your F-1 or J-1 status. If your F-1 or J-1 visa is expiring soon, it is not necessary to renew it, unless you are traveling outside of the United States and it expires before your return.

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. I'm glad to help with that.

Restrictions on travel to the U.S. The U.S. currently prohibits entry to anyone who has been physically present in the following countries within the previous 14 days: China, Iran and Brazil. There is still a restriction on travel from Europe, the U.K. and Ireland, but that does not apply to F-1 students, since there is a "national interest exception" for F-1 students, which F-1 students would receive automatically without having to apply. If you are going through a third country on your return to the U.S., you should research that third country’s requirements for visas or restrictions for transit flights through those countries. U.S. immigration policies can change, so it is somewhat unpredictable, though they have not changed much since the summer of 2020.

Quarantine after return to the U.S. At this time there are no requirements for quarantine upon entry to the U.S. or arrival at Gustavus, unless you have symptoms or a known exposure, the same as any other student returning to Gustavus.