International travel by students and scholars in non-immigrant status requires advance planning and careful attention to details. The most important thing is to make certain you have all the required documents with your passport (not packed in your suitcase) when you arrive back in the U.S. Check with ISPS before you leave if you have any questions and to obtain a travel signature. (Note: Current semester balance must be paid in full to receive travel authorization.)



Traveling Outside the U.S.

All international students, scholars and family members planning to temporarily depart from the U.S. and return to ECU must have a valid passport in order to exit the U.S. The passport must also be valid for a minimum of six months into the future at the time of re-entry to the U.S.

Except for Canadian citizens all international students, scholars and family members will also need to have a valid U.S. visa stamp in their passport specific to their current activities (student, professor, researcher, etc…). Information about renewing your visa can be found here.

F-1 Students
Please check your documents well in advance of your trip. (If you are traveling to Canada, Mexico or the contiguous islands for less than 30 days you may be eligible for a visa renewal exemption.)

Travel Requirements

  • Valid I-20 with ISPS signature on page 2
  • ISPS signature should be within 12 months of return date
  • Valid F-1 visa
  • Valid passport
  • If graduated and on F-1 OPT, your EAD card and a letter from your employer re your OPT position
  • F-2 dependents must have their own valid I-20 forms

J-1 Students/Scholars
Please check your documents well in advance of your trip. (If you are traveling to Canada, Mexico or the contiguous islands for less than 30 days you may be eligible for a visa renewal exemption.)

Travel Requirements

  • Valid DS-2019 with ISPS signature at bottom of page one
  • ISPS signature should be within 12 months of return date
  • Valid J-1 visa
  • Valid passport
  • J-2 dependents must have their own valid DS-2019 forms


Travel to Canada, Mexico, and the Adjacent Islands

When considering travel to countries adjacent to the U.S. there are two questions to consider: Does your country of citizenship require a visa (e.g. Canadian visa) to enter that country, and will your U.S. immigration status allow you to return to the U.S. (e.g. from Canada.)

Visas to Enter Adjacent Countries
For citizens of some countries, you may need a visa to enter Canada, Mexico or the adjacent Caribbean islands. Please check the sites below to see if citizens of your home country are required to have a visa stamp (e.g. a Canadian tourist visa) to enter an adjacent country. If a visa is required you will need to prepare all of the materials and make your visa application directly with that country’s consulate directly. Obtaining visas to enter countries other than the U.S. is not a service ISPS provides.

Returning to the U.S. (after visiting an adjacent country)
A majority of students and scholars in the U.S. do not need a new U.S. visa to return to the U.S. after visiting an adjacent country. Citizens of Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria and Sudan are not eligible for this process known as Automatic Revalidation. The provision allows certain U.S. visa holders to re-enter the U.S. after a visit of less than 30 days to a "contiguous territory" (Canada, Mexico, and, in the case of F and J non-immigrants, the "adjacent islands other than Cuba") without having to obtain a new visa prior to re-entry.  Students and scholars in F and J visa status who are maintaining lawful nonimmigrant status in the United States, and who travel to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean islands, for 30 days or less, can re-enter the U.S. with the printed I-94 card, a valid passport, and a current form I-20 or DS-2019 (with valid travel signature) plus a previously-issued U.S. embassy visa stamp (which could be expired, or even in a different category than the I-94 if a change of status has been approved in the U.S.). Please speak to an advisor in ISPS if you have questions about this provision.

Automatic revalidation of visa does NOT apply if:

  • You apply for a new U.S. visa in Canada, Mexico or the adjacent islands. This means if you apply for a new visa you must wait until that visa is issued to return to the U.S.
  • You travel to any other country before returning to the U.S. from Canada or Mexico.

Applying for U.S. Visa at a U.S. Consulate in an Adjacent Country
Thanks to the Automatic Revalidation procedure mentioned above most students and scholars do not need to apply for a new visa stamp. In addition, due to a number of complex government policies, ISPS recommends that students and scholars never plan to apply for new U.S. visa stamp from a U.S. consulate while visiting an adjacent country, unless absolutely necessary.


I-94 Arrival/Departure Document

The I-94 is an important document which records the date and purpose of your entry to the US, and how long you are allowed to stay. In the past the I-94 was a small white card which all students received upon entering the US. However, starting in the April 2013, all airports have stopped issuing this card. Instead, your entry is recorded into an electronic database using your Visa. You can go online to this electronic database to retrieve your I-94 record.

If you are a new international student or scholar
If you are a newly arrived international student or scholar and need to check-in with ISPS, you must print a paper copy of your I-94 number and bring it with you to check-in. Click the link below to enter your personal information and retrieve your I-94 record. Print the I-94 record or save it to your personal device. Always keep a few copies on hand.

Problems finding your online I-94 record?
First make sure that you have entered your name exactly as it appears on your U.S. Visa, not as it is in your passport. If you cannot locate your I-94 record in the system, please contact an advisor in ISPS. You may need to contact the Customs and Border Protection agency to have your record fixed. Please be prepared to give the advisor the date you arrived in the U.S., the airport you landed in, and the airline company you flew with.

For each new entry into the U.S.:
Remember to download and print a new I-94 number each time you exit and return to the U.S. Keep the most current printed I-94 number with your passport for your own records. State and federal government agencies will ask to see the I-94 record (for driver’s license, social security number, etc…) The I-94 data is your only record of being in the U.S. legally, so it is important to keep a printout with your passport at all times while inside the U.S.


Traveling in the U.S.

You are advised to carry your passport and immigration documents (your I-20 or DS-2019) with you when traveling in the U.S.; they will be required for a flight, but could also be requested on trips where you are traveling by car, train or bus. For more information about the documentation required for air travel consult the guidelines of the Transportation Security Administration.

If you are traveling in and around the Ada area carry a copy of your I-94 card, a copy of your I-20 Form, a copy of your passport page with your biographic information and photo with you at all times. While it is extremely unlikely you would be questioned, having these documents with you provides immediate proof of your lawful status in the U.S.

Visa Delays
While all individuals applying for a U.S. visa are screened before the issuance of a visa, certain individuals may be subject to further screening or clearance, commonly known as Administrative Processing.

Issues that may trigger an Administrative Processing or security clearance delay include:

  • Inconsistent spelling of your name
  • Your name is similar to others in the consular lookout system requiring further investigation
  • If you are from North Korea, Cuba, Syria, Sudan, Iran and Libya you will likely be subject to an additional security clearance process that can take several months.

To read the U.S. State Department updates on potential visa delays go directly to the Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs web site.

Security Advisory Opinion
If a security advisory opinion is requested by the Consulate (Administrative Processing) your visa will not be issued until the clearance is received from Washington D.C. On average this takes about 60 days, but can take longer. There is no way to expedite this process nor find out the status of the case. Some U.S. consulates maintain a list on their website of cases under review. Look for Administrative Processing Check Status.

Once issued, the clearance can be (at the discretion of the embassy) valid for up to four years for F-1 students and up to two years for students and scholars in J-1 status as long as there have been no substantial changes in your academic or research program.

U.S. Department of State Resources is the primary source of information regarding travel delays, alerts, and warnings.