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Traveling While On a Stanford-Sponsored Visa

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Traveling as a Stanford-sponsored international student, scholar, or employee requires planning and an understanding of requirements to avoid situations that could result in negative consequences to your immigration status. The following information can help you stay compliant and prepared.

Generally, there are two common types of travel for international students, scholars, and employees:

  1. Entering the U.S. from Another Country.
  2. Traveling within the U.S.

Make sure you have all the required documents in your carry-on baggage and that they are not packed in your checked luggage.

Entering the U.S. from Another Country

Before you come to the U.S., make sure you have your documents in order. The list of documents you need depends on your visa status or benefits related to that visa status you are using (e.g., Optional Practical Training, Academic Training).

All Visa Types

Regardless of your visa type (i.e., F, J, H, or O) you need these documents to enter or re-enter the United States:

  • Your valid passport — Your passport must be valid for at least six months past the end date of your program unless your home country has a passport agreement with the U.S.
  • Your valid visa stamp (not required for Canadian citizens) — Your visa must be a valid U.S. visa unless you are a Canadian citizen. If your visa has expired and you plan to travel abroad, you must go to a U.S. consulate or embassy to apply for a new visa before returning to the U.S. You cannot renew your visa within the U.S. If your visa is in your expired passport, carry both your old passport and new passport to re-enter the U.S. Review Applying for a Visa for instructions on renewing your visa.

IMPORTANT: Depending on your visa type, you may need additional documents too. See the information below related to your visa type.

Additional Documentation for Specific Visa Types

  • F-1 Student and F-2 Dependent
    • Initial First Entry in the U.S. in F-1 status Re-entry
      Proof of funding for your program. (Not needed for F-2 dependent.)
      Your most recent I-20 with a valid travel signature (page 2 of the I-20). Valid for 12 months from signature date.
      Your valid I-20 (printed and signed on the first page).

       

  • F-1 on Post-OPT or STEM-OPT and F-2 Dependent
    • Re-entry
      • Your most recent I-20 with a valid travel signature (within six months of the signature date). (F-2 dependent does not need any of the additional documents noted below.)
        • Upon the start of your Post Optional Practical Training (post-OPT) or STEM Optional Practical Training (STEM-OPT), you must request a new I-20 by submitting an I-20 Reprint Request on Bechtel Connect. Bechtel reissues you an updated I-20 indicating "OPT/STEM OPT Approved" instead of "OPT/STEM OPT Pending" or "Requested.”
        • If you are outside the Stanford area and need a new travel signature, complete the I-20 Reprint Request on Bechtel Connect.
      • Employment Authorization Document (EAD card).
      • Evidence of a job offer or proof of volunteering/internship or documentation of searching for employment
      • Proof of sufficient funds in the form of a bank statement if your job offer document does not specify a salary.
    • Do Not:
      • Leave the U.S. and attempt to re-enter if you have not yet received your EAD card.
      • Travel on a cap gap I-20.
      • Enter the U.S. in any status other than F-1 while on post-OPT or STEM-OPT.
  • J-1 Student and J-2 Dependent
    • Initial First Entry in the U.S. in J-1 status Re-entry
      Your valid DS-2019 (original).
      Your valid DS-2019 signed for travel (within 12 months of the date of entry) by a Bechtel International Center advisor.
      • If Stanford University is not your program sponsor, your sponsor (e.g., Fulbright) must sign your DS-2019.
  • J-1 Student on Post Graduation Academic Training and J-2 Dependent
    • Re-entry
      • Your most recent DS-2019 endorsed for Academic Training and signed for travel by a Bechtel International Center advisor. Travel signature is valid for 12 months from the signature date.
        • If Stanford University is not your program sponsor, your sponsor (e.g., Fulbright) must sign your DS-2019.
        • If you are outside the Stanford area and need a new travel signature, complete the DS-2019 Reprint Request on Bechtel Connect.
      • Evidence of a job offer (e.g., employment letter). (Not needed for F-2 dependent.)
    • IMPORTANT: Do not re-enter the U.S. on any visa other than your J-1 or you will forfeit your J-1 status and your ability to work in the U.S.

       

  • J-1 Scholar and J-2 Dependent
    • Initial Entry Re-entry
      Your valid DS-2019 (original).
      Your valid DS-2019 signed for travel (within 12 months of the date of entry) by a Bechtel International Center advisor.
      • If Stanford University is not your program sponsor, your sponsor (e.g., Fulbright) must sign your DS-2019.
      Applying for a New Entry Visa
      If the visa stamp in your passport expires while you are in the U.S., it does not imply that you cannot remain in the U.S. The entry visa does not determine your legal presence in the U.S. or your actual nonimmigrant status. However, keep in mind
      • If you plan to travel outside North America and your visa stamp has expired, or your J-1/J-2 status has changed, you need to obtain a new visa stamp in your passport.
      • You may not need a new visa stamp if you are traveling to a contiguous territory (Canada, Mexico, or adjacent islands) and can request automatic revalidation of your expired visa stamp.
      Apply for a new visa stamp in the same manner as you did when you initially sought permission to enter the U.S.
  • H-1B Employees
    • Re-entry
      • Your valid Approval Notice/Notice of Action: Form I-797.
      • Your I-129 copy.
      • Your Labor Condition Application (LCA) copy.
    • IMPORTANT: Your passport must be valid beyond the approved end date on your Notice of Approval (I-797). If it is not, you may only be admitted until the end date on your passport even though your I-797 expires later.
      • If you find that you have to travel outside the U.S. during the H-1B extension process, contact a scholar advisor at Bechtel. Leaving the U.S. during the extension process can invalidate the new H-1B extension.
      • If you plan to leave the U.S. and your current H-1B status has expired, you cannot return to the U.S. until the extension application is approved, and the approval notice is sent to you. You must apply for a new H-1B visa stamp before you can return to the U.S.
      • You should not travel outside the U.S. during a pending change of status petition.

Automatic Visa Revalidation: Travel to Canada, Mexico, and Adjacent Islands without a Valid Visa Stamp

If you are maintaining lawful nonimmigrant status in the U.S., you do not require a valid visa stamp to re-enter the U.S. after a visit of fewer than 30 days to a “contiguous territory” (Canada, Mexico, and adjacent islands) even if your visa stamp has expired. You can re-enter the U.S. with a copy of your electronic I-94 card, a valid passport, a current I-20 or DS-2019 (with a valid travel signature), and a previously issued visa stamp.

IMPORTANT: Nationals of Iran, North Korea, Sudan, or Syria are not eligible for automatic revalidation of an expired visa.

After Returning to the U.S.

IMPORTANT: Print your Arrival/Departure Record (I-94) as soon as possible after entry and confirm that all the information is accurate.

Your Arrival/Departure Record (I-94) is issued by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) whenever you enter the U.S. This record confirms that you have been legally admitted to the U.S. in a specific visa status and for a duration of time. Note that for F and J visa holders, the amount of time you may remain in the U.S. is specified by the notation “D/S,” indicating that you can be in the U.S. for the Duration of Status of your student or scholar program.

If you arrive by air, the CBP confirms your immigration status by swiping your passport. If you arrive by land, you may be issued a paper I-94 record.

How to Retrieve Your Electronic I-94 (PDF)