Traveling While Studying

Before departing the United States, make sure your I-20 or DS-2019 document has been signed in the travel authorization section by an ISSS advisor. Signatures are valid for:

  • Active F-1 Students: 12 months or until program completion, whichever occurs first
  • F-1 students on Optional Practical Training (OPT): 6 months 
  • Active degree-seeking J-1 Students: 12 months or until program completion, whichever occurs first
  • J-1 students on post-completion Academic Training (AT): 12 months or until DS-2019 end date, whichever occurs first

If there have been changes in your academic program (degree level, major, or source of financial support) that are not reflected on your current I-20, please see an ISSS advisor so that we can update your I-20 or DS-2019.

Valid Passport

The United States requires international visitors to maintain passports that are valid for at least six months into the future. Be sure your passport has not expired AND that it will still be valid at least six months after the date you plan to re-enter the U.S.

If you need to renew your passport, contact the consulate or embassy representing your home country in the U.S. or the appropriate authorities in your home country.  Please note, however, that the U.S. has made agreements with several countries whereby the passport is considered to be valid for 6 months beyond the expiration date.

Valid Visa

Be sure that the F-1 or J-1 visa in your passport will still be valid on the date you plan to re-enter the U.S., and has entries remaining (either has an “M” for the unlimited multiple entries or at least one entry left if you were granted limited entry).  If you must renew your visa while outside of the U.S., please consult your local U.S. consulate or embassy website for information on how to apply for the renewed visa.

If you are traveling to Canada, Mexico, or a country in the Caribbean and your F-1 or J-1 visa has expired, you may be eligible for Automatic Visa Revalidation. You are encouraged to print the information on the Department of States website as additional support for re-entering the United States.  Exception: Students from Canada and Bermuda are not required to have a visa.

If you have been approved for OPT and need to renew your F-1 visa, you are strongly advised to have your OPT EAD card and proof of employment in additional to regular documentation. Please see the information for “Travel and OPT” for additional resources.

If you are on approved post-completion AT and need to renew your J-1 visa, you are strongly advised to have your ISSS authorization letter and offer letter from your employer. Please see the information for “Travel and AT” for additional resources.

Visas for Other Countries

Be sure you have any visas needed to enter countries other than your own that you plan to visit. Go to the embassy website of the country you would like to visit to see if you might need a visa to enter the country to which you are traveling.

Returning to the U.S. After Classes Begin

You could encounter problems at the Port of Entry, and be questioned by the immigration officer if you will arrive to the United States after courses at Mines have begun. If you believe you may return to Mines after the start of classes, you are encouraged to get a letter from your department indicating it is acceptable for you to be returning late to your program. You are encouraged to make every effort possible to arrive to Mines by the first day of classes so you do not fall behind academically.

Travel and Dependents

Travel with F-2 or J-2 Dependents

All F-2 and J-2 dependents must obtain a travel signature from the ISSS on their F-2 I-20 or J-2 DS-2019. This travel signature will be valid for 12 months or the duration of the program, whichever time period is shorter (exceptions: F-2 dependents of F-1 students on OPT – travel signatures are valid for 6 months).

All F-2 and J-2 dependents should verify that their passport and visa are valid (unexpired) prior to departing the United States. Additionally, the F-1 or J-1 principal visa holder must have been maintaining, and continue to maintain, their immigration status throughout the duration of the F-2 or J-2’s travel outside of the United States.


Travel with a U.S. Citizen Child

If your child was born in the U.S., he or she is considered a U.S. citizen and under the age of 18, there are special considerations to take into account when traveling internationally. If you plan to take your child to another country, keep in mind that their travel requirements as a U.S. citizen are different from an F-1 or J-1 visa holder. Your child will need to obtain a U.S. passport and they may need a visa to enter the country to which you will travel. If your child has dual-citizenship, they will need passports from the U.S. and the other country of citizenship.

If your child will be traveling with only one parent, or someone other than both parents, they could encounter problems both departing the U.S. or returning to the U.S. This is because the U.S. and other countries need to ensure a child is not being taken across international borders without parental consent. It is encouraged to carry a document establishing the relationship between the parent and child, such as a copy of the child’s birth certificate.

If one parent will remain in the United States, it is recommended that the parent staying in the U.S. provides a letter containing the name and date of birth of the child (or children) along with the name and date of birth of the parent traveling with them. This letter may state that the child(ren) are traveling with their knowledge and permission. To add additional validity to the letter, the parent can print the letter and get the letter notarized by a notary public.  You will need one form of photo id, such as a passport or driver’s license. The parent traveling with the U.S. citizen child should carry this letter with the child’s passport when both departing and re-entering the U.S. If neither parent is traveling with the U.S. citizen child, then both parents should write the letter and sign in front of a notary public to get the letter notarized.

Travel and OPT (F-1 Visa Only)

Is OPT a different visa?

No. A person with OPT authorization is still in Active F-1 Student status. You still need an ISSS advisor signature on your I-20 if you want to re-enter the United States during your time on OPT. Travel signatures while on OPT are only valid for 6 months at a time.


Travel and OPT

Please review the information on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security website and below for guidance on perceived travel risk in relation to Pending and Approved OPT.

This infographic provides information about international travel and perceived risk related to your current F-1 status as well as the specific documents you must carry with you.

 


Pending OPT

Travel with a Pending OPT application can be risky. If your OPT application is still Pending when you wish to re-enter the U.S., you may be allowed to re-enter to look for employment, however, this is at the discretion of U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent you speak with when you re-enter the United States.


Approved OPT

Travel with Approved OPT can still pose challenges. You are encouraged to consider the following:

  • If your OPT is Approved and you are employed or have been offered employment, you should be able to re-enter the U.S. with the documents mentioned above, PLUS a letter from your employer confirming that you are or will be employed there under Optional Practical Training.
  • If your OPT is Approved while you are outside the U.S., you should work with a friend or family member to have your formal I-797 Notice of Approval and EAD card mailed to you abroad
    • If your OPT application has been Approved and you leave the U.S. before finding a job but before your 90-day unemployment limit has passed, you may or may not be allowed to re-enter the U.S. – this is at the discretion of U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents
    • If your OPT application has been Approved and you leave the U.S. before finding a job but after your 90-day unemployment limit has passed, you may not be allowed to re-enter the U.S. – this is at the discretion of U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents

Documents to Carry With You When Traveling

  • Signed I-20 with a valid travel signature by an ISSS advisor – travel signatures are valid for 6 months while on OPT
  • A valid passport
  • A valid F-1 visa
  • Your EAD card (if available)
  • A job offer letter on letterhead (if available)
  • Recommended: most recent, unofficial transcripts indicating you have completed your program
Travel and STEM OPT (F-1 Visa Only)

Pending OPT

Travel with a Pending STEM OPT application can be risky. Please review the infographic under “Travel and OPT (F-1 Visa Only)” above for a visual graphic evaluating general risk. You are encouraged to consider the following prior to any travel:

  • If your STEM OPT application is still Pending when you wish to re-enter the U.S., you may or may not be allowed to re-enter; this is at the discretion of U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent who reviews your record. You are encouraged to carry the following with you:
    • Signed I-20 showing “Pending” STEM OPT on Page 2 with a valid travel signature by an ISSS advisor – travel signatures are valid for 6 months while on STEM OPT
    • A valid passport
    • A valid F-1 visa
    • Your original OPT EAD card
    • Your I-797, Notice of Receipt for STEM OPT Extension
    • Your I-983 Training Plan for STEM OPT Extension
    • Your original job offer letter from your employer

Approved STEM OPT

Once your STEM OPT is approved, you should request an updated I-20 document from the ISSS showing “Approved” STEM OPT on Page 2. Please review the following scenarios to understand what to carry when traveling on Approved STEM OPT.

  • If your STEM OPT is Approved while you are outside the U.S., you should work with a friend or family member to have your formal I-797 Notice of Approval and STEM OPT EAD card mailed to you abroad. You should carry the following with you:
    • Signed I-20 showing “Pending” or “Approved” STEM OPT on Page 2 with a valid travel signature by an ISSS advisor – travel signatures are valid for 6 months while on STEM OPT
    • A valid passport
    • A valid F-1 visa
    • Your STEM OPT EAD card
    • Your I-797, Notice of Receipt for STEM OPT Extension
    • Your I-983 Training Plan for STEM OPT Extension
    • Your original job offer letter from your employer
  • If your STEM OPT is Approved, you should be able to re-enter the U.S. with the following documents
    • Signed I-20 showing “Approved” STEM OPT on Page 2 with a valid travel signature by an ISSS advisor – travel signatures are valid for 6 months while on STEM OPT
    • A valid passport
    • A valid F-1 visa
    • Your STEM OPT EAD card
    • Your I-797, Notice of Receipt for STEM OPT Extension
    • Your I-983 Training Plan for STEM OPT Extension
    • Your original job offer letter from your employer
Travel and AT (J-1 Visa Only)

J-1 students who are on Academic Training have special considerations to take into account when traveling. Please review the below situations to determine what you need to do for travel. 


J-1 Student with Pre-Completion Academic Training Authorization

If you have received pre-completion Academic Training authorization, you will need to carry the following documents with you when traveling outside of the United States:

  • Signed DS-2019 with a valid travel signature by an ISSS advisor. Your DS-2019 should have the Academic Training notation in Box 5. 
  • A valid passport
  • A valid J-1 visa
  • Your original job offer letter on company letterhead 
  • Your AT authorization letter from ISSS 
  • Recommended: most recent, unofficial transcripts indicating you have completed your program

J-1 Student with Post-Completion Academic Training Authorization

If you have received post-completion Academic Training authorization, you will need to carry the following documents with you when traveling outside of the United States:

  • Signed DS-2019 with a valid travel signature by an ISSS advisor. Your DS-2019 should have the Academic Training notation in Box 5. 
  • A valid passport
  • A valid J-1 visa
    • Your J-1 visa has most likely expired when your original J-1 DS-2019 ended (prior to applying for AT authorization). If this is the case, you will need to renew your J-1 visa before you are able to return to the United States. Please review the information about the renewal process on the U.S. embassy website for the city in which you plan to apply, as well as the “Visa Renewal FAQ” below. 
      • Note: A new I-901 fee is not necessary for visa renewals. 
  • Your original job offer letter on company letterhead 
  • Your AT authorization letter from ISSS 
  • Recommended: most recent, unofficial transcripts indicating you have completed your program
Visa Renewal FAQ

Depending on your immigration status and the location you plan to renew your visa at, you may need a variety of documents to apply.  

Check the website of the U.S. consulate or embassy you will visit to see exactly what documents you will need to present. The U.S. embassy website for the location you plan to apply at will have the most up-to-date information for how to renew your visa. Typically, the following is required of all F-1 and J-1 students renewing their visa:

  • Current I-20 or DS-2019 (and all dependent I-20 or DS-2019 forms) with a recent travel signature from an ISSS advisor
  • Past I-20 or DS-2019 documents
  • Unofficial Transcript – You can print this from Trailhead.
  • Enrollment Verification Letter – If your transcript does not yet show the current/most recent semester (usually stating “IP” for “In Progress”) you will also need a Verification Letter showing your current enrollment (available from the Registrar)
  • Financial Documentation – Evidence of recent and sufficient financial support as shown on the I-20 (bank statement, graduate assistantship offer letter, family bank statement, etc.)
  • Only for F-1 Students on OPT or J-1 Students on Academic Training –
    • If F-1 engaged in Curricular Practical Training (CPT), also take a letter from OPT employer stating you are working there under the terms of Curricular Practical Training. You should have the CPT notation on Page 2 of your I-20 to correlate.
    • If F-1 engaged in Optional Practical Training (OPT), also take current EAD (dependents should take photocopy) and a letter from OPT employer stating you are working there under the terms of Optional Practical Training.
    • If J-1 engaged in Academic Training (AT), also take a letter from AT employer stating you are working there under the terms of Academic Training.

How long will it take to get a new U.S. visa?

It depends on your unique application and the wait times in your home country, if applying at home. Students and scholars are advised to go to the U.S. embassy or consulate to renew their visas at the earliest possible opportunity to avoid possible delays. If you know you will be required to appear in person at the embassy, try to make an appointment with the embassy even before you leave the U.S. You do not need to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee again if you SEVIS N-number has not changed. You can retrieve your original I-901 payment online

Many embassy websites provide information about their visa application procedures.  Please be aware of additional administrative processing and the significant delays this security check can cause. If you are aware that you will likely be submitted to additional processing, plan ahead for your visa renewal.


Third-Country Nationals and Visa Renewal

“Third-country national” means that you are not a citizen of the country where you are applying to the U.S. embassy for the F-1 or J-1 visa. If you apply to renew your visa in any country that is not your home country, you will be considered a third-country national. It can be be more difficult to try to renew your visa in a country that is not your own.

If you apply for an F-1 or J-1 visa in a country other than your home country, it is possible that you may encounter difficulties with the visa application process. In particular, if you are denied, you may not be able to re-enter the U.S. until you travel directly to your home country and apply for a new visa there.

You could also experience significant delays due to additional administrative processing. If you are subjected to additional administrative processing while applying for a visa renewal in a third country, you must remain in that country until your visa request is approved or denied. If you depart the country while your visa application is pending, the application will be considered abandoned and thus, cancelled.


Getting a U.S. Visa in Canada or Mexico

If you plan to get a U.S. visa at a consulate in Canada or Mexico, you must make an advance appointment with the U.S. consulate you plan to visit. Please note that only individuals who meet specific requirements will be allowed to do this if Canada or Mexico is not your country of citizenship. If your visa is expired and you apply for and are denied a new visa in Canada or Mexico, you cannot re-enter the U.S. under the terms of automatic visa revalidation. Instead you will be required to return directly to your home country to apply for a new visa in the U.S. consulate there.


Visas for Other Countries

Be sure that you have any additional visas needed to enter countries other than your own that you plan to visit.  Go to the embassy website of the country you would like to visit to see if you might need a visa to enter the country to which you are traveling.


Additional Administrative Processing

Some visa applicants may be subject to additional screening. These security checks are performed by the U.S. Department of State, and can take several weeks or months to complete. There are at least three ways a student or scholar can be subject to a security check:

  1. Their country of citizenship.
  2. The area of study/research is highly technical or viewed as “sensitive:” citizens of any country have been selected for security checks for this reason. The “Sensitive Majors” list includes most engineering disciplines, chemical and biochemical/biomedical sciences, computer science, genetics, certain branches of physics, nuclear and laser technologies, actuarial science, and urban planning, among others.
  3. A preliminary check at the consulate reveals potential criminal history or other “security concerns” requiring additional review.

When an advanced administrative processing is initiated by the U.S. embassy, the Mines ISSS, Colorado School of Mines, or any other school liaison is unable to influence the process. If you are subjected to advanced administrative processing, please contact ISSS so that we may provide guidance for how to proceed.


Visa Denial

How Likely Is It That My Visa Application will be denied?

There are never any guarantees that a visa will be granted or renewed. However, in general it is less likely that a visa will be denied to a student who is in the middle of a course of study. As noted above, delays may be more likely to occur.

What If My Application for a New Visa Is Denied?

Politely ask the consular officer to provide you a written explanation for the denial. Contact ISSS as soon as possible to provide details about your visa interview, what you were asked and what you replied, in addition to any paper or email documentation provided to you. Please note, ISSS cannot reverse denial decisions but we can provide guidance with regards to your options and next steps.

Do I Need to Do Anything Upon Re-entry to the U.S. on a New Visa?

While you are still at the Port of Entry, make sure the information on your entry stamp is accurate (your stamp should read “F-1, D/S” or “J-1, D/S.” You passport should be stamped and your electronic I-94 should indicate “D/S” for Duration of Status and the appropriate category – F-1, J-1, etc. – is marked on it.  

If it is not, bring it to the attention of the officer at the Port-of-Entry. It is imperative that you are entered on the correct status. This can be corrected at a later date, but it is easier to do at while at the Port-of-Entry. You should also certainly keep a photocopy of your new visa and I-94 (front and back) in a safe place.

Automatic Visa Revalidation

RE-ENTERING THE U.S. FROM CANADA, MEXICO, OR THE CARIBBEAN ON AN EXPIRED VISA

Individuals in F-1 or J-1 visa status can re-enter the U.S. from Canada, Mexico, or the adjacent Islands* (other than Cuba) on an expired F-1 or J-1 student visa if:

  1. They are returning from a visit of less than 30 days
  2. They did not apply for a new visa while outside the U.S., and
  3. They have with them:
    • a valid passport
    • a valid I-94 showing the correct visa status and “D/S” – you are encouraged to have multiple copies of your most recent I-94 on hand if you are planning to utilize Automatic Revalidation
    • evidence of sufficient financial support for your visit abroad
    • a valid I-20 or DS-2019 signed for travel by an ISSS advisor

NOTE: The automatic revalidation option is NOT available to all individuals.  You are encouraged to review the U.S. Department of State information regarding Automatic Visa Revalidation.

Automatic Visa Revalidation is not available to individuals who apply for a renewed F-1 or J-1 visa in Canada, Mexico, or the adjacent islands.

*”Adjacent Islands” are defined by the Code of Federal Regulations at 8 CFR 286.1(a) as: Saint Pierre, Miquelon, The Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bermuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, the Windward and Leeward Islands, Trinidad, Martinique, Other British, French, and Netherlands territory or possessions in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Form I-515A

When entering the United States at any port-of-entry, you will speak with a U.S. Customs and Border Protection office. This officer will review your immigration documents and SEVIS record quickly to determine whether or not you are admissible to the United States. Admissibility is at the discretion of the officer you present your documentation to. Please ensure you have all the required documents listed in the menus above for your specific situation. 

Most U.S. CBP agents have 1-2 minutes during primary inspections to determine whether or not you can be admitted to the United States. If admissibility cannot be determined within this time frame, you may be asked to go through secondary inspections. What this typically means is simply that U.S. CBP needs additional time to review your SEVIS record and/or immigration documents. Being taken to secondary inspections should not be cause for concern. The best course of action is to be patient and respond truthfully to all questions the U.S. CBP agent(s) ask you. If you will land in another U.S. city besides Denver when returning to the United States, you are encouraged to allot additional transit time between your connecting flights in case of secondary inspection.

In the event you do not have a document listed above when you are trying to re-enter the United States, a variety of situations could occur. Please review below to best understand your options:

  • Conditionally Admitted to the United States
    • You may receive a form I-515A, Temporary Admission to the United States. You will receive a letter from the U.S. CBP officer explaining how to correct this status. This status permits you to be in the U.S. under no specific visa category for up to 30 days. During these 30 days, you are required to prove your valid F-1 or J-1 visa status by submitting documentation to the U.S. government. Please visit the ISSS for assistance in responding to the I-515A. Failure to respond may have negative consequences for your current and future immigration statuses. 
  • Entered into Secondary Inspection
    • After completing secondary inspection, you may:
      • Be admitted in F-1 or J-1 status with no additional action to take
      • Be admitted with a form I-515A, Temporary Admission to the United States. Please review “Conditional Admittance” above
  • Denied entry to the United States
    • If denied entry to the U.S., you will not be permitted to enter the United States. Instead, you will be escorted to purchase flights to return home, often at your own expense. Denials are at the discretion of the U.S. CBP officer. Please contact the ISSS office as soon as possible if you are denied entry to the United States. 

The information contained in this web site is provided as a service to the international students, faculty, staff, employees and administrators of the Colorado School of Mines, and does not constitute legal advice on any immigration, tax or any other matter. We aim to provide substantial and useful information, but we make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or sufficiency of the information contained in or linked from this web site or any external/associated site. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel. Neither the Colorado School of Mines nor the Office of Global Education is responsible for any errors or omissions contained in this website, or for the results obtained from the use of this information.

CONTACT US

International Student & Scholar Services
924 16th Street
Green Center, Suite 219
Colorado School of Mines
Golden, CO 80401

Office Hours
Monday through Friday, 9:00a – 12:00p and 1:30p – 4:00p

Main Office Phone and Email
(303) 273-3210 / isss@mines.edu