Departing the United States

Departing the United States

While you are in F-1 and J-1 status, you are permitted to leave the United States and re-enter provided you present the required documentation. You should review all of the following information carefully before leaving the U.S. with intent to return to continue your studies.  It is advisable to check with the ISSI before traveling outside the U.S. as well.

Documents Required for Re-entry:

1.  Passport valid for at least 6 months beyond your travel date. If your passport will expire in that time frame, contact your consulate.

2.  Unexpired F-1 or J-1 visa valid for further entries.  Note: Many visas have the letter “M” printed in the entries block (beneath your passport number) which means there is no limit on the number of times you may re-enter the U.S. on your visa. But if your visa is expired or you have used the number of entries allowed, you will need to apply for a new F-1 or J-1 visa overseas (most likely in your home country) in order to re-enter the U.S.

     If you obtained a new passport that does not contain a visa stamp, make sure that you carry both the new passport and the old passport bearing your valid U.S. entry visa stamp.

3.  Valid I-20 or DS-2019 endorsed with a travel signature by an International Student Advisor at the ISSI. The advisor’s signature is required on page 2 of the I-20 or page 1 of the DS-2019 and is valid for one year, except when you are engaged in Optional Practical Training.  In these cases, your I-20 or DS-2019 must be signed within 6 months prior to your planned re-entry date to the U.S.

Given the large international population at Northeastern, the ISSI can be very busy, especially around vacation times, holidays and the end of the semester. Be sure to allow a minimum of 5 days to obtain the travel signature on your documents.

4.  Original copies of ALL previous I-20’s or DS-2019’s.  

5.  Employment Authorization Document (“EAD Card”): If you are currently engaged in post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT), you need to present your EAD Card and proof of employment at the port of entry along with the other required documentation listed here.

Consider carrying the following documents as well; an immigration officer could ask to see these:

  • SEVIS fee receipt (if applicable)
  • Current financial documentation
  • Proof of full-time enrollment (request at Registrar’s office.)

We recommend you also consult our Travel Signature page for more information on when you need a new travel signature and when you do not.

Travel for Dependents (F-2 nonimmigrant visa)

The re-entry requirements for dependents are essentially the same as those for F-1 and J-1 visa holders.  Each dependent must carry his/her own I-20.  If a dependent travels separately from you, make sure he/she carries a photocopy of your F-1 visa, I-94 card and your I-20.  For more information, visit

Renewing Your Visa

If your U.S. visa stamp has expired, you will need to apply for a new entry visa stamp at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas, most likely in your home country. Be sure to contact the local U.S. Consulate or Embassy first to find out the necessary procedure and the approximate processing time. You must plan carefully and allow yourself ample time.

The following documents are required:

U.S.-Visit Program

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has introduced an additional security measure, called the "U.S.-VISIT" program. All visitors to the United States will have two fingerprints scanned by an inkless device and a digital photo taken by an immigration officer upon their arrival at a U.S. port of entry (airport or seaport). DHS will store the information and share it with selected law-enforcement agencies on a need-to-know basis. In the future, most visitors will be required to verify their departure as well. 

Departure Upon Program Completion

Once you have completed your program of studies and/or any authorized post-completion practical (F-1) or academic (J-1) training, you must leave the United States within 60 days (F-1) or 30 days (J-1).

Travel Within the United States

Generally, special permission is not required to travel within the U.S.  It is recommended that you carry your passport, I-94, and I-20 whenever your travel outside the Boston area.