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International Students Traveling

International Students Traveling Outside the U.S. For LESS Than Five Months

A student under the F-1 and J-1 international student status may exit and re-enter the U.S. with the following documents:

  1. SEVIS I-20 (F-1 student) or DS-2019 (J-1 student) with a valid travel authorization from the Cal State L.A. International Office (IO);
  2. A current passport valid for at least six months at the time of entry;
  3. Outside the U.S. for less than 5 months;
  4. A valid, current F-1 / J-1 visa stamp; unless traveling to a contiguous country* or adjacent island**(Automatic Revalidation); and
  5. Proof of financial support.

* Contiguous countries: Mexico and Canada
** Adjacent islands: Saint Pierre, Miquelon; The Dominican Republic; Haiti; Bermuda; The Bahamas; Barbados; Jamaica; The Winward and Leeward Islands; Trinidad; Martinique; Other British, French, and Netherlands territory or possessions in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea [INA, Section 101(b)(5)]

Travel Authorization

The travel authorization on page 3 of the I-20 or page 1 of the DS-2019 verifies your full-time enrollment, determine if you are enrolled for the minimum number of units, and confirm that you are in valid status.

To request a travel authorization, you or your dependent(s) submit the I-20/DS-2019 to IO office with the completed Travel Request Form. After verifying your records, the counselor will sign the I-20/DS-2019. You are advised to bring the I-20/DS-2019 at least TWO WEEKS prior to the departure date. If you submit the request with a departure date of less than 2 weeks, and the counselor cannot sign the I-20/DS-2019 due to the workload, you may have to change your travel plans or pay for the document to be sent overseas via DHL. Travel authorization requests are signed on a first-come-first-served basis.

The travel authorization is valid for six(6) months from the date it is signed, or until the expiration date of the I-20/DS-2019, whichever comes first.

Visa Expiration

F-1 and J-1 international students are authorized to continue to stay in the U.S. with an expired visa while maintaining their international student status. If you travel outside the U.S. and the F-1/J-1 visa had expired, you MUST apply for a new F-1 or J-1 visa stamp to re-enter the U.S. The documentation needed includes, but not limited to:

  1. SEVIS I-20 (F-1 student) or DS-2019 (J-1 student) with a valid travel authorization from IO;
  2. A current passport valid for at least six months at the time of entry;
  3. Proof of financial support.

Although the student may apply for the visa at any U.S. Embassy/Consulate, it is advisable for you to apply at your country of citizenship or permanent residence. For more guidelines about visa applications at the U.S. Consulate, please visit the U.S. Department of State website.

A U.S. visa cannot be applied from within the U.S. It must be at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate in another country.

Automatic Revalidation

Automatic Revalidation allows a student with an expired visa stamp to travel to Canada, Mexico, or one of the adjacent islands for less than thirty (30) days and re-enter the U.S. with a I-20/DS-2019 with a valid travel authorization and un-expired I-94 card. At the point of departure from the U.S., do not submit your I-94 card. The automatic revalidation works only with your I-94 card. If you have an electronic I-94 record, bring a printout of this with you, to show at the U.S. port of entry.

Automatic revalidation will not apply if the student:


F-2 and J-2 dependentsí (spouse and children under age 21) travel requirements are the same as you under the F-1 and J-1 principals.

Dependents do not need to travel with the principal F-1/J-1. Dependents are issued their own SEVIS I-20/DS-2019.

Because the dependentsí status is tied to the principalís (F-1/J-1), the student holding F-1/J-1 status must in valid status. Dependents should not travel if the student is out of status. Students who are out of status should consult with an IO counselor prior to the travel.

International Students Traveling Outside the U.S. For MORE Than Five Months

Under Department of Homeland Security regulations, an F-1/J-1 student who is absent from the U.S. for five consecutive months or more is inadmissible as a continuing student. If you are out of the country for five months or more, your F-1/J-1 visa stamp and I-20/DS-2019 are considered invalid, even if they have not expired. Your SEVIS record under the current SEVIS number will be terminated.

In order to return to the U.S. and continue your studies, you must apply for a new SEVIS I-20 and a new F-1/J-1 visa stamp at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate.

If you plan to be outside the U.S. for five months or more, please schedule an appointment to speak with a IO counselor.

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Last Update: 09/2/2014