Travel

Travel Inside the United States

When traveling within the United States, we strongly recommend that students carry a valid passport, I-94 record, I-20 or DS-2019 that has been recently signed for travel and proof of current registration (you can download a copy of your registration from Student Information System (SISWEB).  Non-registered students should obtain verification of their current academic standing from their department.

Travel Outside the United States

If you’re planning on traveling to other countries, you may need a visa and/or immunizations for entry. Before you leave the United States, contact the nearest consulate or embassy of the country(ies) you plan to visit for the most current information about entry requirements. The nearest embassies and consulates are in San Francisco or Los Angeles.

Travel Delays:  Students traveling outside of the U.S. should be aware of possible delays when reentering.  National security concerns have occasionally led to long delays in returning to the U.S. for some students doing research in sensitive areas.

You will need the following documents to reenter the United States and continue your studies at UC Davis:

  • Valid Passport  Your passport must be valid at least six months into the future at all times, especially upon entry or reentry to the U.S.
  • Valid U.S. F-1 or J-1 Visa 
    • The visa in your passport must be valid on the date of return to the U.S. 
    • It is acceptable to have an expired visa as long as you are in the United States.  If your visa does expire while you are in the United States, you will have to get it renewed the next time you leave the country in order to reenter. 
    • If you have an expired passport with a valid U.S. visa, you do not need a new visa in your new passport so long as you carry both passports when you enter the U.S.
  • Travel Signature I-20/DS-2019 documents should be signed for travel by the program sponsor who issued the documents.  Travel signatures remain valid for 12 months with the exception of students on OPT whose signatures are only valid for 6 months. If SISS is your program sponsor, request a travel signature via the  https://iglobal.ucdavis.edu portal. Otherwise, contact your program sponsor for document processing times.
  • Proof of current registration You can download a copy of your registration from Student Information System (SISWEB) or request an official transcript from the Registrar's Office.  Non-registered students should obtain verification of their current academic standing from their department.
  • Students on OPT should be aware of additional requirements.

Consult with a SISS advisor at least two weeks before departure if:

  • You will need to renew/apply for a new visa.
  • You will be out of the U.S. for more than five months.
  • You are planning to travel to Mexico or Canada to renew or change your U.S. visa.
  • You are planning to travel to Cuba. Given the complexities of U.S. law and policy in regards to Cuba, it is best to check with an advisor to get the most current information.
  • Your I-20 or DS-2019 has expired or will expire within 30 days of your expected return to the U.S.
  • You have ever applied for U.S. legal permanent resident status (green card).

Traveling on OPT

There are a few situations where travel during OPT is very risky. Please contact SISS if you have any questions.

After completing your program & before receiving your EAD, you should travel with:

  • Valid passport (not expiring in the next 6 months)
  • Valid visa (or plans to renew)
  • I-20 with travel signature (travel signatures during OPT remain valid for 6 months)
  • I-797C Receipt Notice
  • Job offer or job verification letter1,3

After completing your program & after receiving your EAD, you should travel with:

  • Valid passport (not expiring in the next 6 months)
  • Valid visa (or plans to renew)
  • I-20 with travel signature (travel signatures during OPT remain valid for 6 months)
  • Employment Authorization Document (EAD) Card4,5
  • Job offer or job verification letter2,3

1Before receiving the EAD, it is possible to reenter without the job offer/verification letter if students have all of the other documents; however, reentry is not guaranteed. Students must weigh this risk against the importance of travel.

2After receiving the EAD, students MUST travel with a job offer/verification letter.

3Verification letter should include: Title, dates of employment, dates of authorized leave, supervisor’s name and contact information on company letterhead, with an original signature.

4STEM eligible students with a gap between valid EAD cards should not expect to be readmitted to the U.S. without the new EAD card.

5Students who qualify for a Cap Gap Extension with an H-1B petition filed in a timely manner should not travel while the petition is pending.  Once approved, students can expect to be able to travel and be granted reentry to the U.S. with an H-1B visa up to 10 days before the start of their H-1B employment.

Travel Signatures

Students are required to have a recent travel signature on their I-20/DS-2019 to re-enter the United States.  Students should use the https://iglobal.ucdavis.edu portal to request a travel signature.  Please allow 10 working days to process travel signature requests.

How to know if you need a signature:

  • Signatures are generally in blue ink.
  • F-1 students will look at the bottom of page 2 of their I-20.  Signatures are valid for one calendar year except for students who are on OPT.  Signatures for students on Optional Practical Training (OPT or STEM OPT) are valid for 6 months.
  • J-1 students will look at the lower right-hand corner of their DS-2019.  Signatures are valid for one calendar year. Signatures for students on Academic Training (AT) are valid for 6 months.

Students on OPT are required to confirm their employment and address information to receive an updated I-20 with a travel signature.

Students on STEM OPT will receive an updated I-20 at each 6 month mandatory reporting.  Please contact siss@ucdavis.edu if a replacement is needed.

Requirements for Visa Renewal

Students who have an expired U.S. visa will need to renew their visa while they are out of the country. SISS suggests reviewing U.S Department of State's information on student visas and bringing the following documents to your visa interview:

  • Education Verification from the Registrar’s Office, Room 3100 Dutton.
  • Official Transcript from the Registrar's Office.
  • Travel Signature I-20/DS-2019 documents should be signed for travel by the program sponsor who issued the documents.  Travel signatures remain valid for 12 months with the exception of students on OPT whose signatures are only valid for 6 months.
  • Financial Documentation that servesas proof of financial support and resources reflected on your immigration documents (I-20/DS-2019).  This can be any combination of bank statement, departmental funding letter, or government issued financial document.
  • Be prepared to discuss ties to your home country (non immigrant intent as explained in Section 214(b)), and your long-term plans after your graduation at your visa interview.   "Ties" are the various aspects of your life that bind you to your country of residence such as: your possessions, employment, or social and family relationships. Some examples of ties can be a job, a house, a family, and/or a bank account.
  • Graduate students should consider bringing a brief description of their research or any recent research (chapter from your dissertation).
  • Students on OPT should refer to the information above.

Helpful Websites for Visa Renewal

The Department of State's website provides visa applicants with an average wait time to obtain a visa interview. These are estimates only and government processing times are always subject to change.  Planning ahead and applying as early as possible is always recommended.

All visa applicants should thoroughly review U.S Department of State's information on student visas as well as the visa instructions and procedures at the specific post where he or she will be applying.

Traveling to a Third Country

If you plan to travel outside of the United States, but not to your home country, please:
  • Contact the country you plan to visit to see if a visa is required for your visit.  You can find foreign consulates located in the United States here. Otherswise, you can search the internet for information (examples: “how to visit Canada”, or “Mexican consulate”, or “visa for France”).
  • Note that processing time for these travel visas can take several weeks.
  • Come to SISS if you have any travel questions.