Travel and Re-entry

During your time at GW, you may want to visit your family and friends in your home country, spend Spring Break exploring another country, or participate in a study abroad program.

Before you travel outside the United States, there are some immigration-related things you need to know and do to ensure you are maintaining your F-1 Student or J-1 Exchange Visitor status. This information will help make the re-entry process as smooth as possible.

1. Things to Do Before Departing the United States
2. Travel Signatures
3. Required Documents at the Port of Entry
4. What to Do After Re-entering the United States
5. Additional Resources



Things to Do Before Departing the United States

1. Confirm that your Form I-20 (F-1 Students) or Form DS-2019 (J-1 Exchange Visitors) is valid for the entire period you are abroad. You will not be able to re-enter the U.S. with an expired Form I-20 or Form DS-2019.

2. Check your current Form I-20 for a valid travel signature on page 2, or your current Form DS-2019 for a valid travel signature on page 1. You will not be able to re-enter the United States without one.

3. If your Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 does not have a travel signature, or if the most recent travel signature has expired, submit a request for a new travel signature.

• F-1 Students: Submit a request for a new travel signature through the ISOGateWay portal at least two weeks before your planned departure date. If an ISO Advisor determines that you are eligible for a travel signature on your Form I-20, you will receive further instructions via email.

How to Get a Travel Signature

• J-1 Exchange Visitors: Bring your DS-2019 to the ISO front desk during our office hours and submit a Travel Signature Request at least 10 business days before your intended departure date.

4. Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months. If you passport is expiring soon, make arrangements to renew your passport before you travel.

5. Check the expiration date of your visa. If your visa will have expired by the date of your planned re-entry into the U.S., make arrangements to obtain a new visa while you are abroad.

6. Login to GWeb and make sure that your phone number and U.S. residential address are correct in the “Current Address” section.

GWeb Information System
 



Travel Signatures

What is a travel signature?
F-1 Students and J-1 Exchange Visitors in active status may leave the United States and return within a period of five months. To re-enter the U.S., your Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 must be properly endorsed (signed) for re-entry by an ISO Advisor.

• F-1 Students: Depending on your situation, an ISO Advisor will either sign page 2 of your current I-20, or issue you a new I-20 with a travel signature.

• J-1 Exchange Visitors: An ISO Advisor will sign page 1 of your current DS-2019.

Do I need a travel signature?

• F-1 Students: You will need a valid travel signature to re-enter the United States in F-1 Student status after traveling internationally for less than five months. If you do not intend to return to the U.S., or if you plan to leave the U.S. for more than five months, please notify your ISO Advisor.

• J-1 Exchange Visitors: You will need a valid travel signature to re-enter the United States in J-1 Exchange Visitor status before the program end date listed on your DS-2019.

F-2 and J-2 dependents traveling internationally will also need to have valid immigration documents, including a valid travel signature on their Form I-20 or Form DS-2019, for re-entry.

A travel signature is not required for travel inside the United States.

How can I obtain a travel signature from the ISO?

F-1 Students:

1. Login to ISOGateWay with your GW netID and password.
2. In the menu on the left, select F-1 Student Services.
3. Select Travel Signature Request.
4. Complete and submit the Travel Signature Request form. You will receive a confirmation email from [email protected].
5. The ISO will review your request. Please check your email for updates and any requests for additional information.
6. If your request is approved, you will receive a notification email with instructions to have your current I-20 signed by an ISO Advisor. If you are currently engaging in post-completion OPT and are unable to visit the ISO to have your current I-20 signed, an ISO will issue you a new I-20 with a travel signature. When your request has been processed, you will receive a notification email with instructions to obtain your I-20.

ISOGateWay

J-1 Exchange Visitors:

1. Bring your original Form DS-2019  to the ISO front desk during our office hours.
2. Complete a J-1 Exchange Visitor Request Form and select Travel Signature as your request type.
3. The front desk staff will create a case for you in our system.
4. An ISO Advisor will review your record, and if you are eligible to receive a new travel signature, they will sign your DS-2019.
5. You will receive a notification email from [email protected] when your DS-2019, signed for re-entry, is ready for pick-up.

How long does it take to get a travel signature?
Although our team tries to process requests as quickly as possible, during peak times it may take as many as ten business days to complete each request. Please plan ahead and allow sufficient time. If your need for a travel signature is extremely urgent, please provide details in the "special requests or considerations" box in your Travel Signature Request.

For how long is each travel signature valid?
A valid travel signature can be used for multiple international trips.

F-1 Students:

• For current and enrolled students, each travel signature is valid for 12 months from the date of endorsement, or until your program end date (whichever comes first).

• For graduated F-1 Students actively engaging in post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT), each travel signature is valid for 6 months from the date of endorsement.

• Note that re-entry during the 60-day grace period is not permitted, even with a travel signature, unless you have submitted a request for OPT authorization to USCIS, and your request is in pending or approved status with USCIS.

J-1 Exchange Visitors:

• Each travel signature is valid for 12 months from the date of endorsement, or until your program end date (whichever comes first).

• Note that re-entry during the 30-day grace period is not permitted, even with a travel signature.



Required Documents at the U.S. Port of Entry

Current F-1 Students

1. Form I-20 with a valid travel signature on page 2 or Form DS-2019 with a valid travel signature on page 1
2. Passport, valid for at least six months
3. F-1 Visa, valid on the date of your planned re-entry (unless you are a citizen of a visa-exempt country)
4. (Recommended) Evidence of financial support
5. (Recommended) Official GW transcript or letter of enrollment from the Registrar
6. (Recommended) GWorld card

F-1 Students Engaging in Optional Practical Training (OPT)

1. Form I-20 with a valid travel signature on page 2
2. Passport, valid for at least six months
3. F-1 Visa, valid on the date of your planned re-entry (unless you are a citizen of a visa-exempt country)
4. Valid Employment Authorization Document (“EAD card”)
5. (Recommended) Evidence of employment

Current J-1 Students

1. Form DS-2019 with a valid travel signature on page 1
2. Passport, valid for at least six months
3. J-1 Visa, valid on the date of your planned re-entry (unless you are a citizen of a visa-exempt country)
4. (Recommended) Evidence of financial support
5. (Recommended) Official GW transcript or letter of enrollment from the Registrar
6. (Recommended) GWorld card

New Transfer Students
Please see Travel and Transfer.



What to Do After Re-entering the United States

Form I-94
Each time you enter and exit the United States, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CPB) creates a Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record. It serves as proof of your legal F-1 or J-1 status in the United States. After re-entering the U.S., we recommend that you obtain your most recent Form I-94 to verify that you were admitted in the correct status (F1 or J1) and for the correct length of time (D/S, or duration of status).

Get Most Recent I-94

If your most recent Form I-94 indicates that you were admitted in another visa category (for example, B1/B2) or until a specific date (instead of D/S), please let your ISO Advisor know.

Form I-515A
If you do not have all the necessary documentation at a U.S. port of entry, or if there is an issue with your SEVIS (immigration) record, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official may deny your entry or issue you a Form I-515A, which grants you temporary entry into the U.S. for 30 days.

If you are issued a Form I-515A at a U.S. port of entry, please make an appointment to speak with an ISO Advisor immediately. The Form I-515A requests supporting documents, and if these documents are not received by the U.S. Government within 30 days, your SEVIS (immigration) will be automatically terminated, and you will no longer have legal status in the U.S.



Additional Resources

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
Frequently asked questions about F-1 travel and re-entry: https://www.ice.gov/sevis/travel

U.S. Department of State (DOS)
Bureau of Consular Affairs: https://travel.state.gov/

Immmigration Updates and Information
ISO's News & Updates page: https://internationalservices.gwu.edu/news-and-updates