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There are many things to consider prior to traveling as an F-1 or J-1 student. This section covers the basics on travel to the United States. Information on departure from the U.S., visa renewal and coming back to the U.S. in your student status and other related topics are also addressed.

Please consult the International Student Advisors in OISS for further information.

NEW CHANGES - Attention F-1 Students: As of Spring 2016, I-20 travel signatures will be valid for ONE YEAR for current students.

F-1 students note the below important information:

  • If you are a current student, with a valid redesigned I-20 and you are NOT on OPT, your travel signature is valid for ONE YEAR.
  • If you are a dependent with a valid F-2 redesigned I-20, your travel signature is valid for ONE YEAR.
  • If you are on OPT/STEM OPT, your travel signature is only valid for SIX MONTHS.
  • A valid travel signature is required when returning to the U.S.
  • Travel signature is not required to depart the U.S.
  • A travel signature is issued by an OISS advisor to confirm you are maintaining your immigration status
  • If you are unsure if you have a travel signature, check page two of your redesigned I-20 (PDF)* under TRAVEL ENDORSEMENT. The date of the last signature issued MUST be within one year of your return date to the U.S.
  • If your current travel signature will expire before you can return to the U.S., you must request an updated travel signature.
  • The travel signature is listed under the travel endorsement section of page 2 of your redesigned I-20 (PDF)*.
  • Submit your I-20 to OISS front desk between 8 am and 5 pm, Monday through Friday.
  • Plan to leave your I-20 for at least THREE business days at OISS. OISS requires three business day to issue a new travel signature.
  • If you are leaving too soon to pick up the signed I-20, OISS can mail your I-20 to you at your own expense. This option is NOT RECOMMENDED. Students must plan ahead.
  • OISS WILL NOT issue same-day travel signatures. Students are required to plan accordingly.
  • If you are away from MSU and wish to receive a travel signature, mail your I-20 to OISS. Include a note saying that you wish to receive a travel signature. OISS will email you instructions via your MSU email address to have your I-20 mailed to you at your own expense through the E-ship global mailing system.

F-1 and J-1 Travel

Are you traveling overseas?

  • Valid I-20 or DS-2019 recently endorsed with signature from OISS. You must bring your I-20/DS-2019 to OISS for travel signature. OISS requires THREE business day to issue a new travel signature, so plan ahead.
  • Valid visa stamp in passport. Check the expiration date. If expired, you must renew at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy. (Please note, if you have been outside of the United States for 5 months or longer and your F-1 or J-1 visa is still valid ie. unexpired, you may need a NEW visa according to a recent State Department rule. Please check with the nearest U.S. consulate to determine if your visa is still valid for entry to the US.)
  • Valid Passport: Passport must be valid for at least 6 months from the intended date of entry into the U.S. If your passport is valid for less than 6 months, then we recommend that you renew your passport or run the risk of being denied entry into the U.S.
  • For students on approved OPT, you must also carry you Employment Authorization Card (EAC) and employment letter.
  • Beginning April 30th, 2013 U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) no longer provides paper I-94 cards at the Port of Entry (except in limited circumstances). For details, visit: I-94 Newsflash

If you have any questions before you depart the U.S., please contact OISS.

Visa Stamp Renewal

U.S. Embassy/Consulate

  • Visit the U.S. Embassy/Consulate web site for a list of required documents, forms, and further instructions on how to renew your visa. Please be aware that each consulate may require different information and have specific application procedures.
  • If allowed, schedule a visa appointment in advance with the U.S. Embassy/Consulate.
  • To locate your embassy/consulate, please visit:

To renew your visa stamp you will need the following documents

  • Valid passport (at least 6 months into the future from the date of re-entry).
  • I-20 or DS-2019 signed by OISS no more than 12 month (6 months for those on OPT or STEM OPT) from the date of re-entry. Verify that all I-20/DS-2019 information is accurate and up-to-date (especially funding information).
  • Updated funding documentation matching the information displayed on your I-20/DS-2019.
  • For those on OPT, you must also carry your valid EAC and employment letter

Common Documents Consulates can request

  • Transcripts from MSU Registrar. If you have been dual enrolled with another institution such as Lansing Community College (LCC), you must also have transcripts from the other institution's Registrar.
  • Proof of past/present/future MSU enrollment (e.g. transcripts, StuInfo print out, Registrar's Office Certificate of Enrollment).
  • Current financial proof (e.g. copy of bank statement, assistantship offer letter, etc)
    Student verification letter from OISS.
  • All previous I-20s or DS-2019s.

OISS recommends that you contact your home country's US Consulate or Embassy for details regarding visa issuance/renewal requirements.

For more information, please consult with an OISS advisor.

U.S. Embassies and Foreign Embassies

Travel to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean Islands

Traveling to MSU and the U.S.

Other travel-related info

*Adobe Acrobat Reader Opens in new window is required to read PDF documents.

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