The current crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic creates extra worries for students traveling internationally. Because of how rapidly the situation changes, both here in the U.S. and worldwide, International Support strongly advises against traveling outside the U.S. at this time. It is possible that travel restrictions will tighten or requirements for your student status will change while you are gone during a long break. 

We know this can create extra stress and long absences from family and home. Students who live in the residence halls will be welcome to remain during school breaks. Please reach out to International Support if you are contemplating travel. 

The Department of State lists travel advisories for individual countries. Updates about travel restrictions from certain countries can be found at the Centers of Disease Control and the Department of Homeland Security. The CDC also provides advice about travel during the pandemic. 

Travel inside the U.S. is also discouraged at this time. The Governor of Kentucky updates a list of states not to visit as well as other information about COVID-19 in Kentucky. 

Travel Inside the U.S.

Travel during school breaks can allow you to explore other parts of the United States. Often students visit family or join friends on pleasure trips. We ask that you inform International Support before you go.

Take your passport and your I-20 or DS-2019 with you. This is particularly important if you are visiting a place that is within 100 miles of a U.S. border. This includes most major U.S. cities (New York, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington D.C.) and all of Florida. Customs and Border Patrol can operate within these areas, so we recommend you bring your documentation just to be safe. 

Travel to Your Home Country

If you are thinking of leaving the U.S., you should consult with International Support at least 2 weeks before you go. On a trip, you must bring your unexpired passport and your unexpired visa. You need a travel signature on your I-20 (page 2) or your DS-2019 (page 1) from within the last 10-12 months

Students may not be absent from the U.S. for 5 months or more. Absences for such a long period will automatically terminate your student status. 

Students on post-completion OPT: you are required to have a Travel Authorization Signature on your I-20 that is not more than 6 months old.    

REMEMBER:  If you have an expired student visa or do not have a valid travel signature, you will not be allowed to board a flight to the U.S.

Travel To A Different Country 

If you are traveling to a country other than your home country, you may need a visitor’s or transit visa.  To find out, visit that country’s embassy website at Contact Information for Foreign Embassies and search for the consular section nearest you.

If your visa is expired, we generally recommend that you do not leave the U.S. unless you are travelling to your home country and have enough time to renew the visa.

However, under very specific circumstances, some travel would qualify for automatic visa revalidation. In these situations, you may be allowed re-entry on an expired visa.

  • The student must have been admitted to the U.S. for "Duration of Status" or D/S, as seen on your passport stamp and I-94
  • The travel may take place only to Mexico, Canada and the neighboring Caribbean islands (except Cuba)
  • The passport must still be valid (in some cases, for at least 6 months after your date of reentry)
  • The I-20 and status must still be valid
  • The visa holder must retain the I-94 card upon departure, so it can be presented upon return
  • The time spent outside the U.S. must not exceed 30 days

Currently citizens of Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria are not eligible for automatic visa revalidation.

REMEMBER: The automatic revalidation does NOT work for travel to countries other than the ones mentioned above. If you have an expired student visa and attempt to board a flight to the U.S. from a country other than those mentioned above, you will not be allowed to board the flight.

Travel After Program End Date

As an F-1 or J-1 visa holder, you may enter the United States up to 30 days prior to the start of your program at school. You are free to travel anywhere in the United States during that time. In addition, at the end of your program, you have 30 days (as a J-1 student) or 60 days (as an F-1 student) to remain in the United States before you are in violation of your visa.

Many students take this “grace period” as an opportunity to travel within the U.S., however it is important to remain in the United States and not attempt a “day-trip” to another country (e.g. Mexico or Canada). Your grace period ends the moment you depart the U.S. and your student visa is no longer valid for reentry. If your travel plans during the 30-day grace period include a visit outside the country and then a re-entry to the U.S. before returning home, you must plan to re-enter in tourist visa status, not a student visa status. Please be careful and do not overstay your time in the United States. It may affect your ability to obtain a visa in the future.