Skip page navigation

Visas and Travel

Travel Checklist

Before travelling outside the U.S. make sure that you are prepared for your return. Following is a checklist of items to consider before traveling, and information on applying for a visa abroad.

You may need any of the following documents:

  • Valid Passport: Everyone is required to have a valid passport to enter the U.S.. If your passport will expire within 6 months of your return to the U.S., please contact your nearest home country embassy for renewal instructions before you travel.
  • U.S. Visa Stamp: You must have a visa that was issued for your current immigration status. (The exceptions are described below.) It must be valid on the day you will return. It must have at least one (1) entry remaining. (If an "M" is printed for the number of entries, it means you can use the visa for multiple entries.) If you do not have this visa you must apply for it at an embassy outside the U.S.. For instructions, please refer to the OIA handout entitled "Applying for a Visa Overseas".

    Canadian citizens do not require a visa at any time. (Landed Immigrants of Canada do require a visa.)

    Short trips to Canada, Mexico, and some nearby islands may be possible with an expired U.S. visa, or a visa for a different immigration status. To determine if this is an option for you, please refer to the OIA handout entitled "Travel to Canada or Mexico".

  • SEVIS Fee Receipt: This requirement only applies to F-1 students and J-1 Exchange Visitors. If you began your program anytime after September 1, 2004 you were required to pay a SEVIS fee. You were issued a receipt, which you had to present at the visa interview. You should take this receipt with you when you travel.

    If you entered the U.S. in F-1 student or J-1 Exchange Visitor status prior to September 1, 2004, and have not had a break in that status, you are not required to pay this fee. Be sure that you carry both your current I-20 or DS-2019 document, as well as one that shows your original program start date (if you have had more than one program in this status), when you travel. You will present these to prove that you are not required to pay the SEVIS fee.

    Additional information about the SEVIS fee can be found at

  • Transit Visas: Will your travel itinerary require you to stop in a third country (not the U.S. or your final destination), for any amount of time? If yes, research the visa requirements for that country. There are a few countries that require a transit visa, even for layovers.
  • Non-U.S. Visas: If you are traveling to a country that is not your country of citizenship, you may be required to obtain a visa. Research the visa requirements of your destination to determine if this is necessary. This requirement may even apply to Canada and Mexico, depending on your country of citizenship.
  • Travel Signatures: If you are an F-1 student or J-1 Exchange Visitor, you will require a signature from OIA on your I-20 form or DS-2019 form. Students should request this signature in iStart. J-1 scholars should email to request the signature.
  • Letter of Good Standing: If you are an F-1 or J-1 student, and will be renewing your visa while abroad, you will need a Letter of Good Standing to present to the Visa Officer. You can request your letter by looking under J-1 or F-1 Student Services at

Additional Considerations

Special Registration:

This is a special program that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) coordinates. Certain individuals are selected for this program based on a variety of criteria. In general, men between the ages of 14 and 65 from predominantly Muslim countries are selected for Special Registration, but any non-immigrant could be selected at the discretion of the Customs officer.

To determine if you are subject to Special Registration requirements, look at your I-94 and visa stamp. If you see a hand-written number beginning with "FIN", then you are subject. If you have a FIN number, please refer to the separate OIA handout for special registration. Currently the only requirement is that you complete an interview at the airport before you depart the U.S.. There is a list of departure cities that can accommodate these interviews available here. You must leave the U.S. from one of these airports. (Indianapolis is not included in this list, but there are very few international flights leaving from the Indianapolis Airport.) Please be sure to give yourself several hours between connecting flights in case there are interview delays.

U.S. Visit Program:

All non-immigrants who arrive in the U.S. will be required to participate in the U.S. Visit Program. This involves taking inkless fingerprints and a digital photograph.

Address Updates:

All non-U.S. citizens are required to report any change of address to the USCIS within 10 days of moving. If you have moved since the last time you traveled, make sure that you have updated your address before you depart the U.S.. International students in F-1 and J-1 status can do this by simply updating the "Local Address" field in OneStart. J-1 and H-1B scholars must notify their department's Human Resources staff member, who will update the address in OneStart. H-1B visa holders must also submit form AR-11 to the USCIS with the new address information. This form, along with instructions, can be found on the USCIS website at

Visa Delays/Security Clearances:

  • Visa Condor name checks: Males between the ages of 16 and 45 from predominantly Muslim countries are subject to special name check clearances from the Department of State in Washington, DC before the visa can be issued. Most recent name checks appear to be completed within an average of 15 days.
  • Security Advisory Opinions primarily pertain to persons from Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria and typically take 6-8 weeks.
  • The Mantis clearance program is designed to protect from theft of U.S. produced goods and information. Clearances are done on cases involving fields on the Technology Alert List (TAL). Since it is considered classified information, the list is not readily available. You can look up your individual country at this site: to see if you may be subject to a Mantis clearance. Persons from China, India, Pakistan, or Russia pursuing graduate studies or conducting research in a field listed on the TAL are especially likely to be delayed by a Mantis clearance. Most Mantis clearances are now completed within an average of 15 days but cases requiring longer, undefined processing times may occur. Once issued, these security clearances are valid for 4 years or until the end date of your documents if you are on an F-1 program; and up to 2 years or until the end date of your documents if you are on a J-1 or H-1B program, so long as you are continuing in the same program.

Travel to Canada or Mexico or the Islands Adjacent to the U.S.

Under normal circumstances, you are required to show a valid visa in order to re-enter the United States. An exception exists for students in F-1 or J-1 status who are visiting Canada, Mexico or the islands Adjacent to the U.S. for a visit of less than 30 days (excluding Cuba).

If your F-1/J-1 visa is expired, the visa is considered automatically extended to the date of entry, eliminating the need to obtain a new visa at a U.S. consulate before that particular reentry. This benefit also applies to F-1/J-1 students who have changed nonimmigrant status in the United States, whose visa is still in the category in which they had entered the United States. In that case, the visa is considered "converted" to the proper F-1/J-1 status as well as "extended" to allow re-entry.

To qualify for this exception, you must meet the following conditions in addition to maintaining your F-1/J-1 status:

  • You must not apply for a U.S. visa during your stay abroad. (If you do, and it's denied, you will not be able to re-enter the U.S.)
  • You must not be from one of the following countries: Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, North Korea, and Cuba.
  • You must have a valid passport, I-94 and I-20/DS2019 signed for travel.

Travel to "Adjacent Islands" includes the following locations: Saint Pierre, Miquelon, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, the Windward and Leeward Islands, Trinidad, Martinique, and other British, French, and Netherlands territories or possessions in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea. Cuba does not qualify for this exception.

Depending on your country of origin, you may be required to obtain a visa for your travel destination. Be sure to check the websites of the embassies of the countries you plan to visit. Please click here for further information on travel to Canada or Mexico.

Applying for a Visa

Applying Overseas
Applying in Canada or Mexico
Applying for a Change of Status in the U.S.
Applying for Visas for Dependents

Electronic I-94 Cards:

How do I get my electronic I-94 cards?

After your immigration inspection at the airport, your passport should have been stamped with an arrival stamp, and you should have been given an instruction sheet on how to obtain your I-94 document. The I-94 is a document which proves your legal entry into the U.S. in addition to the stamp in your passport. It is an important document. If you travelled to the U.S. in the past, then you may remember having a small paper I-94 card in your passport. As of May 2013, the I-94 is now issued electronically. There are two ways you can obtain a copy of your electron-ic I-94:

You may have seen kiosks at the airport. These are called Global Entry Kiosks and are available at select airports. If you obtain your electronic I-94 card at one of these kiosks, your I-94 will look similar to "Global Entry I-94" in the document here.

You can also obtain your electronic I-94 card, by visiting the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website. You will be asked to enter identifying information about yourself and your most recent flight. Once entered, your electronic I-94 card should be generated. and look similar to "CBP I-94 Website Printout" in the document here. You can find the CBP website here.

Things to remember:

  • Print your I-94 and keep it with your passport at all times. Each time you enter the U.S., you will get a new I-94. You should keep this information for your records. We suggest saving a copy electronically and printing your most recent record.
  • Always check your I-94 to ensure that you were admitted to the US correctly—usually in F or J status. If you were admitted incorrectly, contact OIA immediately.
  • If you cannot locate your electronic I-94 card, try reversing your name (entering your family name as your first and your first name as your family name), reversing the month and day of your birth, or adding/subtracting one day from your actual arrival date. If you are still unable to find your electronic I-94 record, contact OIA immediately.