Travel Abroad

Traveling Outside the U.S.

Chances are good that during your time at Northern Illinois University, you will want to travel outside the United States. Plan well in advance and remember that the end of the semester is usually busier times for ISFO; make sure you come in for a travel signature request early. 

Requirements for traveling outside the U.S.

  • Travel Signature on your I-20/ DS-2019 - Before you leave the country, make sure you have a valid travel signature; otherwise, you will not be able to re-enter without a valid signature.  This signature will also be necessary for your F-2/J-2 dependents if they plan on traveling with you outside the U.S. While a travel signature is valid for one year, our recommendation is to have a signature with a 6 month validity. 
  • Maintain a valid Passport - at least 6 months validity after the date you plan on re-enter.  
  • Check I-20/DS-2019 program end date - Make sure that your I-20/DS-2019 will not expire while you are outside the country. If it expires, you will not be able to re-enter the U.S.
    • Make sure that your program information (degree level, major)  is also correct. If that information has changed, fill out and return to ISFO the Change of Major Request form.
  • Valid F-1/J-1 Visa - Similar to your program end dates, make sure you know the expiration date.  If your visa has expired, you will need to set-up an interview at a consulate/embassy in your country to be issued a new visa to re-enter the U.S.

Traveling after completion of studies

  • F-1 students may travel outside the U.S. after completion of studies and return to the U.S. in F-1 status if you are in possession of either:
    • a new I-20 indicating a new program of study along with a valid passport and visa.  Remember that you will not be able to enter the U.S. until 30 days prior to the program start date; or
    • if you have received Post-completion OPT, have your EAD card, a job offer letter, and a valid passport and visa
  • J-1 students may travel outside the U.S. after completion of studies and return to the U.S in J-1 status if you are in possession of either:
    • a new DS-2019 indicating a new program of study along with a valid passport and visa; or
    • a DS-2019 endorsed for Academic Training and signed within travel within the last 12 months, job offer letter, and valid passport and visa.

Traveling while on Post-completion OPT

ISFO strongly recommends that if your OPT application has been sent and you have not received a receipt notice or the application is pending, do not travel outside the country. Come to ISFO and meet with an advisor to talk about your options.

If your application has been approved and you have received your EAD card, then you will need to make sure that you have the following when traveling abroad:

  • Travel Signature on the I-20 in which the OPT was recommended
  • Valid Passport
  • Valid Visa
  • EAD card
  • Job offer letter from your employer