International students and their dependents who depart the U.S. without a required document or travel signature could find they are unable to re-enter the U.S. All international students must follow I-94 and visa regulations. Please review the following information carefully before you plan to leave the U.S. while you are an SDSU student.
Every country has its own immigration regulations and requirements for individuals entering its borders, and these may differ depending on your citizenship.
The ISC cannot advise you on how to obtain a visa to a foreign country (or whether you need one). For this information, you need to visit the embassy website of the country you plan to visit, and find out:
Before leaving the U.S. to visit Mexico or Canada, make sure that you have:
If you have a visa in your passport but it is expired, you can travel to Mexico, Canada and adjacent islands for less than 30 days and re-enter the U.S. with an expired visa. This is called Automatic Visa Revalidation. It is absolutely essential that you have the I-94 form, your passport, and your expired visa. Without these items, you are not eligible for the automatic visa revalidation.
If you are planning to use the automatic visa revalidation, you should talk with an ISC International Student Advisor before visiting Canada or Mexico. This does not apply to students from Mexico. Mexican citizens must have a valid visa to re-enter the United States.
To verify visa requirements for Canada check with the Canadian Consulate in Los Angeles.
To determine if persons from your country need a visa to visit Mexico, check with the Mexican Consulate in San Diego.
If you are planning to visit Tijuana or other parts of Baja California, please read the current travel warnings. The U.S. Department of State Travel Alert for Mexico is not meant to alarm you, but to make you aware of the issues regarding violence in Tijuana, and the current risks of travel to Tijuana, northern Baja California, and other parts of Mexico. Students should be careful and aware travelling in any city or country.
Important notice to all F-1 and J-1 students, as well as your dependents:
Before you leave the U.S., you should make sure to have the required documentation to travel to other countries and re-enter the U.S.
If you depart the U.S. without a required document or travel signature, you could find that you are unable to re-enter the U.S. until you get it.
When traveling abroad and re-entering the U.S., international students must have a valid travel signature on their I-20 or DS-2019. It can be found on the bottom of page 2 of an I-20 and on page 1 of a DS-2019.
Travel signatures are valid for 1 year (or, if you are an F-1 student on Post-OPT, it is valid for 6 months). Before traveling internationally, you should check the date next to your signature to see if it will still be valid when you re-enter the U.S.
If you need a new travel signature, you should bring your current I-20 or DS-2019 to the ISC, and it will be signed for you.
If you are not in the San Diego area, you can mail your document to the ISC. We will sign it and either mail it back to you or leave it at the front desk of the ISC, so a friend can pick it up and mail it to you.
We do not print new I-20s for travel signatures unless there are no more spaces for them on the I-20.
Keep in mind that mailing I-20s between other countries and the ISC takes time and is expensive for you, so please remember to get your document signed before you leave.
When you are traveling abroad and planning to re-enter the U.S., please be sure to have the following documentation with you.
You should keep these documents on your person or in your carry-on bags (if flying) so that it can be accessed when you pass through customs. Failure to have the required documents could delay your travel plans or prevent you from being able to re-enter the U.S.
The I-94 is the Arrival/Departure Record issued by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) when you enter the United States.
Most often, the I-94 Arrival/Departure Record record is electronic. However, sometimes it is a paper stapled into your passport when you enter the U.S. (This generally occurs if you enter the U.S. via a land border.)
Your I-94 record confirms:
The length of authorized stay for F-1 students and J-1 exchange visitors is noted on the I-94 as D/S and stands for "Duration of Status". It allows F-1 students to stay in the U.S. for the length of time indicated on the initial I-20 form, plus 60 days. It allows J-1 exchange visitors to stay for the length of time indicated on the DS-2019 form, plus 30 days.
You can find your electronic I-94 Record by going to the CBP website and typing in your information. You should print a copy of your I-94 for your records.
You will be required to show your I-94 Arrival/Departure Record at SDSU Orientation. You may also need it for various other reasons (applying for OPT, traveling under Automatic Visa Revalidation procedures, applying for a driver’s license or Social Security Number).
CBP can sometimes make mistakes when entering your information as you enter the US because they process a large volume every day. If this happens, you may have trouble finding your I-94 and you may have to correct it. If you cannot find your record, you may want to try these troubleshooting steps:
If you still cannot locate your I-94, or if you see something that needs to be corrected, contact the Deferred Inspections office. They may be able to help you to correct your I-94 over the phone. Or, you may need to visit their office in downtown San Diego.
Deferred Inspections 610 W. Ash St., Suite 1005 San Diego, CA 92101(619) 685-4336
F or J visas can only be obtained at a U.S. Embassy or consulate outside the US. There are no offices within the U.S. to apply for a visa. It is always easier to apply for a new visa in your home country. The consular officers there can more easily determine eligibility to obtain the new visa and there is less chance of a delay in processing your visa.
The visa renewal process is usually the same procedure that you followed the first time you applied for the visa. Each time you apply for a visa you must provide your necessary documents and prove to the consular officer that you have enough funds to continue studying, you have been and will be a student at SDSU, and that you plan to return to your home country after completion of your degree.
When planning a trip abroad that will involve renewing your U.S. visa, be sure to allow yourself enough time to get the new visa as you will not be permitted to return to the U.S. without one.
Check your consulate's website for updated application procedures before your appointment.
The process to renew your visa is very similar to the process you went through to obtain your visa the first time. The exact process will differ from consulate to consulate so you should read through the website of the particular consulate at which you will renew your visa for details.
You will probably need to make a new visa appointment at the consulate, although in some cases (China, for instance), you can renew your visa by mail. You will have to send in or bring your immigration documents (see Documents Required for Re-entry above) to the consulate.
The processing time needed at the consulate to issue you a new visa will vary. Please check the consulate’s website to see how long it will take to renew your visa and plan your trip home accordingly.
If you are considering renewing your visa in Mexico or Canada, we recommend that you speak with an international student advisor at the ISC before you travel.
Keep in mind that when visiting Canada or Mexico for fewer than 30 days, you may be able to re-enter the U.S. with an expired U.S. visa through Automatic Visa Revalidation. However, if you go to Mexico or Canada to renew your visa and the request is denied, you will not be eligible to re-enter the U.S. under Automatic Visa Revalidation, and you might be stranded outside of the U.S.
Office Hours:Monday - Friday, 8 am to 4:30 pm(619) 594-1982
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