Reentry into the United States

Be prepared to present the following items at the port of entry into the U.S.:

I-20 (F-1 Students) With Valid Travel Signature

  • Your I-20 must be signed by an advisor in International Student Services (ISS) before you leave the U.S. All students are required to obtain a travel signature that allows you to return to the U.S.
  • This signature is valid for one year (12 months) after the signature date and can be used for multiple entries.
  • If you are on OPT, you must obtain a travel signature every six months.
  • Carry all I-20s you have ever been issued, not just the most recent one.

Valid Passport

Your passport must be valid for at least six months when seeking admission or readmission to the United States, unless your country has an agreement with the United States. For a list of countries under this agreement, see the list on the Immigration Customs Enforcement website. Your passport should remain valid throughout your stay in the U.S.

Valid U.S. Visa

You must present a valid, unexpired visa in the category for which admission is being sought each time you enter the U.S. If your visa expires while you are in the U.S., the next time you travel abroad you must obtain a new visa in the proper category in order to be readmitted to the United States. Apply for the visa in your home country, unless circumstances or travel plans make this impossible. If you apply for a visa at a U.S. consulate in another country, your application may be reviewed more critically than if you applied at home. In-person interviews are required for most visa applicants. You are encouraged to contact the U.S. consulate as early as possible to schedule the visa interview appointment. Anticipate delays in visa issuance due to enhanced security reviews.

An exception to the rule requiring a valid, unexpired visa exists for students in F-1 status who travel for less than 30 days solely to Canada or Mexico or islands in the Caribbean, except Cuba. Your visa will be considered to be “extended” to the date of re-entry, eliminating the need to obtain a new visa at a U.S. consulate before that particular re-entry. This procedure is known as “automatic visa revalidation” (more information below). Note that if you apply for a new visa while in Canada, Mexico and islands in the Caribbean, you will not be able to return to the U.S. unless the visa is granted.

Financial Evidence

You must carry evidence detailing the source and amount of your funding. Consular and immigration officers exercise considerable discretion in determining whether your financial support is sufficient to cover all academic and living expenses.

Current Class Schedule

You can print your current class schedule from your Populi page.

New Students for initial entry: bring a copy of proof of admission to Bennington College.

SEVIS I-901 Fee Receipt

If you cannot find your SEVIS fee receipt, visit the Student and Exchange Visitor Program SEVIS I-901 fee processing website to request a copy of your receipt. 

Travel in the United States

When traveling in the United States, it is advisable to carry original immigration documents, including a valid passport, Form I-20, and an I-94 printout for identification purpose. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers may stop individuals and ask for identification at their discretion. When traveling inside the United States by air, please always carry the same immigration documents and follow the guidelines set by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Passport Validity

All international students are required to have valid passports. The passports must be valid at least six months beyond the date of the expiration of the initial period of admission into the United States. Passports of some countries will be recognized as valid for the return of the bearer for a period of six months beyond the expiration date specified in the passport, thereby effectively extending the validity period of the foreign passport an additional six months beyond its expiration date.

International Travel

When traveling to a country that is not your own, you need to confirm the entry visa requirements for that country. Please contact the embassy or consulate of the particular country you plan to visit for detailed information on what you need to do to apply for an entry visa should you need one.

For reentry to the United States, you will need a valid passport, a valid US visa, and a valid Form I-20. 


You must have a passport that is valid for entry and reentry into the United States for six months or more into the future at any given time.

Unexpired U.S. Visa

Citizens of all countries except Canada are required to have unexpired US visas in their passports to enter and reenter the United States. A visa is used solely for the purpose of entry and reentry to the United States. The visa does not determine how long an individual may remain in the United States. Therefore, an individual may stay beyond the expiration date of a visa as long as the Form I-20 is valid.

Form I-94

The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has created an online, electronic I-94. You need to do two things when you enter the United States:

  1. Check your passport to make sure that the CBP officer has put an entry stamp indicating that you entered on a certain date, in F status, and can stay for D/S (duration of status).
  2. Print out your I-94 here as you will need it for other purposes.

Travel Signatures

International students must plan for international travel by first reviewing their immigration documents. In general, most international students will need the following in order to return to the United States:

  • Valid passport
  • Valid US visa in passport (except for Canadian citizens)
  • Valid Form I-20
  • Valid travel signature* on Form I-20 (in most cases, no older than 12 months)

*If you will need a travel signature, please check in with ISS.

Please check your documents prior to making international travel plans. Note that it is also recommended that you take with you all related immigration documents for domestic travel outside the Bennington area.

If you leave the United States and forget to take your Form I-20, please contact your ISA immediately.

Transit through a Third Country

Please be aware that many countries (including the United States) do not allow visitors to transit through their countries unless they have an entry visa, a transit visa, or meet specific requirements. Before arranging travel that would require transit through a country that is not your home country, review that country's visa policies.

Travel After Completion of Studies

If you do not apply for OPT, you have a 60-day grace period after the last day of your final term. Once you leave the U.S. (including short trips to Canada and Mexico) after completing your studies you cannot reenter the U.S. with your current I-20. The grace period is for travel within the U.S. and preparation for departure.

Travel and OPT

Before graduation, if your post-completion OPT application is pending, you may travel and reenter the U.S.

After graduation, if your post-completion OPT has been approved and your EAD issued, you may not reenter the U.S. unless you have evidence of employment. You should carry the following documents with you:

  • I-20 signed for travel by an international student adviser within the last six months
  • EAD card
  • Valid passport
  • Unexpired F-1 visa (unless returning from a short trip to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean)
  • Evidence of employment in your field of study (letter of employment, written job offer)

Automatic Revalidation

Automatic Revalidation provides that, under certain circumstances, a person with an expired F visa in their passport can re-enter the US from Canada, Mexico, and “adjacent islands” (except Cuba) with an expired non-immigrant visa. The absence outside the US cannot exceed 30 days and the I-94 Arrival/Departure record must remain valid.

Please check the visa requirements for the country to which you are traveling before making travel arrangements. You may require a visa to enter certain countries based on the passport you hold.

To re-enter the US under the benefit of automatic revalidation of visa, students/scholars must meet the following requirements:

  1. Have traveled only to Canada, Mexico or adjacent islands
  2. The absence cannot exceed 30 days
  3. Students cannot apply for a new US non-immigrant visa during this time
  4. Have maintained and intend to maintain non-immigrant status in the US
  5. Carry valid passport with expired visa and I-20 with valid travel signature

Citizens of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, North Korea, and Cuba are not eligible for the automatic revalidation benefit and would be required to have a valid visa for re-entry.

For more information, please review the US Customs and Border Protection Fact Sheet on Automatic Revalidation.

FAQ from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

FAQ from ICE