Entry to the U.S. : Travel and Re-Entry

World map with airline routes


Currently Berkeley International Office recommends minimizing international travel due to the rapidly-changing nature of U.S. immigration policy. For important information regarding current U.S. immigration policy, Executive Orders, and travel advisories please see BIO's Immigration Policy Updates & FAQ webpage.

Required Documents


Your passport must be valid at least six months into the future at all times, especially upon initial entry or re-entry to the U.S.  If yours will expire soon, contact your home country's embassy in the U.S.  

U.S. Entry Visa

The visa stamp in your passport should be valid on the date of your return to the U.S. (It does not, however, need to remain valid during your stay in the U.S.) If you have an old, expired passport with a valid U.S. entry visa, you do not need to get a new visa stamp in your new passport as long as you carry both passports when you enter the U.S. Canadian citizens do not need a U.S. visa. Canadian landed immigrants, however, are required to obtain U.S. entry visas. See also Understanding Your Visa.

A J-1 Exchange Visitor should only enter the U.S. with a visa showing the school's (or program) name noted on it, even if the visa has not yet expired. If you change schools, obtain a visa with the new name noted on it before entering or re-entering the U.S. 

In certain cases, visitors may be able to re-enter the U.S. with an expired visa after a short trip to Canada/Mexico using Automatic Visa Revalidation.

Evidence of Financial Support

It is strongly recommended that F/J non-immigrants carry proof of the financial support and resources reflected on the Form I-20 or DS-2019.

I-20 or DS-2019 (F-1/F-2, J-1/J-2 documents)

Make sure your original form I-20 or DS-2019 has been PROPERLY ENDORSED by the school official or agency that issued the document. For current students, an I-20 or DS-2019 travel endorsement is valid for 12 months, or until the expiration of the document, whichever is first. Berkeley International Office generally recommends that the signature be current within 10 months of your re-entry date. ( Please note: Those on F-1 OPT must have the endorsement within past 6 months). If UC Berkeley issued your I-20 or DS-2019, bring it to Berkeley International Office for endorsing. Those with an I-20 or DS-2019 issued by another program sponsor will need to contact that sponsor at least two or three weeks before departure to obtain the necessary travel signature.  

It is also recommended that students travel with proof of the current or next semester's registration (e.g.,printout of full-time class enrollment or Enrollment Verification from Cal Student Central). 

F-1 Students on Post-completion OPT should see OPT Travel Information. J-1 students on post-completion Academic Training should see Academic Training Travel Information for additional documents needed. 

SEVIS (I-901) Fee Payment

It is also recommended to travel with proof of your SEVIS fee payment. If you need confirmation of your previous SEVIS fee payment,visit the SEVIS fee payment page and select the option to "Check I-901 Status/ Print Payment Confirmation."

If there are any problems during entry, please notify Berkeley International Office as soon as you arrive.

Student and Scholars First Time Entry

When to Arrive

We recommend that you arrive at least one week before your program begins. Plan ahead! Refundable tickets are a good option should delays arise.

When making travel plans, please be aware that F-1 and J-1 visa holders entering the U.S. for a new program, may not enter the U.S. earlier than 30 days before the start date of the I-20 (F-1) or DS-2019 (J-1) document.

Students or visiting researchers/faculty who are either continuing an on-going program or transferring from another U.S. school to UC Berkeley are not subject to the 30-day arrival limit.

When traveling, carry documents in carry-on luggage with you!  If the baggage is lost or delayed, the documents will not be shown and, as a result, a student or scholar may not be able to enter the United States.

Required Documents

Be prepared to present the following documents to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer:

  • Passport (valid for at least 6 months into the future) with a valid nonimmigrant visa (if applicable)
  • Original form I-20 or DS-2019
  • Evidence of financial resources (see Required Funding Documentation)
  • Proof of UC Berkeley admission (new students) or enrollment (current students)
  • Proof of SEVIS Fee Payment

Special Cases

Special Concerns

In the following cases, consult with a Berkeley International Office adviser at least two weeks before departure:

  • You will be out of the U.S. for more than five months (students) or more than one month (J scholars)
  • You are considering traveling to Mexico or Canada to renew or change the U.S. entry visa.
  • Your I-20 or DS-2019 has expired or will expire within 30 days of your expected return to the U.S.
  • You are currently applying or have applied in the past for U.S. legal permanent resident status (green card).

Returning to the U.S. using "Automatic Revalidation"

"Automatic Revalidation" allows F, J, H, or O status holders under certain circumstances to re-enter the U.S. with an expired U.S. visa stamp in their valid passport after visiting Canada, Mexico or adjacent islands for less than 30 days. Please speak with an Advisor at Berkeley International Office and review our information regarding Automatic Visa Revalidation before making your travel plans.

Travel Signatures

If you need a new travel signature on your I-20 or DS-2019, come to Berkeley International Office during our Advising Hours to get it signed same-day or drop it off and pick it up in 3 business days. 

If you are out of the area, mail (not email) your I-20 or DS-2019 to our office and we can mail it back to you. Include a note with your document stating the following: your name, contact email, a brief note about your travel plans, and a mailing address where we can send your document back to you. Your document will be sent back to you via USPS, which generally takes 2-5 days for mail delivery inside the US after our three business day processing time, or you also have the option of purchasing Express Mail for faster delivery. Express Mail is recommended for international delivery.

Entry to the U.S. infographic PDF


Click the above image for an infographic on entering the U.S. 

Travel Outside and Within the U.S.

Travel to Other Countries

Other countries may require a visa and/or immunizations to enter their country. Before your departure, contact the nearest consulate or embassy of the country(ies) you plan to visit for updated information.

Travel Inside the U.S.

We strongly recommend that you carry a valid passport, paper I-94 card or passport admission stamp, your I-20 or DS-2019 and proof of current registration or program. Non-registered students or visitors should obtain verification of their current good standing with their department.

OPT / STEM / Academic Training

OPT, STEM extension, or Academic Training (AT) students

F-1 OPT students should carry their I-20 (endorsed within the last 6 months), valid passport, valid F-1 visa, Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and proof of current employment or an employment offer.  Travel on OPT can be tricky if the OPT Application is still pending. See Traveling on OPT for more detailed instructions.

J-1 Students on post-completion Academic Training should see Traveling on Academic Training for detailed instructions.

H-1B / TN / O-1

Individuals with UC Berkeley-Sponsored H-1B, TN, or O-1

In order to receive the appropriate travel documents and instructions, contact Berkeley International Office by email at H1B@berkeley.edu at least five working days before you travel.