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

Required Documents

Documentation needed for travel may vary depending on the relationship you hold with UC Berkeley. Please refer to the below definitions to ensure you understand which term applies to you.

F-1/J-1 students: F-1 and J-1 students enrolled in a UC Berkeley degree-seeking or UCEAP program, or on post-completion OPT, STEM OPT, or Academic Training

J-1 scholars: J-1 scholars hold formal affiliations at UC Berkeley to conduct research or teach; J-1 scholars are NOT enrolled in UC Berkeley degree-seeking or UCEAP programs.

When traveling, carry documents with you in carry-on luggage, NOT in your checked baggage! You need access to your visa documents at all times during transit. 


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

U.S. Entry Visa

The visa stamp in your passport should be valid on the date of your return to the United States. (It does not need to remain valid during your stay in the United States). 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 United States. Canadian citizens do not need a U.S. entry visa. Canadian "Landed immigrants" (Permanent Residents, without Candian citizenship/passport) are required to obtain U.S. entry visas. For more information about visas, see Understanding Your Visa.

F-1 students- the name of the school on the Form I-20 should match the name of the school on the visa. The only exception is for students who directly transferred your I-20 to UC Berkeley using the same SEVIS ID. See our Transfer Students page for more information.  If your previous visa was from a school other than UC Berkeley,  and you are beginning a new SEVIS record (without SEVIS transfer), BIO recommends that you obtain a new visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad, if this is possible before your re-entry. 
J-1 Exchange Visitors should only enter the United States 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 United States.

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

See Applying for a Visa for more information about applying for a new F or J visa.

Evidence of Financial Support

It is strongly recommended that F/J nonimmigrants carry proof of the financial support and resources reflected on the Form I-20 or DS-2019. Proof of financial support bank statements, or financial support letters should be dated within the last 6 months.

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

Make sure your original form I-20 (F-1) or DS-2019 (J-1) has been PROPERLY ENDORSED by the school official or agency that issued the document. For current F/J Students and Scholars, an I-20 or DS-2019 travel endorsement is valid for 12 months, or until the expiration of the document, whichever is first. Please note: Those on F-1 post-completion OPT/STEM OPT must have the endorsement within the past 6 months. 

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."

Proof of Admission/Enrollment (New/Current F/J enrolled Students) or Proof of UC Berkeley Appointment (J Scholars)

F or J enrolled students (degree-seeking or UCEAP students): New students (entering for the first time) should travel with proof  admission. Continuing students should 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).

J scholars should bring a copy of their departmental appointment letter.

F-1 OPT, OPT STEM Extension, or J-1 Academic Training (AT) Students

F-1 OPT students should see Traveling on OPT for detailed instructions.

J-1 students on post-completion Academic Training should see "Travel and Re-Entry While on AT" on our J-1 Academic Training page for detailed instructions.

COVID-19 TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS: Proof of Testing/Vaccines 

See the CDC's current International Travel recommendations regarding COVID-19 testing and vaccination requirements for U.S. entry, and be prepared with all required documentation.

How Can I Prepare for Re-Entry and Understand My Rights at the Border?

Given the current U.S. immigration climate, you should be prepared for the possibility of increased scrutiny at the U.S. port of entry in the form of additional questioning and/or inspection of your phone or social media. Be aware: Officers may ask you questions about your reason for entering the U.S., your activities in the U.S., or your academic program. 

  • If you are questioned, remain calm and answer honestly and succinctly. What NOT to say: Jokes about terrorism, explosives, breaking U.S. laws, drugs, alcohol, etc. are never a good idea. 

  • Preparing Your Electronic Devices: CBP may also ask questions about your electronic devices or inspect them. This may include your social media accounts. For tips on how to prepare your devices, read this ACLU article.

  • Social Media & App Review: Are you presenting your best self in social media and messaging apps? Take time to review your accounts for any content that may appear to show you engaged in activities that violate U.S. laws, your visa status, or academic integrity.

  • Know Your Rights: See the ACLU's resources for information on your rights at airports and in encounters with law enforcement.

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

Travel Signatures

F-1/ J-1 Students

See our Student Services page for how to obtain an updated travel signature for your F-1/J-1 Student I-20 or DS-2019.

J-1 Scholars 

To schedule an appointment to come to BIO for a travel signature, please email jscholar@berkeley.edu and a link to schedule an appointment will be provided. Alternatively, you can email a Travel Signature Request Form with copies of your most recent DS-2019 and J-1 visa to jscholar@berkeley.edu to request an updated DS-2019 with a new travel signature.

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 United States

We strongly recommend that you carry a valid passport, I-94 copy or passport admission stamp, your I-20 or DS-2019, and proof of current registration or program when traveling inside the United States. J-1 scholars should bring a copy of their departmental appointment letter.

Student and Scholar Entry Timeline

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

Arriving during BIO office hours is recommended. In case of entry issues, you can request Customs and Border Protection to contact BIO.  

New Students or Scholars
F-1 and J-1 status applicants entering the United States for a new program can only enter up to 30 days before the start date of their I-20 (F-1) or DS-2019 (J-1) document- NO EARLIER.

New F-1 students who are transferring their F-1 status from another U.S. institution to UC Berkeley are not subject to the 30-day arrival limit. Be sure you have your signed UC Berkeley I-20 for entry!

New J-1 students/scholars who are transferring their J-1 status from another U.S. institution should consult with a BIO adviser regarding their transfer and travel plans.

Continuing Students and Scholars
Students or visiting scholars/researchers/faculty who are either continuing an on-going program at UC Berkeley are not subject to the 30-day arrival limit. Be sure you have your signed UC Berkeley I-20/DS-2019 for entry!

Special Cases

Special Concerns

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

  • F/J enrolled or post-completion OPT, STEM OPT, or AT students - You will be out of the United States for more than five months
  • J-1 scholars - You will be out of the United States for more than one month
  • You are considering traveling to Mexico or Canada to renew or change your U.S. entry visa.
  • Your I-20/DS-2019 has expired or will expire within 30 days of your expected return to the United States
  • You are currently applying or have applied in the past for U.S. legal permanent resident status (green card).

Returning to the United States Using "Automatic Revalidation"

"Automatic Revalidation" allows F, J, H, or O status holders under certain circumstances to re-enter the United States 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 adviser at Berkeley International Office and review our information regarding Automatic Visa Revalidation before making your travel plans.


Individuals with UC Berkeley-Sponsored H-1B

Please see H-1B Travel Documents.