This page has general information about travel and entry into the US. See Travel to Canada for additional information specific to travel to Canada. Remember that entry into the US is never guaranteed. Even if you have been here before, the Customs and Border Patrol officer will inspect your situation again. We advise that you visit the OIE before any travel outside of the US.

Documents Needed for Entry

All F-1 and J-1 visitors who plan to reenter the US require:

  • Valid passport that does not expire within the next 6 months
  • I-20 or DS-2019 with a travel signature from the OIE or your program sponsor from within the past 12 months
  • Valid F-1 or J-1 visa for your status if you are not a citizen of Canada.
  • For students on OPT, see the Optional Practical Training page for additional documents needed for entry. 
  • If you are missing any of these documents, we recommend that you consult with the OIE prior to traveling. 

What to Expect Entering the US

Everyone entering the US is likely to be inspected by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). This is true for US citizens and citizens of other countries. Anyone who wants to lawfully enter the US must prove that they are eligible to do so. The CBP officer at the border makes the decision if a person is eligible to enter the US. You must show your passport and other supporting documents. The CBP officer will review your travel documents to confirm your identity and nationality, and ask questions about your visit to the US.

Commonly asked questions from CBP

  • What is your country of citizenship?
  • Why are you coming to the US?
  • How long do you plan to visit?
  • Where will you be staying?
  • What is your permanent residence abroad?
  • What means do you have to support yourself finacially during your stay in the US?

What is secondary inspection?

If CBP officers at a port of entry need more information to decide if you can enter the US, you may be sent to an interview area known as secondary inspection. During a secondary inspection, the CBP officer may ask you detailed questions about your purpose for visiting the US and immigration history. You may be asked to produce additional documentation. Both you and your belongings may be searched extensively. This can sometimes take several hours to complete. We recommend that you have the OIE's contact information handy in the event you are placed in secondary inspection. During standard business hours, call the OIE directly at +1-802-656-4296. Outside of standard business hours, call UVM Police Services at +1-802-656-3473. UVM Police Services will be able to connect you to an OIE staff member.

Automatic Revalidation

Automatic visa revalidation is when you reenter the US in the same status with an expired visa after short trip to Canada, Mexico, or an adjacent island. You do not need to apply for automatic visa revalidation. However, it is a good idea to know the phrase as you might need to tell the CBP officer that you are reentering the US on automatic visa revalidation. Students from certain countries are not eligible for automatic visa revalidation. See the Department of State’s website for more information and for the current list of adjacent islands.

To reenter the US on automatic visa revalidation, all of the following must be true

  • You are not using this travel to change your status
  • Your prior visa is still in your passport and is expired but was multiple entry
  • You have a valid passport and an I-20 or DS-2019 with a valid travel signature.
  • Your trip was no longer than 30 days.
  • You did not apply for a new US visa during your trip.
  • You only visited Canada, Mexico or an adjacent island. See the Student and Exchange Visitor Program’s website for a list of adjacent islands.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if my passport will expire less than 6 months after I reenter the US?

In many cases, you can renew your passport before you leave while you are in the US. Contact your embassy or consulate for details.

What is a valid travel signature? 

A travel signature is an international student advisor’s signature on page 1 of a DS-2019 or on page 2 of an I-20. When you reenter the US, the signature must be less than 12 months old. If you need a new travel signature, request a replacement I-20 in iStart. J-1 visitors not sponsored by UVM must obtain the travel signature from the J-1 visa sponsor.

Do I need a valid visa to reenter the US?  

A valid visa stamp in your passport is required for reentry to the US, unless you are a citizen of Canada or Bermuda. There is an exception if you traveled to Canada, Mexico, or an island adjacent to the US. This exception is called “automatic revalidation”. See above for more information. If your visa has expired, you will need to go to a US embassy or consulate abroad to apply for a new one. You cannot apply for a new visa from within the US. See Applying for Your F-1 or J-1 Visa for more information.

What if my visa is valid but it is in an expired passport?

You can continue to use your valid visa until it expires. If your valid visa is in an expired passport, be sure to carry both passports when you travel.

What do I do if I forgot my I-20 or if I forgot to get a travel signature before I left?

If you forgot your I-20 or if you forgot to get a travel signature before you left, you can request a replacement I-20 through iStart.

Are there special considerations for travel during OPT for F-1 Students?  

Please see the Travel on OPT section of our Optional Practical Training (OPT) page for more information.

Help! I'm stuck at the border. 

If you have problems at the border, you can contact the OIE. During standard business hours, call the OIE directly at +1-802-656-4296. Outside of standard business hours, call UVM Police Services at +1-802-656-3473. UVM Police Services will be able to connect you to an OIE staff member. Even if you do not call us from the border, we want to know about any issues that you have. Please contact us to share your experiences.


If you have any questions about travel outside the US, the OIE is happy to answer them. Please call or stop by the OIE before you leave.