Travel Within the US

Federal law requires that you carry "registration" documentation at all times. This includes a basic identity document such as a passport, plus your current I-20 or DS-2019 and I-94 (if you have one). For day-to-day purposes, we suggest you keep these documents in a secure location. However, if you are traveling within the US you should carry these documents with you. If you are traveling by air, train, bus, or ship, you may be required to produce these documents before boarding. Keep photocopies of all your documents in a separate location, in the event your documents are lost or stolen.

Travel to Other Countries

Before you leave the United States, contact the consulate of the country to be visited to inquire about visa and travel procedures. Citizens of some countries will require visas to visit Canada. You can apply for a Canadian tourist visa through the Canadian Consulate in Seattle.

Travel After Completion of Studies

Grace Period

Students who complete studies have a "grace period" during which they may prepare to depart the United States. The grace period for F-1 students is 60 days. (F-1 students on optional practical training (OPT) must depart the US within 60 days of the EAD card's expiration date.) The grace period for J-1 students is 30 days. Students who leave the US during the grace period will not be permitted to return to the US in F-1 or J-1 status.

Continuing Studies

If you are continuing your studies in the US at a new degree level and/or new institution, you may travel outside the US after completion of studies and re-enter in J-1 or F-1 status if you have a new DS-2019 or I-20 indicating a new program of study, passport, visa, and evidence of financial support.

Post-Study Work

If you will be working after completion of your studies, you may travel outside the US after completion of studies and re-enter in J-1 or F-1 status if you have a DS-2019 endorsed for Academic Training and signed for travel within the last twelve months or Employment Authorization Document (EAD), I-20 endorsed for OPT and signed for travel within the last six months, proof of employment, passport and visa.

Travel and OPT

If your post-completion OPT application is pending, you may travel and re-enter the US.  You should carry your I-20, valid passport, unexpired visa, and OPT application receipt.  

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

  • I-20 signed for travel by an international student advisor within the last 6 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)