Travel - New Students
Entering the US
At the port of entry into the US, be prepared to present the following items:
I-20 (F-1 students)
You must have your SEVIS I-20 with you when you travel, even for travel within the United States. Ask the international student advisor to sign the second page of your I-20 before you travel. This signature will be valid for six months, for multiple entries. It is usually a good idea to carry copies of all I-20s you have ever been issued, not just the most recent one.
DS-2019 (J-1 exchange visitors)
You must have your SEVIS DS-2019 with you when you travel, even for travel within the United States. It is usually a good idea to carry all DS-2019s you have ever been issued, not just the most recent one.
You must have your passport with you for all travel, including travel within the United States. You must have a passport valid for at least six months when seeking admission or re-admission to the United States, and your passport must remain valid throughout your stay.
Valid U.S. Visa
Each time you enter the U.S. you must present a valid, unexpired visa in the category for which admission is being sought. (Canadian citizens are exempt from the visa requirement; however, landed immigrants of Canada are generally required to obtain a visa). It's okay if your visa expires while you are in the US, because it is only used as an entrance document. The next time you travel abroad you must obtain a new visa in the proper category in order to be re-admitted 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 US embassy or 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 a US embassy or consulate in your country as early as possible to schedule the visa interview appointment after you receive your I-20 or DS-2019 from the school.
Evidence of Funding
It it usually a good idea to carry evidence (for example, a bank statement or sponsor letter) detailing the source and amount of your funding. Consular and immigration officers may want to see proof that your financial support is sufficient to cover all academic and living expenses.
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 or photo ID, plus your current I-20 or DS-2019 and I-94 card (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.
Bringing Food and Agricultural Products into the US
Please be aware that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) places restrictions on the types of food and agricultural products allowed into the United States. This is done to protect US agriculture from pests and disease. Read over the USDA guidelines for international travelers before bringing any food items or agricultural products into the US, as items that are not permitted will be seized. These restrictions also apply to items sent by mail, so it's a good idea to inform family and friends who may be sending you packages containing food products from home.
A note to Canadian NEXUS pass holders: Crossing the border with agricultural products, even accidentally, can lead to revocation of your NEXUS pass. Be sure to check your vehicle for any forgotten food items -- citrus fruits are especially troublesome -- before crossing the border. The USDA International traveler website about bringing products into the US is a useful resource.