- All F-1 students must have a valid travel signature from a Designated School Official (DSO) on page 3 of their I-20 in order to re-enter the United States. Travel signatures are valid for one calendar year, or until the completion of your program, whichever comes first. However, it is recommended to have it signed every six months. If you need a new signature, please request one via email at least a month before you plan to travel.
- You will need to receive a new I-20 from CARE if there have been any changes in your situation—for example, changes in your major, degree level, or source(s) of financial support—that are not indicated on your current I-20. In all cases, updated financial documentation will be required to process your new I-20.
- Check your completion date in section 5 of your I-20 to see whether it is about to expire. If it is—and you have not yet completed your program—you will need to apply for an extension. You do not need to request a travel signature; when your extension is approved, a new I-20 will be printed and signed for travel.
Note: You need a signature even if you are just traveling across the border into Canada or Mexico.
Is the U.S. visa stamp in your passport valid beyond the date you plan to re-enter the United States? If not, you must apply for a new visa while you are abroad. We strongly advise that you to carry the following documents with you when applying for a new visa at a U.S. Consulate:
- Official Transcript issued by the Registrar at Pacific Oaks College
- Valid I-20 issued and signed by DSO
- Current financial documentation: documents indicating the source(s) and amount(s) of financial support for your study in the current academic year. This must match the information listed on your I-20.
As U.S. Consulates will not be open on certain days during the Christmas-New Year’s holiday period, there may be difficult time constraints in obtaining a new visa during winter break.
If you need to apply for a new U.S. visa, visit the Department of State’s U.S. Embassies and Consulates section for an updated list.
Note: If you intend to apply for a new U.S. visa while in Canada or Mexico and are not a resident of either country, please contact CARE to discuss this possibility.
Visitors’ visas (for travel to countries other than your home country)
If you are traveling to a country other than your home country, you may need a visitor’s or transit visa. To find out, visit that country’s embassy website at Foreign Embassies of Washington, D.C., and search for the Consular Section nearest you.
After completing your academic program
If you plan to travel to Canada or anywhere else outside of the U.S. during the grace period following completion of your degree requirements, CARE will not be able to sign your I-20 for travel. If you travel outside of the U.S., you will not be able to re-enter the U.S. as an F-1 student at POC.
Travel during Optional Practical Training
At the present, USCIS processing of applications for Optional Practical Training takes at least three to four months. You will need to plan your travel accordingly. Once you receive your EAD, you may travel outside of the U.S.—but be sure to travel with your signed I-20, job offer letter and your EAD. The OPT recommendation on page 3 of your I-20 validates the travel signature for six months. We strongly advise you to consult with CARE regarding travel while on OPT prior to making plans to travel outside the U.S.