F-1 Students

Travel Outside the United States

Whether you want to return to your home country over summer break, explore Europe on spring break, or participate in a study abroad program, chances are good that at some point during your time at Indiana University you will want to travel outside the United States.

But before you pack your luggage, there are some steps you need to take to protect your status.

I-20 Requirements for Traveling Outside the United States
Get a Travel Signature on Your I-20

Before you leave the country, make sure you have a valid travel signature from an OIS advisor on page 3 of your I-20. You will not be able to re-enter the United States without one. 

To get a travel signature, make a request through iStart at least three weeks before you plan to travel.

Travel signatures are valid for one calendar year, or until the completion of your program, whichever comes first. 

You need a travel signature even if you are just traveling across the border into Canada or Mexico. Read more below.

Make Sure Your I-20 Reflects Your Current Situation

If there have been any changes in your situation (for example, if you have changed your major, degree level, or source(s) of financial support) that are not indicated on your current I-20, you will need to get a new one. 

For changes in major or source(s) of funding, request a travel signature through iStart and note the changes in the “Notes” section.

For a change in degree level, you will need to complete the New Degree program request in iStart. However, you do not need to request a travel signature. When your new degree program request is approved, a new I-20 will be printed and will be valid for travel. 

Timing can be critical for all of these changes, so start the process early.

The following require your immediate attention:

  • Degree level changes
  • Graduate major changes
  • I-20 expiration

Making these changes can be very complicated. Please call 812-855-9086 to make an appointment with an advisor to discuss your plans before you begin the process.

In most cases, updated financial documentation will be required to process your new I-20.

Make Sure Your I-20 Will Not Expire While You Are Out of the Country

Check your completion date in section 5 of your I-20 to see whether it is about to expire. If it expires while you are outside the U.S., you will not be able to re-enter the U.S.

If your I-20 is about to expire and you have not yet completed your program, you will need to apply for an extension via iStart. 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. 

Updated financial documentation will be required to process your new I-20.

Travel and Your F-1 Visa

Is the F-1 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 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 of IU
  • Enrollment Certificate issued by the registrar of IU
  • Valid I-20 issued and signed by OIS
  • 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.


Note: if you intend to apply for a new U.S. visa in Canada or Mexico and are not a resident of either country, please contact an advisor at the Office of International Services.

See also the U.S. Department of State’s website on information for nonimmigrants present in the United States, and visiting Canada or Mexico.

If you need to apply for a new U.S. visa, visit the Department of State’s U.S. embassies and consulates website for an updated list of visa application locations.

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.

If you are traveling to the European Union and your home country is not within the European Union, you may apply for the Schengen visa, which permits travel within E.U. countries.

For the latest travel advisories, visit the U.S. Department of State’s website.