Travel Overview

This section is meant for current students and scholars whose immigration status has been sponsored by Penn. If your immigration status is sponsored by another institution, you should contact them for travel advice and requisite signatures.

If you are a new student arriving to Penn for the first time, please visit our Welcome to Penn and New Student Immigration sections.

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For international travel outside the US:

  1. Before you leave – Ensure you have the required Documentation & Signatures 
  2. While you are away – Ensure you have a valid US Entry Visa
  3. Upon your return – Ensure you have received an I-94 record reflecting the correct nonimmigrant status and duration

For domestic travel within the US, it is a good idea to carry your passport, immigration status documents, and Penn ID.


Travel Documents & Signatures

  • Click on your status below to see the required international travel documents.
  • Carry a passport that is valid at least six months into the future. Some countries have an agreement with the U.S. that allows their citizens to enter on a current passport up to the actual date of expiration; however, the policy is applied inconsistently by border officials.
  • Hand-carry travel documents so that they are easily accessible and available for inspection.
  • Travel signatures for F and J status holders are required for re-entry to the US. To get your or your dependent's I-20 or DS-2019 endorsed for travel by ISSS, complete the Travel Signature Request in iPenn by clicking the icon below. If you are in Philadelphia you must drop your I-20 or DS-2019 off at ISSS. The eform will allow you to select a time for drop-off. If you are not in Philadelphia, complete the Shipping Request form in iPenn as well so that we can ship an updated I-20 or DS-2019 to you. The Shipping Request Form also allows you to authorize another person to pick up your document.
  • F-1 Students & Dependents
  • F-1 Students

    • Valid I-20 signed by ISSS within the past year or within the past six months for students on post-completion OPT
    • Valid passport (for more than six months from date of intended return)
    • Valid F-1 US Entry Visa
    • If on post-completion OPT, valid EAD card
    • If on post-completion OPT, job offer letter or recent pay stub from the employer
    • Transcripts (strongly recommended)
    • Financial document(s) listed on form I-20 (strongly recommended)

    F-2 Dependents

    • Valid Form I-20 endorsed for re-entry by ISSS within the past year 
    • Valid passport (for more than six months from date of intended return)
    • Valid F-2 US Entry Visa
    • If traveling alone, copies of the F-1 student’s immigration documentation, including I-94. If the F-1 student is on post-completion OPT, also carry copies of F-1 student’s OPT I-20, EAD card, and job offer letter or recent pay stub from the employer.

    NOTE: Citizens of Canada are exempt from the US Entry Visa requirement. However, Canadian F-1 and J-1 students and scholars must present the SEVIS fee payment confirmation (that can be printed from the fee website) for their initial entries to the U.S.

  • J-1 Exchange Visitors & Dependents
  • J-1 Exchange Visitors

    • Valid Form DS-2019 endorsed for re-entry by ISSS within the past year
    • Valid passport (for more than six months from date of intended return)
    • Valid J-1 US Entry Visa
    • Letter from supervisor verifying continued employment/sponsorship if J-1 Research Scholar/ Professor or Short Term Scholar

    J-2 Dependents

    • Valid Form DS-2019 endorsed for re-entry by ISSS within the past year
    • Valid passport (for more than six months from date of intended return)
    • Valid J-2 US Entry Visa
    • If traveling alone, copies of the J-1 student or scholar’s immigration documentation, including I-94

    NOTE: Citizens of Canada are exempt from the US Entry Visa requirement. However, Canadian F-1 and J-1 students and scholars must present the SEVIS fee payment receipt for their initial entries to the U.S.

  • H-1B or O-1 Employees (and Dependents)
  • H-1B or O-1 Employees

    • Valid passport (for more than six months from date of intended return)
    • Valid H-1B or O-1 visa stamp
    • Original valid Form I-797 H-1B or O-1 Notice of Approval
    • 2-3 most recent pay stubs or letter from supervisor confirming continued employment
    • Copy of I-129 petition

    NB: Scholars for whom the University is filing a petition for H-1B extension or those changing from one H-1B employer to another should contact an ISSS advisor regarding their travel options.

    H-4 or O-3 Dependents

    • Valid passport (for more than six months from date of intended return)
    • Valid H-4 or O-3 visa stamp
    • Copy of primary's Form I-797 H-1B or O-1 Notice of Approval
    • Original Form I-797 H-4 or O-3 Notice of Approval if changed to or extended H-4 or O-3 status in the United State
  • E-3 Employees & Dependents
  • E-3 Employees

    • Valid Australian passport (for more than 6 months from date of intended return)
    • Valid E-3 visa stamp
    • 2-3 most recent pay stubs or letter from supervisor confirming continued employment
    • Copy of valid LCA
    • Original valid Form I-797 E-3 Notice of Approval if changed to or extended E-3 status in the United States
    • Copy of I-129 petition if changed to or extended E-3 status in the United States

    E-3D Dependents

    • Valid passport (for more than six months from date of intended return)
    • Valid E-3D visa stamp
    • Copy of primary's Form I-797 E-3 Notice of Approval if changed to or extended E-3 status in the United States
    • Original valid Form I-797 E-3D Notice of Approval if changed to or extended E-3D status in the United States
  • TN Employees & Dependents
  • TN Employees

    • Valid Canadian or Mexican passport (for more than 6 months from date of intended return)
    • Valid TN visa stamp if Mexican national
    • Job offer letter specifying the Trade NAFTA profession and duration of employment
    • Requisite educational or occupational credentials such as diploma, license, etc.

    TD Dependents

    • Valid passport (for more than 6 months from date of intended return)
    • Valid TD visa stamp if non-Canadian dependent
    • Marriage or birth certificate showing relationship to TN primary
    • Copy of spouse/ parent's job offer letter specifying the Trade NAFTA profession and duration of employment
    • If traveling alone, copies of the primary's (TN) immigration documentation, including I-94

Travel Difficulties & Resources

  • Travel to Canada, Mexico, and Adjacent Islands
  • Automatic Visa Revalidation for Travel to Canada, Mexico, and Adjacent Islands

    Some nonimmigrants with expired US entry visas may re-enter the US after visits of 30 days or less to "contiguous territories" of Canada or Mexico without having to obtain a new visa prior to re-entry. F and J status holders may also travel to the adjacent islands, except Cuba with an expired visa.

    Required travel documents as described in the section above must be carried; however, the visa may be expired. If issued a paper I-94 card, usually received via a previous land entry, the nonimmigrant should not surrender it.

    Nonimmigrants from countries designated by the U.S. Department of State as state sponsors of terrorism, those who have previously overstayed a US visa; and those who are applying for a new entry visa are not eligible for automatic visa revalidation.

  • Forgotten/Lost/Stolen Documents
    • Entry to the U.S. without the proper documentation is more problematic.
    • It may happen that the individual is not even permitted to board the aircraft without I-20, DS-2019, or I-797.
    • If the individual is allowed to board, the inspecting officer might issue Form I-515A as described below.
    • Please see the Obtaining a US Entry Visa section
    • In any case, it is recommended that the individual make every effort to retrieve his or her document by calling a friend who can ship it express mail or by contacting ISSS to prepare a duplicate.
    • Photocopies of lost or stolen passports are not sufficient for reentry. An individual whose passport is missing will have to postpone travel until a new passport can be obtained from the home country government. It will also be necessary to obtain a new U.S. visa stamp from a US Embassy or Consulate. Please see the Obtaining an Entry Visa section.
    • Students should print out an unofficial transcript from Penn InTouch to show that they have been registered full-time.
    • Scholars/Employees should gather any documentation that shows their association with the University, e.g. letters, Penn ID, pay stubs.
  • I-20/DS-2019 Missing or Not Properly Signed [Possible I-515A]
    • If you try to enter the US without an I-20 or DS-2019 or with an outdated signature from ISSS, you might be admitted without further question or be sent to secondary inspection where a CBP officer could issue Form I-515A and admit you for only 30 days, as indicated on the I-94. In the worst case, you may be denied entry.
    • If you received Form I-515A, meet with an ISSS advisor within 2 business days from entering the US.
    • Form I-515A includes instructions on how to correct one's status by mailing the requisite documentation to the DHS office in Washington D.C. for deferred inspection.
    • Per DHS, your SEVIS record status will terminate if DHS does not receive the requisite documentation by the (I-515A) I-94 expiration date.  As a result, your legal status in the U.S. will end.
  • Repeated Questioning at the Port of Entry/Border
    • Some individuals may encounter lengthy questioning or visits to secondary inspection every time they enter the U.S.
    • In some cases this may be caused by a problem with an immigration record, which can sometimes be corrected with the help of an ISSS Advisor. However, not all border issues are within the purview of ISSS.
    • Individuals can make their own requests to correct their records and facilitate travel through the Department of Homeland Security Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP). For more information, please refer to the CBP website here .

What's Next?

After this review you are ready to learn about obtaining your US Entry Visa.