Re-entering the U.S. after a trip abroad

All F-1/J-1 Northeastern students must carry the following when re-entering the U.S. after a trip abroad:

  • A passport (valid for at least six months from the date you return to the U.S.)
  • A valid F-1 or J-1 visa
  • Your most recent form I-20 or DS-2019 with a valid travel signature

Students on Post-OPT and the STEM Extension must also carry the following documents:

  • A valid EAD
  • Proof of Employment (an offer letter may be used)

Please see our POST-OPT page to learn more about traveling while on POST-OPT and our STEM Extension OPT page to learn more about traveling while on STEM Extension OPT.

Students are also advised to carry the following documents:

  • Any previously issued I-20s or DS-2019s
  • Proof of funding (as reflected on your I-20 or DS-2019)
  • Proof of enrollment (enrolled students only)
    • You may request an Enrollment Verification from the Registrar’s Office or print a copy of your current course registration

What is a travel signature?

A travel signature is an endorsement on your I-20 or DS 2019, given by a Designated School Official (DSO) or Alternative Responsible Officer (ARO), after screening your immigration record and academic enrollment to verify lawful status.

  • If you are on an F-1 visa, this is the signature at the bottom of page 2 of your current I-20.
  • If you are on a J-1 visa, this is on the bottom right of your DS-2019.

How long is my travel signature valid?

For current F/J Students and Scholars, an I-20 travel signature and DS-2019 travel endorsement are valid for 12-months (or until the document’s expiration date, whichever is sooner).

For those on J-1 Academic Training or F-1 Post-Completion OPT/STEM Extension require a new travel signature every 6-months.

How to get a travel signature

To request a travel signature, please follow these steps:

  1. Submit the travel signature e-form request.
  2. The processing time can take up to 15 business days, once you are approved, you will receive an email to your Northeastern email address containing a password-protected PDF of your I-20/DS-2019. (Be sure to print out and sign your I-20/DS-2019 prior to returning to the U.S.)

Prior to major vacation periods, OGS often offers travel signature sessions that require pre-registration.  After successful screening, you will receive your travel signature on the spot. If you wish attend a session, please bring your I-20/DS-2019 form and your nine-digit Northeastern identification number. Visit the events page for travel signature session dates.

Travel Tips

  • If you have completed OPT, Academic Training (AT), or your academic program, and are in a grace period, you will not be allowed back into the U.S. on your F-1 or J-1 visa.
  • Any family members traveling with you who have F-2 or J-2 visas will also need to carry the same documents. Please review the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) tips for travel.
  • If you plan to travel when your visa has expired, please see the Renewing Your Visa page.

Trouble returning to the U.S.

If you need emergency assistance while traveling, please call one of the following numbers: 

  • If you are at a U.S. Port of Entry (i.e. airport): +1-617-373-2121  
  • If you are departing for your Northeastern campus within 24 hours or are already in transit: +1-857-214-5332

After your return to U.S.

Upon your return, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will issue an I-94 (your arrival/departure record) to you.

  • If you arrive by land, you may receive a paper I-94 that you should keep with your passport.
  • If you arrive by plane, you will be issued an I-94 electronically; print the most recent I-94 after each entry into the U.S.
  • Your I-94 should be marked with your visa type (F-1 or J-1) and an “admit until date” (Duration of Status).
  • If there is an error on your I-94, please see how to correct your I-94.

Key Resources

Travel Signature Request »

This is to request a travel endorsement on your I-20 or DS-2019.