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F-1 and J-1 Student Travel

Prior to your Travel Outside of the U.S.

You should have a discussion/obtain approval from the International Students & Scholars Office (ISSO) PRIOR to travel in order to avoid complications.

You will need to visit the ISSO Office during Advising Hours to receive a travel signature and speak with an advisor regarding your travel plans. Updated Advising Hours can be found on our Advising hours page.

Do you need a travel signature?

Travel signatures are found on page 2 of your Form I-20, or page 1 of your Form DS-2019. Travel signatures are valid for 1 year unless otherwise noted on your visa document*, and can be used for multiple trips outside of the US within that 1 year period. You do not need a travel signature unless it has been over a year since your last travel signature AND you plan to travel outside of the U.S.

*Travel signatures for F-1 students on Post-Completion OPT and STEM Extension of OPT are valid for 6 months

Students are recommended to access their I-94 card after each entry into the United States.

This is to make sure your I-94 reflects the correct "Class of Admission" (F-1 or J-1), and that the "Admit Until Date" reflects D/S (Duration of Status). If you have issues accessing your I-94 card, or you find a mistake on your I-94 card, please contact the ISSO by email: This may prevent the processing of future Applications like Applying for a Social Security Card, CPT, OPT, etc. 

F-1 OR J-1 Students Re-entering the U.S.

You must obtain prior approval from ISSO if one of the following applies:

  • If you are planning to be away for a period longer than one week at any time during the official semester start and end date (i.e., any absence taking longer than a one-week period during the semester dates, must have our permission)
  • If you are planning on returning to school after the semester start date

To re-enter the U.S., all currently enrolled F-1 or J-1 status students must have the following documentation to provide Customs & Border Patrol (CBP) Officer:

  • Valid (unexpired) passport. The expiry date of the passport must be at least 6 months in the future;
  • Valid F-1 or J-1 visa stamp;
  • Valid UMass Lowell Form I-20 or DS-2019 with a travel signature that was signed by an ISSO advisor within the last 12 months of the date you intend to return to the U.S.;

Additional documentation we suggest you have:

  • Documentation of Financial Support (bank statement, education loan documentation, department award letters, etc);
  • Form I-901 SEVIS Fee Receipt;
  • Admission letter to UMass Lowell, or recent unofficial transcript;

General Re-entry Pre-Cautions:

  • Do not re-enter the U.S. in tourist status. Be sure to show the appropriate visa in your passport to the CBP officer;
  • Upon arriving in the U.S., always check your I-94 record to ensure you entered with appropriate status;
  • Do not travel with a pending petition at United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) without consulting ISSO or immigration attorney;

ATTENTION: Students are not permitted to be on a leave of absence from UMass Lowell without prior approval from the ISSO. This pertains to any type of leave, whether academic leave, personal, medical leave, military leave, etc. If you intend to leave the US with no intent to return, you must notify us immediately. 


If you are interested in visiting Canada, be sure to check the Canadian Consulate General’s official website in New York for the most current information. You are no longer permitted to apply for a Canadian visa in person, but you can drop off your paperwork in person. Please visit the Canadian Government's Visas and Immigration website.

You will need to complete the necessary visa application process, and submit the paperwork as per their instructions. (Be sure to follow their instructions carefully.) Typically, you will be required to mail in your documentation. If approved, your Canadian entry visa and documentation will be returned to you. In certain cases, you may receive a notice requesting an in-person interview to pick up your documentation.

Depending on your country of citizenship, you may need a Canadian visa to enter Canada. Also, depending on your country of citizenship, it could be a lengthy visa application process, as they may need to process a security check (i.e., Administrative Processing). Their address is: Canadian Consulate General; Immigration Section; 1251 Avenue of the Americas; New York, NY 10020-1175)

F-1 & J-1 visa holders are allowed to re-enter the U.S. from Canada with expired F-1 or J-1 visa stamps provided they are re-entering within a 30-day period and have a valid passport (valid at least five years beyond the expiration date of their Form I-20 or Form DS-2019). This is called “automatic re-validation”.

NOTE: If you are traveling to Canada for the sole purpose of applying for a U.S. visa at a U.S.Consulate, you are not guaranteed approval. You may be subjected to a long security check. Be sure to first discuss your travel plans with the ISSO. Third Country Nationals visiting Canada for the purpose of applying for a U.S. visa may be denied. It is always risky to enter Canada for this purpose.


CFR 286.1 (a) defines Contiguous Territories and Adjacent islands as:

Canada, Mexico and Adjacent Islands. Adjacent Islands are: Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Leeward Islands (Anguilla, Antigua, Guadeloupe, Montserrat, Nevis, St. Kitts and The British Virgin Islands), Martinique, St. Pierre & Miquelon, Trinidad & Tobago, Windward Islands (Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent), as well as other British, French or Dutch Territories or Possessions in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea.