You should have a discussion/obtain approval from the International Students & Scholars Office (ISSO) PRIOR to travel in order to avoid complications. You may come in to the ISSO Office during Advising Hours to speak to an advisor. Updated Advising hours can be found on our Advising Hour page.
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
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 at firstname.lastname@example.org. This may prevent the processing of future Applications like Applying for a Social Security Card, CPT, OPT, etc. You may access your I-94 card here.
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, academic leave, personal, medical leave, military leave, etc.
Visa Stamp Renewal - Check your Passport
If the visa stamp in your passport which correlates to your current legal status in the U.S. (F-1, J-1, H-1, O-1, TN, etc.) is expired and you are traveling outside the U.S., you will be required to visit a U.S. Embassy or Consulate to obtain a renewal of the same visa status.
If you have changed your status while in the U.S. and are now legally holding a different status than the visa stamp last recorded in your passport, you will need to apply for the new visa category at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas before returning to the U.S.
Administrative processing (security clearance check)
is applied to international students and scholars from certain countries and/or from certain fields (usually STEM fields). Here is some information on Administrative Processing
. Anyone who is subjected to Administrative Processing will face long delays of 3+ weeks when obtaining a visa. For this reason, it is recommended that you travel during the summer vacation period should you need to obtain a visa renewal and risk being processed for a security clearance.
Students holding an on-campus job, especially if the job is a Teaching or Research Assistantship must inform and obtain approval from their on-campus employer(s) of the possible delays in returning. International Scholars must inform their UMass Lowell supervisor of their planned absence as well.
It is helpful to have certain documents ready when applying for a new visa or visa renewal if you are from a country which may undergo additional screening or if you are in a STEM field. Most STEM fields are listed in the government’s Technology Alert List (TAL).
The following is meant to help you be prepared in case you are asked to present additional documentation. Do not, however, present it unless you are asked to do so. Some people may be asked to present some or all of the following:
Current Students or Visiting Scholars who will need to apply for a new Visa or to Extend their Visa while traveling overseas, must also be prepared with above-mentioned as well as other relevant information listed below.
- Resume, when applicable, it should include a list of publications (this is required of all graduate students and visiting international faculty/staff/research scholars).
- Research/Study Plan/or Job Description of an International Faculty/Staff or Research Scholar detailing your planned or current studies and research while in the U.S. It should include the name and email address of your advising professor and/or the department chair/or supervisor for those who are international staff.
- Your Official Transcript, which may be obtained from the Solution Center
- Information on your Academic Advisor, Students who have been issued a Teaching Assistantship and more importantly a Research Assistantship should print their Advisor’s Biography web page or request their Curriculum Vitae to be presented at the U.S. Embassy. For those that are international faculty/staff/or research scholars, you may need to present your supervisor’s resume.
Students On F-1 Post Completion Optional Practical Training (Post Opt) Or Stem Extension
It is not advisable that you travel outside of the U.S. until you have received an approved Employment Authorization Card (EAC). Although the F-1 regulations are not completely explicit on this point, it is understood that the OPT EAC card must have been issued before the student departs the U.S. This is the practice that is recommended by both International Student Advisors and immigration attorneys.
If you travel during Post OPT status or STEM Status, you should contact our office during advising hours to ensure that your employment information is correctly updated on SEVIS, as well as your U.S. address. You will also need the following documentation in order to re-enter the U.S. with the proper F-1 status:
- A valid passport (valid 6 months beyond the expiration date of your Employment Authorization Card);
- A valid Post OPT or STEM I-20 Form, signed by our office within the last 6 months;
- A valid F-1 visa stamp in your passport. If you need to renew your visa stamp while you are away from the U.S., be mindful of the fact that the U.S. Embassy or Consulate will need to be convinced of your ties to your home country and intent to return after your Post OPT time. They might also subject you to Administrative Processing as mentioned above;
- A letter from your Post OPT or STEM Employer. The letter must be on original letterhead, have an original signature and have a current date. It should include your name, title, and more importantly verification that you are still employed there. This letter should not include start and end dates;
- Photocopies of the last three pay statements to further evidence your employment.
- Do not re-enter in tourist status. IF you do, you will cancel your F-1, Post OPT Status and will no longer have work authorization.
You have a 60-day grace period beyond the completion date of your EAC card.
You may not work during this 60-day grace period. If you depart the U.S. to Canada, Mexico or elsewhere outside of the U.S. during this period, you will be unable to re-enter in F-1 status. You may, however, use this time to transfer your F-1 program to another school or to apply for a change of status with USCIS to another non-immigrant visa classification.
H-1B CAP GAP EXTENSION
If you are on this status, do not travel outside of the U.S. – Consult with your H-1B Immigration Attorney BEFORE any travel outside of the U.S. for the most appropriate travel advice.
Travel For International Faculty Or Research Scholars On J-1, H-1b, O-1, Tn Status, Etc.
Please contact the International Students & Scholars Office two weeks prior to traveling outside of the U.S.
- All scholars will need a passport valid six months beyond the expiration date of their I-20, DS-2019, Form I-797 or Employment Authorization Card.
- J-1 Scholars will need a Travel signature on their Form DS-2019 along with an Employment Verification Letter. (Signature on DS-2019 must be within one year).
- H-1B Scholars will need a copy of their H-1B Petition (previously provided to them by the H-1B Immigration Attorney) along with an Employment Verification Letter.
- TN Scholars will need a current Employment Verification Letter and Academic Credentials, along with an Employment Verification Letter from ISSO.
Traveling to Canada & Re-entering the U.S. from Canada
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).
H-1B Visa Holders re-entering the U.S. from either Canada or Mexico are allowed to enter the U.S. with an expired H-1B visa stamp provided that they are re-entering within a 30-day period and have a valid passport (valid at least five years beyond the expiration date on their Form I-797/H-1B Approval Notice). Canada and Mexico, however, are the ONLY two contiguous territories that allow H-1B visa holders to re-enter with expired H-1B visa stamps.
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.
IN BRIEF - TO RE-ENTER U.S. WITH LEGAL STATUS:
- All must have a valid passport upon re-entry to the u.s.
- Your passport must be valid at least six months beyond your approved stay as per your visa document
- Valid visa stamp for the status that you are returning to (f-1, j-1, h-1b, tn, o-1, etc.)
- Do not re-enter in tourist status, as it will cancel any other status. 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)
- Some will also need an employment verification letter as detailed within above sections pertaining to your category
Traveling Within U.S. Only
If you are traveling within the United States only, makes sure to carry your original passport and visa document (i.e. Form I-20, Form DS-2019, Form I-797, Employment Authorization Card, etc.) If you are travelling far away from home or by bus, train, airplane. For local travel/close to home, simply carry pdf copies of above documentation on your cell phone.