Requirements for Traveling Abroad

Before leaving the U.S., postdocs should make sure they have:

  1. A valid passport.
  2. A valid I-20 or DS-2019 signed for travel.

Requirements for Returning to the U.S

To return to the U.S. a postdoc must have the following documents:

  1. A passport valid for at least 6 months into the future.
  2. An unexpired I-20 or DS-2019 signed for travel. A J-1 visa holder must have a signature no more than 1 year old; an F-1 visa holder with OPT must have a signature no more than 6 months old.
  3. An unexpired visa stamp in the passport for the immigration status requested. Canadian citizens are exempt from visa requirements.
  4. If an F-1 student returning to OPT, both the valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and a recent letter certifying employment.
  5. Also recommended is proof of your financial ability to cover your expenses in the U.S.

Visa Renewal

The documents outlined above for travel and reentry are also utilized for visa applications at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad. Postdocs should consult the website of the consulate where they will be applying for any additional documents that may be required. A directory of U.S. embassy and consulate websites is available at:

Automatic Revalidation

The Department of State regulations has a special provision called “automatic revalidation of visa”. This automatic revalidation permits: Holders of F and J immigration status in the U.S. to reenter the U.S. from Canada, Mexico and the adjacent U.S. islands (islands in the Caribbean except Cuba) with an expired visa. The rules for automatic revalidation are somewhat complex and postdoctoral scholars that wish to utilize this provision should check with OISSS or their home international office for advice.

How to avoid problems

  • Postdocs should understand the difference between a visa stamp, a visa certificate, and immigration status.
  • Postdocs need to remember that they can have multiple U.S. visas in their passport, but can only have one immigration status at a time. If you have multiple visas, make sure you are given the correct immigration status upon entry.
  • If a postdoc is a citizen of a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program, do not enter the U.S. on this program. If that student enters on this program, he/she will be admitted as a visitor or tourist and will only be allowed to remain in the U.S. for a maximum of 90 days and will not be eligible for study or employment.
  • Postdocs should always travel with appropriate documentation. Each time a person crosses a U.S. border the person is applying for admission to the country. Therefore, the U.S. reserves the right to inquire into the individual’s eligibility for a visa and/or readmission to the U.S. in an immigration status. Consular officials and inspectors at the port of entry always have the authority to ask you to document your eligibility for a visa and/or admission. Just because a postdoc has or previously had a valid visa, or had been admitted previously in F or J status does not mean he/she will automatically be issued a new visa and/or be readmitted to the U.S.