Travel Information

If you will be traveling outside the U.S. while you are in F-1 status, you will need to follow certain procedures in order to return to the U.S. to continue your study.

If you need to travel outside the United States due to a personal, family, and/or medical emergency during the university closures, please e-mail Your e-mail should include your name, SF State student ID number, your departure and return date from and to the United States, and the best way to contact you.  You can still leave the United States without an updated signature on the 2nd page of the I-20. 

You are not required to have a valid F-1 visa if you traveling within the United States including Hawaii and Alaska. You are also not required to have an updated travel signature on the 2nd page of the I-20; However, we still recommend that you carry a valid passport, a photo ID (SF State ID or Drivers License) and your I-20 while traveling within the United States.

Check the expiration date of your passport, F-1 visa, and I-20 before you leave the United States.


Your passport must be valid for at least six months into the future at the time you return to the United States.  However, Some countries have an agreement with the United States that allows you to enter on a current passport up to the actual date of expiration.

F-1 Visa

If your F-1 visa will expire on or before the date you return to the United States, you must prepare to apply for an F-1 visa in your home country.


If you are travelling outside the United States, you must obtain a travel signature (see image below) under the "Travel Endorsement" section of the Form I-20.   See image below:

OIP recommends you to request a travel signature at least 2 weeks before leaving the United States.  To request a signature:

  1. Complete a F-1 Document Request Form (also available at the OIP Front Desk) and submit it with your most recent I-20 to the OIP front desk.
  2. The standard processing time for the travel signature request is 5 business days (not including weekends and holidays). The advisors will sign the 2nd page of your I-20 once we verified that you are in valid F-1 status. 
  3. Pick up the signed I-20 in person at the OIP front desk.


Information you should check before leaving the U.S.:

Check your personal information at the top of your I-20:
Take a look at “Form Issue Reason” under your “Date of Birth” – the issue reason should show “Continued Attendance”, not “Initial Attendance” nor “Transfer Pending”. 

Request a travel signature if you do not have a “Continued Attendance” I-20, even if the "Initial Attendance" I-20 or "Transfer Pending" I-20 already has a travel signature on the 2nd page.  OIP will print a "Continued Attendance" I-20 for you and sign for travel.

Check the date of your previous travel signature:
If you have a “Continued Attendance” I-20, and have previously requested a travel signature, please check the “Date Issued” in the “Travel Endorsement” section.  Each signature is valid for one year.  If your I-20 was signed on November 15, 2017, you will be able to enter the U.S. with valid F-1 visa and passport before November 15, 2018.  Do not travel with a terminated I-20 even if the signature looks valid to you - you will not be able to enter the U.S. with a terminated I-20.  

International Student Advisors at OIP are the Desginated School Official (DSO) who are authorized by U.S. Department of Homeland Security to sign the I-20.  You may not be allowed to return to the U.S. without an updated signature.  


You should have your valid passport, F-1 visa, and signed I-20 with you when you enter the United States. We also recommend that you carry previous I-20 from SF State (if any), official or unofficial transcripts with you. If you are on an approved Post-completion Practical Training (OPT) you must bring your EAD and a job offer letter/employment verification letter.

For your reference, see how to prepare your trip to the United States information provided by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) under U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

You should find out if you need to apply for a visa to visit Mexico or Canada before you make your travel plans.

Automatic Visa Revalidation: You can usually revalidate an expired F-1 visa automatically when returning from a visit of less than thirty days to Mexico, Canada, or one of the islands adjacent to the United States (other than Cuba) provided that you have a valid I-20 (with updated travel signature on the 3rd page) and passport. This process is known as automatic visa revalidation.  However, if you have a terminated SEVIS record indicating that you are out of status, or you have been out the United States for more than 30 days, you will not be able to automatically re-validate your visa.  For additional information, see automatic visa revalidation on the U.S. Department of State website.

A citizen of a foreign country who wishes to study in the United States must first obtain a F-1 Student visa.  F-1 visas are issued by U.S. Embassies and Consulates outside the United State, and it is not possible to obtain an F-1 visa within the United States.

Canadian citizens do not need visas to study in the U.S. However, Canadian students do need to obtain an I-20 from SF State and pay $200 SEVIS fee at Canadian students should enter the U.S. with their passports, I-20 issued by SF State, and other supporting documentation.  

Here is a list of useful resources:

F-1 visa is a ticket for F-1 students to enter the United States.  The expiration date shown on your F-1 visa does not reflect how long you are authorized to stay within the United States.  You can stay in the United States on an expired F-1 visa as long as you maintain your student status. However, if you are returning home or traveling to a country where automatic revalidation does not apply, you must have a valid visa to return to the United States.