Travel

General Information

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) update

  • On March 10, 2023, CDC removed the requirement for air passengers from China, Hong Kong or Macau to show a negative COVID-19 test or documentation of recovery before boarding a flight to the United States.
  • San Francisco International Airport COVID-19 FAQ

COVID-19 Vaccination

  • The California State University announced that COVID-19 vaccines and boosters will be required for students and employees returning to CSU campuses. See CSU Vaccination Policy.   
  • All people who live in California age 5 and older are eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters for free. See up-to-date San Francisco Covid-19 information at sf.gov and the SF State Covid-19 Resources page.

*This information is subject to change in response to public health and vaccine availability developments. 

Students are not required to obtain a travel signature on their immigration document (I-20 or DS-2019) or have a valid F-1 or J-1 visa if they plan to travel within the United States, including Hawaii and Alaska. However, OIP recommends that students carry a valid passport, photo ID (SF State ID or Driver’s License), and Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 while traveling within the U.S.

Students who plan to travel outside the United States must obtain a Travel Signature on their Form I-20 (F-1 International Students) or Form DS-2019 (J-1 Exchange Students). 

Only an international student advisor at OIP who is authorized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security may provide a Travel Signature on a Form I-20 or Form DS-2019. Failure to obtain a valid travel signature may result in the student being denied entry when trying to re-enter the United States.

A Travel Signature on the Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 is valid for one year or until the program end date (whichever comes first) and may be used for multiple re-entries. 

Travel to Mexico, Canada, and Adjacent Islands

Depending on their country of citizenship, some students may need to apply for a visa to visit Mexico or Canada before making travel plans.

Students who must travel outside the United States due to a personal, family, and/or medical emergency during university closures should email f1@sfsu.edu (F-1 international students) or exchange@sfsu.edu (exchange students).

The email should include the student’s name, SF State student ID, departure and return dates from and to the United States, and the best way to contact the student. Students do not need a Travel Signature in order to leave the United States (it is only required for re-entry). For students who leave the United States due to an emergency without a valid Travel Signature, OIP will take measures to support their re-entry process.

F-1 International Students

To request a travel signature, a F-1 student must fill out the I-20 Travel Signature Request.

Processing time

  • OIP will review their I-20 request and email them an updated I-20 within 5 business days.
     
  • OIP no longer issues paper I-20. All students will receive I-20 at their SF State email account. The I-20 will be in PDF format with a certified digital signature from school official. 
     
  • Students must PRINT the I-20, SIGN it in blue ink, and PRESENT the paper I-20 at the U.S. port of entry. 

Attention

Follow campus vaccination policy and stay up to date

  • We encourage students to do the following to keep themselves updated:

Five-month rule

The Five-month rule does not apply to students who have been maintaining F-1 status outside the U.S. between Spring 2020 to Spring 2023

Continuing international students will need to request a new, initial I-20 for the Spring 2023 semester in order to enter the U.S. for Spring 2023.

When to Request

  • Once you are certain you will enter the U.S. for Spring 2023

When to Arrive

  • The program start date for Spring 2023 is January 30, 2023.
  • You must enter the U.S. before the program start date of January 30, 2023.
  • The earliest you may enter the U.S. with an initial Spring 2023 I-20 will be December 31, 2022.

How to Request

To request an initial I-20 for Spring 2023, email the following documents to f1@sfsu.edu from students' SF State email account.  We accept digital signatures, scanned copies, and high resolution/clear pictures of the completed form and documents.  

  • A signed New I-20 Request Form

    • This form is an official request for a Spring 2023 I-20 at SF State.
    • Check the first box under “Type of request” and type “Spring 2023” in the “provide reason” box
  • A signed Financial Affidavit (PDF, 248KB).

    • This form will allow students' sponsor(s) to verify the specific amount they will sponsor for their studies at SF State.
       
  • Proof of Finances dated within the past 6 months
    • The bank/financial documents must be dated within the past 6 months from the date you email the complete documents to OIP.   For example, if you submit your paperwork on September 15, 2022, the documents must be issued after March 15, 2022. 
    • You and/or your sponsor(s) must prove that you have the financial ability to pay for school costs plus living expenses for one academic year.  
    • Acceptable types of proof: A balance verification issued by the bank or Financial Guarantee/award letters issued by the scholarship organization.

Processing time

  • OIP will review their I-20 request and email them an updated I-20 within 5 business days.
     
  • OIP no longer issues paper I-20. All students will receive I-20 at their SF State email account. The I-20 will be in PDF format with a certified digital signature from school official. 
     
  • Students must PRINT the I-20, SIGN it in blue ink, and PRESENT the paper I-20 at the U.S. port of entry. 

Attention

SEVIS fee

Enroll in in-person/hybrid classes for Spring 2023

  • The current Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) special COVID-19 guidance allows international students entering the U.S. to pursue hybrid (combination of online and in-person component) classes. 100% online study is not allowed for students who are entering the U.S. with initial I-20s.

Arrive in the U.S. between December 31, 2022 and January 29, 2023

The program start date on the I-20 is January 30, 2023. You must enter the U.S. no earlier than 30 days before the I-20 program start date. No late arrival nor extension will be allowed.

Follow campus vaccination policy and stay up to date

  • We encourage students to do the following to keep themselves updated:

Passport

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

F-1 Visa

If students' F-1 visa will expire on or before the date they return to the United States, they must prepare to apply for an F-1 visa in their home country. Students are not eligible to apply for F-1 visas (or any extension/renewals) while physically in the U.S.

Automatic Visa Revalidation: Students are often able to revalidate an expired F-1 visa automatically when returning from a visit of fewer than thirty days to Mexico, Canada, or one of the islands adjacent to the United States (excluding Cuba), provided they have a valid I-20 (with valid Travel Signature on the 3rd page) and passport. This process is known as automatic visa revalidation. Please note that students who have a terminated SEVIS record indicating that they are out of status or have been outside the United States for more than 30 days will not be able to automatically re-validate their F-1 visa.  For additional information, see automatic visa revalidation on the U.S. Department of State website. See U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)'s information about traveling to Adjacent Islands as F-1 students.

I-20

If students are traveling outside the United States, they must obtain a travel signature under the "Travel Endorsement" section of the Form I-20.   See image below:

Sample I-20 travel signature

Take a look at “Form Issue Reason” under “Date of Birth” – the issue reason should show “Continued Attendance”, not “Initial Attendance” nor “Transfer Pending”. 

Screenshot of the "Form Issue Reason" on an I-20

If the student’s I-20 does not show “Continued Attendance” (i.e. if the I-20 shows "Initial Attendance" or "Transfer Pending"), the student should contact an F-1 international student advisor to request a Travel Signature.  This is true even if the I-20 already has a Travel Signature on the 2nd page. OIP will print a new "Continued Attendance" I-20 for the student and sign it for travel.

Students who have a “Continued Attendance” I-20 and have previously obtained a Travel Signature on that document should check the “Date Issued” in the “Travel Endorsement” section. 

The "Current Session Dates" above the "Travel Endorsement" section has no impact on a students' travel eligibility. The "Current Session Start Date" and "Current Session End Date" indicates the semester the travel signature was signed. It does not necessarily reflect the semester a student will use the I-20 to travel.
Screenshot of the travel signature date on an I-20

For example, if the student’s I-20 was signed on November 15, 2022, it is valid until November 15, 2023. Students whose Travel Signature has expired or will expire prior to their planned re-entry date should request a new Travel Signature.  Here is an example of the "Date Issued" on the 2nd page of the I-20:

Do not travel with a terminated I-20 even if the signature appears to be valid. Students are not able to re-enter the United States with a terminated I-20.

Students should carry a valid passport, valid F-1 visa, and I-20 with Travel Signature when seeking entry into the United States. OIP also recommends that students carry any previous I-20s from SF State that they may have, as well as a copy of their official or unofficial transcript. 

Students on approved Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) must also carry their EAD and a job offer/employment verification letter.

Students who have graduated and are on their 60 day grace periods after their program completion date will not be eligible to re-enter the U.S. (if they leave the U.S. during their grace period). Students who have submitted a Form I-765 to apply for OPT are not on their grace period but in pending/approved OPT status. See "travel while on OPT or STEM OPT" information below.

Students on the 12-month post-completion OPT or 24-month STEM OPT extension

  • Must enter the U.S. with “APPROVED” remark for OPT or STEM OPT
  • Must carry a valid EAD
  • Must carry a job offer/job verification letter
  • Travel signature is valid for 6 months only (NOT one year)
  • Must carry valid passport and F-1 visa
Screenshot of APPROVED remark

Students who have pending I-765

  • Must enter the U.S. with “PENDING” remark for OPT or STEM OPT

    • Pending OPT: job offer/verification is not required 
    • Pending  STEM OPT: Do not leave the U.S. if current 12-month post-completion OPT has ended, and the STEM OPT extension application is still pending. 
  • Travel signature is valid for 6 months only (NOT one year)
  • Must carry valid passport and F-1 visa
Screenshot of PENDING remark
Do not attempt to enter the U.S. with “REQUESTED” remark for OPT or STEM OPT.

J-1 Exchange Students

To obtain a Travel Signature, students should submit their DS-2019 at the OIP front desk. OIP will contact the student at their SF State email address when their signed document is ready to collect. It is recommended that students seek a Travel Signature 1-2 weeks prior to intended travel. 

Important: Failure to obtain a Travel Signature before traveling outside the United States may result in denial of re-entry at a U.S. port of entry.

Passport

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

J-1 Visa

If students' J-1 visa will expire on or before the date they return to the United States, they must prepare to apply for a new J-1 visa in their home country. Students are not eligible to apply for J-1 visas (or any extension/renewals) while physically in the U.S.

Automatic Visa Revalidation: Students are often able to revalidate an expired J-1 visa automatically when returning from a visit of fewer than thirty days to Mexico, Canada, or one of the islands adjacent to the United States (excluding Cuba), provided they have a valid DS-2019 (with valid Travel Signature) and passport. This process is known as automatic visa revalidation. Please note that students who have a terminated SEVIS record indicating that they are out of status or have been outside the United States for more than 30 days will not be able to automatically re-validate their J-1 visa.  For additional information, see automatic visa revalidation on the U.S. Department of State website.

DS-2019

If students are travelling outside the United States, they must obtain a travel signature under the "Travel Endorsement" section of the Form DS-2019. 

When traveling internationally, students should carry all of these documents in their hand luggage.

Last updated: March 2023

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