Travel

General Information

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, the Division of International Education 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/exchange student advisor at the Division of International Education who is authorized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security may provide a travel signature on 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 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, the Division of International Education will take measures to support their re-entry process.

F-1 International Students

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

Processing time

  • An international student advisor will review their I-20 request and email them an updated I-20 within five business days.
     
  • The Division of International Education no longer issues paper I-20. All students will receive an I-20 at their SF State email account. The I-20 will be in PDF format with a certified digital signature from a 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

  • Travel signature requests received after December 18, 2023, will be processed on January 2, 2024.
     
  • Students must check their SF State email account regularly for updates from the university and the Division of International Education. Travel signatures can be canceled if a student falls out of status while outside the U.S.

Continuing international students must request a new initial I-20 for the Fall 2024 semester to enter the U.S. for Fall 2024.

When to Request

  • Once you are sure you will enter the U.S. for Fall 2024.
  • Once you have no registration holds such as “International Health Insurance Hold” and “Campus Financial Obligation Hold” that prevent you from enrolling in Fall 2024.

When to Arrive

  • The program start date on the I-20 is August 26, 2024.
  • You must enter the U.S. before August 26, 2024. No late arrival will be allowed.
  • The earliest you may enter the U.S. will be July 27, 2024 (30 days before August 26).

How to Request

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

An F-1 international student advisor will review their request and issue an initial I-20 within 5 business days. Students must clear all the registration holds in order to receive I-20s.

  • A signed New I-20 Request Form (PDF, 209 KB)

    • This form is an official request for a Fall 2024 I-20 at SF State.
    • Check the first box under “Type of request” and type “Fall 2024” in the “Provide reason” box.

 

  • A signed Financial Affidavit Form (PDF, 296 KB)

    • 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 the Division of International Education. 

      • For example, if you submit your paperwork on August 15, 2023, the documents must be issued after February 15, 2023. 
    • You and/or your sponsor(s) must prove that you can 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

  • An international student advisor will review their I-20 request and email them an updated I-20 within five business days.
     
  • The Division of International Education no longer issues paper I-20. All students will receive an I-20 at their SF State email account. The I-20 will be in PDF format with a certified digital signature from a 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 a full-time course load for Fall 2024

  • No 100% online study allowed
  • No more than three units of online classes can be used to satisfy full-time requirements. See the maintaining status page
    • Undergraduate students must enroll in a minimum of 12 units to be considered full-time, of which at least 9 units must be in-person/hybrid.

    • Graduate students must enroll in a minimum of 8 units to be considered full-time, of which at least 5 units must be in-person/hybrid.

Arrive in the U.S. between July 27, 2024 and August 26, 2024

  • 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.

Passport

Students' passports 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 have a travel signature, dated within 1 year of their return date, under the "Travel Endorsement" section of the Form I-20. See image below:

Sample I-20 travel signature

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 before 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 check their SF State email account regularly for updates from the university and the Division of International Education. Travel signatures can be canceled if a student falls out of status while outside the U.S.

Students should carry a valid passport, valid F-1 visa, and I-20 with travel signature when seeking entry into the United States. The Division of International Education 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 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.

Screenshot of the travel signature date on an I-20

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. The Division of International Education will issue a new "Continued Attendance" I-20 digitally 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.

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 can either submit their DS-2019 at the Division of International Education front desk or email it to exchange@sfsu.edu.

Processing time

  • An exchange student advisor will review their DS-2019 request and email them an updated DS-2019 within five business days.
     
  • The Division of International Education no longer issues paper DS-2019. All students will receive a DS-2019 at their SF State email account. The DS-2019 will be in PDF format with a certified digital signature from a school official. 
  • Students must PRINT the IDS-2019, SIGN it in blue ink, and PRESENT the paper DS-2019 at the U.S. port of entry. 
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' passports 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 visas 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 traveling outside the United States, they must obtain a travel signature under the "Travel Endorsement" section of Form DS-2019. 

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

Last updated: February 2024

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The information contained in this website is provided as a service to the international students, faculty, staff, employees, and administrators of San Francisco State University, and does not constitute legal advice on any immigration, tax, or other matter. We try to provide useful information, but we make no claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to this website or any associated site. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel. Neither San Francisco State University nor the Division of International Education is responsible for any errors or omissions contained in this website, or for the results obtained from the use of this information.