Travel Information for International Students

Can I travel outside the USA?

F1 international students can travel outside the United States, but you must request a travel signature on your I-20. This signature is required to verify valid F1 visa status when an F1 student travels on official school breaks/vacation. 

The signature box is on page 3 of old I-20 forms (issued before summer 2015) and page 2 of new forms (issued during or after summer 2015).

When you make your travel plans you must submit the following to the NLC International Center at least 4 weeks before your trip date. Any requests submitted after this date we cannot guarantee processing/approval before your travel date. Do not wait until the last minute. Please submit:

  • copy of your passport's F1 visa stamp;
  • copy of your passport's ID page;
  • copy of your I-94 card, front and back, or information so we can find your digital I-94 record;
  • completed travel request form (available online or at our office); and
  • copy of your travel plans with date of departure from the United States and date of return such as your travel ticket.
We will respond within five to seven business days with an update on your request. If you have any more questions you must make an appointment to see an F1 advisor.
You cannot travel if you are violating F1 status, or if you have been suspended or dismissed from North Lake College. In addition, if one or more of the following is true you cannot travel on your current I-20:
  • You have completed your studies with NLC, and have not transferred to another school
  • You are on OPT (Optional Practical Training) and your OPT application with USCIS has not been filed or is still pending
  • Your F1 record has been terminated (contact F1 advisor for appointment to discuss your options immediately)

All travel requests are subject to review and approval by the F1 advisor in accordance with F1 visa regulations. We have the right to refuse to sign your I-20. Here are the most common reasons for denial of a travel signature:

  • A history of poor academic performance, such as at least one or two failing grades from the previous semester
  • Traveling while classes are in session, including the first and last days of the semester

Can I still travel without an advisor's signature?

Denial of a travel signature on the I-20 does NOT mean you cannot travel. You can travel without a signature, but will face additional questioning at the border when re-entering the USA, and border security agents may refuse to allow you back into the country. We recommend you take a new copy of your transcript to verify that you are still a student.

What should I bring when I travel?

When you re-enter the United States you must have at least the following:
  • Your original I-20 form
  • Your original passport with a valid F1 visa stamp on the passport visa pages
  • Travel request letter (optional)
  • Transcripts (optional)
  • OPT EAD card (required if on OPT)
  • OPT job offer letter/letter of employment from employer (required if on OPT)
  • Original financial documents (optional, required if re-entering on a new I-20 record)

If you changed to F1 status from another visa while in the United States, you must obtain a new F1 visa stamp at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate while on your travels. Make an appointment with an F1 advisor to learn how this process works.

Warning: US immigration has the final say on who is admitted or re-admitted to the United States. Anyone, even a student with a travel authorization signature, can be denied re-entry by a border official for any reason.

Important facts about traveling 

  • A travel request is not required if you plan to travel inside the United States. However, we recommend you take your original I-20 and passport on your trip.
  • When you come back from a trip, you must return to the International Center to confirm you are back at North Lake College. Bring your updated I-94. If you don't check in after traveling, there may be a registration block on your account.
  • If your travel request is being delayed because professors have not posted grades, we cannot and we will not contact instructors. You may talk to your professor, but we will not. Because of this, we strongly recommend F1 students schedule travel at least 5 business days after the semester/term ends. Check the NLC academic calendar as you make your travel plans for official term end and start dates.

You may be asked to sign what is called a travel status contract if we cannot issue you a travel signature on the I-20.

Long-term travel

You must make an appointment with an F1 advisor if you plan to be away for 5 months or longer, or if your travel will cause you to miss any classes/required enrollment terms. Long travel may require approval from an F1 advisor at NLC. Make an appointment first to discuss if you think you need a semester or longer away.

Traveling while classes are in session

If you plan to travel at any time during the semester, make an appointment to discuss your travel plans with an F1 advisor. We recommend that you do not book travel plans during classes until you meet with an F1 advisor. Students must be in good academic and immigration standing in the current semester to receive travel signatures on the I-20.