Documents Needed to Travel (Students)

Traveling Outside the U.S.

Review Visa Requirements for Your Destination

If you're traveling to a country other than your home -- including international cruises -- check the website of your destination's embassy or NY-based consulate to learn about their visa requirements for visitors. If needed, request your enrollment certification through SSOL.

Follow CUIT Data Security Guidelines for International Travel

CUIT (Technology Information) has compiled important considerations for the Columbia University community for protecting data security when you travel.

Review Columbia's Global Travel Tips

The GlobalTravel website centralizes information and tools for all members of the Columbia community whose study, research, or teaching involves international travel.

Review what to expect when you return to a U.S. Port of Entry

Visit Step 2 of our Entering the U.S. page (for students) as a reminder of what to expect.

Travel Documents

This section is for currently enrolled students and graduates in F/J status engaged in F-1 OPT or J-1 AT. 

  • If you will be entering the U.S. for the first time as a Columbia student please refer to our Entering the U.S. page.
  • If you have graduated and are on OPT or the STEM OPT Extension, please refer to our page on Travel During F-1 OPT.

Want to see more?

Watch our short international travel overview video.

ISSO Travel Video

Traveling Within the U.S.

Domestic travel includes travel to any of the 50 states or travel to the U.S. territories (Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, American Samoa).

Carry your documents with you in case you need to show evidence of your legal immigration status.

Troubleshooting Potential Problems

1. Your U.S. visa has expired OR will expire before your return

There are two exceptions:

  1. Canadians are exempt from the visa requirement (but do require an I-20/DS-2019).
  2.  When you return return to the U.S. from Canada, Mexico, or an "Adjacent Island" you may be eligible for "automatic revalidation". Visit this webpage to learn about these special provisions.

U.S. visas cannot be obtained in the United States. You can apply for a new visa only at a U.S.consulate or embassy, so be mindful of visa application procedures and the time needed for visa processing when you make your travel plans.

2. You're already abroad and you don't have your I-20/DS-2019 with you OR your travel signature has expired or will expire before your return

Your new form will have an updated travel signature on it. Follow the instructions on our Travel Signatures webpage.

You may have a problem being allowed to board by your airline at departure if you don’t have your COE (I-20/DS-2019) with you. If you have your I-20/DS-2019 but the travel signature is expired, they may be more lenient about permitting you to fly.

3. You're arriving in the U.S. without all required documentation

If you arrive in the U.S. without your COE or with an expired travel signature, you will likely be subject to additional screening by CBP (Customs and Border Protection) to verify your valid student status. 

We recommend you carry documentation that can demonstrate your full-time student status, such as a printed copy of your registration status from SSOL.

The Officer may admit you:

  • as usual for “D/S” (duration of status) with a warning to have required documentation with you the next time you travel, or

  • for 30 days with form I-515A. In this case, be sure you have your passport stamped F-1 or J-1. After arrival, check that your electronic I-94 arrival record shows your admission in student status. Contact the ISSO as soon as possible (and before the I-94 expiration date) with a copy of the I-515 so we can assist you in correcting your record.