Travel Signatures and Passport Renewal (F and J Students)

Traveling soon? Make sure you have a valid travel signature and passport.

Plane in Flight
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How to Obtain a Travel Signature

First, make sure you need one:

A travel signature is relevant only to F-1 students or J-1 students (and their dependents) who are planning to travel abroad and return to the U.S. in F or J status. This includes alumni who remain in F or J status for post-graduation F-1 OPT or J-1 AT. You must have an unexpired travel signature on the date you re-enter the U.S.

Still need a travel signature?

There are two options to get a travel signature:

  • Option A: In-Person
  • Option B: By Mail (Abroad / Can't Come in Person)

Option A: In-Person

If you're currently at Columbia, you can obtain a travel signature during all of our office walk-in hours, or on-campus in Lerner Hall on two specified dates each semester.

Step 1.

Gather your documents and information

Step 2.

Bring your documents to us

Come during walk-in hours a few weeks before you travel.

Be sure to check additional documents needed to travel

In addition to a valid I-20/DS-2019 with an unexpired travel signature, check our Documents Needed for Travel page to be sure you have everything you need. 

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Option B: By Mail (Abroad / Can't Come in Person)

We will print a new I-20 or DS-2019 for you, with an updated travel signature. Keep in mind we are not permitted to email documents. Follow the instructions below to request a new COE to be sent to you.

Don't have time to receive it by mail? Read more.

Step 1.

Gather your documents and information

Are you having a problem retrieving your I-94 arrival record online? You may call the immigration office at either JFK or Newark airport (regardless of where you arrived) to speak with an inspector. They can usually locate the record and make a correction to your record, if needed, while you're on the phone, so you can access and print the record.

Step 2.

Email your documents

Send us your supporting documents as email attachments.

Not sure of your campus? Check our campus school list.

Step 3.

Receive your COE

Use this to travel. Remember, you should keep copies of your I-20s/DS-2019s but always travel with the most recent one.Remember to check our Documents Needed to Travel page to be sure you have everything else you need to re-enter the U.S.

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How to Renew Your Passport

First, make sure you need one:

In general, your passport should be kept unexpired for at least 6 months into the future at all times-- and 6 months from the date you will enter the United States. If, however, your country of citizenship is on this list, you may enter the U.S. using your passport until its actual expiration date.

Ready to renew your passport?

Step 1.

Contact your consulate

Contact your Consulate in New York City or embassy in Washington D.C. several months before your passport's expiration date to learn what you must do to renew it.

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Prepare for Additional Screening at Port of Entry

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

We recommend you carry a printed copy of your registration status from SSOL to show you are a full-time student.

The CBP officer may:

  1. 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
  2. admit you for 30 days, and give you form I-515A. In this case, be sure you have your passport stamped F-1 or J-1 and that your electronic I-94 arrival record shows your admission in student status. Come to the ISSO as soon as possible (and before the I-94 expiration date) with the I-515 so we can assist you.