Travel Signatures and Passport Renewal (F and J Students)

Plane in Flight


A new I-20 with updated remarks regarding Fall 2020 is not required as of July 14th when the government rescinded its July 6th fall policy directive. Learn more at the ISSO COVID-19 and Fall 2020 Hub.

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How to Get a Travel Signature While ISSO is Working Remotely

You don't need a travel signature to leave the U.S., but you will need an unexpired one when you return. When needed, you can request a new I-20/DS-2019 with an updated signature by following the instructions below. 

First, verify that you need one now

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.

If you will be requesting F-1 CPT, OPT, or STEM OPT Extension or J-1 Academic Training in the near future, your new employment I-20/DS-2019 will also have a new travel signature on it, so no need to get a new travel signature on your current form. Moving forward you should use the most-recently issued I-20/DS-2019 for travel.

If you do need a travel signature, request new I-20 or DS-2019 by mail.

We will print a new I-20/DS-2019 with an updated travel signature for you and for your F-2/J-2 dependents.

We are not issuing electronic I-20s/DS-2019s at this time because of the uncertainty of U.S. consulates accepting them for visa applications or Customs for admission to the U.S.

Step 1.

Log in to Compass to request your new I-20/DS-2019

Before Logging into Compass, please read the important note above.

Compass will prompt you for the following information:

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

Receive your I-20/DS-2019

Use this I-20 or DS-2019 to travel. Remember, you should keep copies of all your I-20s/DS-2019s but always travel with the most recent one. Don't forget to check our Documents Needed to Travel page to be sure you have everything you need to re-enter the United States.

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What To Do If You Have a Problem Retrieving Your I-94 Record

If you have a problem retrieving your I-94 arrival record, 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, if needed, while you're on the phone, so you can access and print the record.

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Returning to the U.S. Without all Required Documents

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 COE, but the travel signature is expired, they may be more lenient about permitting you to fly.

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. Come to the ISSO as soon as possible (and before the I-94 expiration date) with the I-515 so we can assist you in correcting your record.

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How to Renew Your Passport in the U.S.

Step 1.

Check to see if you need to renew your passport

In general, your passport should always be kept unexpired for at least 6 months into the future at all times. If, however, your country of citizenship is on this list you may enter the U.S. using your passport until its actual expiration date if you have an urgent need to travel.

Step 2

Contact your consulate/embassy well in advance of its expiration

Contact your Consulate in New York City or embassy in Washington D.C. seven to eight months before your passport's expiration date to learn what you must do to renew it and how long it will take. 

Step 3

Keep your expired passport 

If your expired passport has an unexpired F-1 or J-1 visa in it, you can continue to use the visa if you travel with both passports.