When was the last time you checked the expiration date in your passport? In order to travel, your passport MUST be valid at least six months into the future. Passports may be renewed at your country's embassy or consulate in the United States. If you have access to the World Wide Web, you can obtain up-to-date information on passport renewal. Point your web browser to http://www.embassy.org.
I-20 OR IAP-66
Be sure your I-20 or IAP-66 has not expired. The back of your I-20 form (if you are in F-1 status) or IAP-66 form (if you are in J-1 status) must be signed prior to your departure, especially if it has not been signed within the past six months. If you will need to apply for a new visa, check the front of your I-20 and IAP-66 carefully to be sure the field of study, level of study and source of funds are still correct. If you will need a new I-20 or IAP-66, you must provide new proof of financial support. Allow sufficient time for the International Student Office at your school to prepare new visa documents for you.
I-94 ARRIVAL/DEPARTURE CARD
You will need to surrender your I-94 card upon your departure from the United States. You will be issued a new I-94 card upon your re-entry to the United States. SPECIAL NOTE: F-1 and J-1 students with expired U.S. visas who are traveling to Canada, Mexico or adjacent islands for up to 30 days AND who will be resuming their studies upon their return should NEVER surrender their I-94 card. Canadian or Mexican nationals returning to their home country should surrender their I-94 card as they enter their country, and obtain a new I-94 card the next time they enter the United States. Canadian nationals should be sure to carry with them their financial documentation that verifies the information on their I-20 when getting ready to return to the United States.
Check your U.S. visa stamp inside your passport. Has your visa stamp expired? If it is still valid, is it for multiple entry, or has the entry been used up? Finally, is the category for which the visa was issued the status you currently hold (for example, if your visa is F-2, are you currently in F-2 status or did that status change after you entered the United States)? If you are in F-1 or J-1 status and traveling to Canada, Mexico, or islands adjacent to North America, you do not need a valid U.S. visa as long as you have been maintaining your status, have a valid passport and I-20 or IAP-66 and are entering those countries for tourist purposes and your stay will be thirty days or less (you DO need a valid U.S. visa if you are a citizen of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, North Korea, or Cuba). However, travel to all other countries will require that you have a valid U.S. visa before you may re-enter the United States. This is especially true if you changed your non-immigrant status while in the United States (for example, changed from F-2 to F-1). This will mean applying for a new visa at the U.S. consulate in the country you will visit. Be sure to see section 8, "Applying for a New Visa at a U.S. Consulate Abroad."
COLLEGE OR UNIVERSITY ID CARD
Carry your current college student ID card with you as supporting documentation.
LETTER OF CERTIFICATION
This is a letter issued by your school that verifies that you are a student and that you are maintaining valid status. Any international student traveling outside the United States for the purposes of applying for a new U.S. visa should request such a letter from their school well in advance of their travel. This letter is not needed for travel within the United States, or for travel abroad if you have a currently valid U.S. visa in your passport.
Have you been maintaining the conditions of your non-immigrant status? If you are an F-1 or J-1 student, this means maintaining full time registration each semester at the school you are authorized to attend, refraining from unauthorized employment, not letting your I-20 or IAP-66 expire, and following the appropriate procedures for school transfer and extensions. J-1s are also required to have health and accident insurance for both themselves and their J-2 dependents, and the insurance must include a medical evacuation and repatriation benefit. If you think you may have violated the conditions of your status, be sure to speak to staff at your school's international student office BEFORE departing the United States, as you may risk being denied permission to return.
Have an official copy of your college or university transcript with you ONLY if you will be applying for a new student visa abroad, to show the consular official that you have been making satisfactory progress towards your degree. An increasing number of consulates are beginning to ask for transcripts when students come to renew their student visas. In addition to the transcript, you may also want to have with you a printed copy of your current course schedule, stamped by your school's Registrar's Office.
If you are visiting a country other than your own, you may need a visitor's visa to enter. Consult that country's embassy or consulate in the United States, or search their web site by visiting a web directory such as http://www.embassy.org.
Documented proof of financial support that appears on your I-20 or IAP-66 is only required if you will be applying for a new student visa abroad, OR if you are a national of Canada or Mexico who is traveling home to Canada or Mexico for the summer.
If you have completed your studies and have applied for Practical Training, you must have your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) with you, as well as your I-20 endorsed for practical training, in order to re-enter the United States. If you are on Practical Training and will need to obtain a new F-1 visa before returning to the United States, it is strongly advised that you have with you a letter from your employer, verifying your employment status. USCIS regulations state that an F-1 on authorized practical training may depart the country temporarily and re-enter the United States to "resume" employment, which means not only must you have a job offer, but employment must have already commenced. Students are warned that visa issuance for individuals on practical training can be highly problematic, since you may have a hard time proving that you do not intend to immigrate to the United States. Such students are urged to discuss their situation with staff at their school's international student office before they travel.