An F1/J1 student planning to travel outside the U.S. whose I-20 has not been endorsed for travel within the past 12 months must submit his or her original I-20/DS-2019 to OISS for travel endorsement along with the Request for Permission to Travel Form. If your F2/J2 dependents are traveling with you, you should also submit their original I-20s/DS-2019s. The travel endorsement indicates that OISS certifies you are maintaining legal status upon traveling and you are expected to come back to continue studies or research.
Please submit your travel request at least one week before your travel date as OISS staff will have to review your school and immigration records.
ELI Students: You will need to fill out a Leave Request Form for ELI before submitting your Travel Request to OISS. This form is due on Wednesday of week 5 every session. Students who do not submit this form on-time are not guaranteed permission to travel. http://sites.udel.edu/csp/important/vac-travel/travelform/
If you have any questions or concerns regarding travel and reentry in to the U.S., please contact the OISS for more information.
For tips on travel, please visit: Travel tips
When traveling, remember to carry the following documents for your re-entry to the U.S:
- Passport valid six months into the future
- Valid F-1 or J-1 visa stamp in your passport (unless exempt, e.g. Canadian Citizens)
- Financial information showing proof of necessary funds
- Valid I-20 or DS-2019 signed for travel
- Proof of Insurance (J1/J2 visas only)
For F1 students traveling on approved OPT, please also bring:
- Valid EAD Card
- Evidence of employment
For J1 students/scholars traveling on approved Academic Training, please also bring:
- Academic Training Approval Letter
- Employer Letter
If you will be applying for a visa while outside the U.S. be sure to bring all documents listed above. In addition, you should also check the website of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will be applying to find out which additional items are required. Please visit http://usembassy.state.gov/ for more information.
Travel to Canada, Mexico, or the Islands (other than Cuba) Adjacent to the United States
An F1/J1 student traveling to visit Canada, Mexico or the adjacent islands of the Caribbean for less than thirty days may reenter the U.S. with an expired visa provided that you have been maintaining legal status. This process is called Automatic Visa Revalidation.
The adjacent islands are:
- Saint Pierre
- The Dominican Republic
- The Bahamas
- The Windward and Leeward Islands
- Other British, French, and Netherlands territory or possessions in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea
You will be required to present the following documents at the Port of Entry:
- A valid Form I-20/DS-2019 endorsed for travel
- A valid Form I-94 marked with D/S (do NOT surrender your current I-94 when you leave the U.S.)
- A current passport valid for at least six months after the date of your planned reentry or, a passport that is current through the date of reentry if issued by one of the countries on the list of the Department of State .
- A previously-issued nonimmigrant visa (even for a different nonimmigrant classification)
However, if you meet any one of following criteria, the special exemptions do NOT apply to you:
- You applied for a new visa and it has not been issued
- You applied for a new visa and were denied
- You have a terminated SEVIS record indicating that you are out of status
- You have been out the United States for more than thirty days
- You are a citizen of one of the following countries:
- North Korea
Security Clearance and Admission into the US
What is it about the U.S. visa application process that causes people to get "stuck" outside the U.S.?
All individuals who apply at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad for a U.S. entry or re-entry visa are screened before the visa is issued, regardless of nationality. After the events of September 11, 2001, the U.S. Department of State is especially strict and requires consulates to comply with pre-visa clearances on all cases, with no exceptions.
The consular post conducts an initial review of the application and interviews the applicant about his/her planned activity in the U.S. It is at this initial stage that clear and concise information about the scholar's teaching, research, or other activity should be explained. In most cases, the visa is issued within a matter of days or weeks. However, in some cases it is decided that further checks are needed.
Issues that may cause problems or delays in the visa application process:
- The applicant has not spelled his/her name consistently on all documents (passport, visa application, supporting documentation). This can cause delays and confusion. The name given on the visa application and supporting documentation should be exactly the same as the name listed in the passport.
- The applicant has not read and followed the tips and guidance on the website of the U.S. consular post having jurisdiction over the visa application; this can cause delays or denial. The consular post cannot understand the kind of work the person is doing and officers cannot assess the risk/benefit of granting the person a visa. A security clearance will likely be requested if the field is unclear.
- The applicant is from a country considered to pose a risk or is working in a field that is considered “sensitive” in some way.
- here are other individuals with the same or similar names. The consulate must rule out any incidents and clear up any “hits” the Consular Lookout (CLASS) system reveals on the name(s) in question.
The consular officer may tell the individual that a security advisory opinion (SAO) is needed and that he/she will be notified when it has been completed. In most cases, security clearances are completed within 30 days; however, there is no set time frame. The U.S. Department of State will neither discuss nor reveal the reason for a security advisory opinion on a particular case.
What happens when a security advisory opinion is requested?
The consular post asks the Department of State in Washington, D.C. to initiate the process of requesting clearances from various government agencies and databases including the FBI, CIA, Drug Enforcement Agency, Department of Commerce, Office of Foreign Asset Control, Interpol, the national criminal and law enforcement databases, the DOS Bureau of Non-Proliferation, and others. The Bureau of Non-Proliferation is concerned with technology transfer and other issues. This bureau considers lasers, satellites, and many other technologies that people study and research at the University of Delaware to be "sensitive" technologies with possibly risky applications or at risk of being exported. Satellites are considered "munitions." It is important to understand this in order to understand why University of Delaware researchers are subject to these clearances.
How can we prevent this from occurring?
Although discretion to request SAOs always rests with the consular post, there are ways to ensure that the U.S. Consulate has the information needed to determine if such a clearance is really necessary
- Make sure the scholar follows all directions from the Consulate and web site and lists his/her name consistently on all documents.
- Make sure that a scholar who is already at University of Delaware discusses his/her travel plans with the OISS before leaving the U.S.
- Provide the scholar with a brief, concise letter from the faculty sponsor or other department official describing the nature of the research.
What should be done if a scholar has been stuck outside the U.S. with no security clearance for over 30 days?
Unfortunately, there is not much that can be done to speed up Security checks. However, please report the delay to the OISS in case any forms need to be updated.
Congressional offices are unable to help expedite visa issuance. The Department of State considers this to be a matter of national security and will not circumvent the security advisory opinion process under any circumstances. However, a combination of efforts on the part of congressional representatives, institutions such as the University of Delaware, and higher education associations has resulted in high-level awareness of the problems and there are on-going efforts for improvement.
What do we do about salary and benefits for a scholar who is already on appointment at the University of Delaware and is unexpectedly gone for many months?
University of Delaware departments, laboratories, and centers should decide on a case-by-case basis how to handle this issue in conjunction with Human Resources. Decisions about whether to place someone on unpaid leave, charge vacation days, or terminate employment should be made at the departmental level.
Please notify the OISS of any such decisions, as they may affect visa documentation that University of Delaware filed with the Department of Labor and/or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Are there other reasons for visa delays and denials beside those related to security clearances?
Yes. All applicants need to fulfill multiple criteria to the satisfaction of the consular officer. The burden of proof lies on the applicant to demonstrate that the documents presented are genuine, the stated objectives are accurate, he/she has adequate financial resources, and he/she intends to return to the home country upon completion of the stated activity (except in the case of H-1B or O-1 applications).
Reprinted with Permission from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology