Traveling Out of The Country

During your studies at Bowling Green State University, you may wish to travel outside of the United States during breaks or vacations. The process for Exit and Re-entry is outlined below.

Things to consider

Prior to making your travel plans, please consider your individual situation to determine what issues may prevent you from returning.  Below are some possible issues that could increase your risk of being denied entry to the United States.

  • Re-entry Risk
    • The US Customs and Border Patrol has full discretionary authority to allow or deny re-entry into the United States.  Travelers assume at least some risk in being denied re-entry each time they leave the United States.
  • Pending Applications with USCIS
    • If you have an application pending with USCIS or DHS, check with the ISS office prior to travel.  This includes OPT applicants.
  • Five month rule
    • If you leave the United States for five months or more, your Form I-20 is automatically terminated.

Checklist for Travel

Before you leave the United States, make sure that you have the items below.  If you are applying for a new visa, please check the section below for additional items that may be required.


  • A DS-2019 with travel signature (J-1) or an I-20 Form (F-1) with a travel signature on page 3 within the last year (for continuing students) or within six months (for students on Post-Completion Optional Practical Training [OPT])—see “Travel Signature” section below for more information on how to obtain one;
  • a valid passport (valid six months into the future);
  • a valid F-1 visa stamp (certain exceptions apply);
  • original financial documentation;
  • copy of SEVIS Fee Payment;
  • EAD and letter from the current employer (for students on OPT).

Optional but Recommended

  • Letter of Enrollment from the Office of Registration and Records
  • Copy of Official/Unofficial transcripts
    • Use your MyBGSU portal to print and order


To obtain a travel signature, bring the original I-20 Form or DS-2019 to the International Student Services Office located at Suite 216 University Hall during Walk-in Hours or leave the form at the front desk for a two day processing time.


During entry procedures, students should answer all questions clearly. Omission or misrepresentation of information can result in denial of entry.  If you encounter any serious difficulty, please call ISS at (419) 372-2247 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday - Friday, or the Non-emergency Number for Public Safety at (419) 372-2346 after hours, during holidays, or on weekends. Public Safety will contact an ISS staff member to assist you.


Some students will need to renew their passports during the course of their studies or post-completion training period. If the visa is still valid at this time, there is no need to apply for a visa renewal. Students in this circumstance should travel with both passports: the expired passport containing the valid U.S. visa, and the valid passport, which does not contain a visa stamp.  Please see the Visa renewal section on this website for information about renewing your Visa.

What Happens at the Port of Entry?

  • At the port of entry, the immigration inspector should inspect the I-20 Form and return it to the student.
  • The inspector should also inspect the passport with the F-1 visa (if applicable), issue an admission stamp, write "F-1/DS", and return the passport to the student.
  • The inspector may or may not request to see the other documents listed above.


After entry, the student should verify that the entry was properly recorded electronically at A copy of this electronic entry record should be printed for the student's records after each entry to the U.S.

If the F-1 entry visa in your passport has expired and you plan to travel outside the United States, you must go to a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad to obtain a new F-1 visa. F-1 visas may never be renewed inside the United States. Students should generally allow 2-8 weeks for processing. Students engaged in post-completion OPT should be aware that it can be difficult to renew an F-1 visa during OPT. Contact the consulate for an appointment prior to finalizing travel plans.

Some students will also be subject to Security Advisory Opinions because of their countries of national origin, citizenship, fields of study, or at the discretion of the Consular Officer. Security Advisory Opinions commonly take one month, but may require as long as 4-6 months in rare cases.

Always verify required documents through the US Embassy website before applying for the renewal of Visa.

Generally, F-1 students and F-2 dependents should take the following to their Visa appointment:

  • Passport
  • Visa
  • SEVIS I-20 with a recent travel signature from DSO
  • Any I-20’s previously issued by BGSU and any other U.S. school attended before enrolling at BGSU
  • BG1 student identification card (dependents should take photocopy)
  • Official transcript of F-1’s academic record (if time for official transcripts is not available, then you may print an unofficial copy from My BGSU website)
  • Letter certifying F-1’s current enrollment and Status from Registration and Records
  • Evidence of F-1’s financial support (bank statement, graduate assistantship offer letter, family bank statement, etc.)

Special note for Chinese students: 

Repeat travelers to the United States may qualify to use the CITIC Bank Drop-off Visa Renewal Service to renew their visas.  This process allows qualifying applicants to apply for a new visa by submitting their visa application via CITIC bank. Using the service may eliminate the need to come to the Embassy. The use of the drop-off service does not guarantee visa issuance. The Embassy may in some cases, after reviewing an application submitted through CITIC Bank, require a person to appear in person for a visa interview at the Embassy.

Applicants may drop-off their visa application at China CITIC Bank, if they meet the following requirements:

  • The previous visa must be currently valid, or must have expired within the last twelve months.
  • The applicant must be applying for the exact same type of visa.
  • The applicant must be applying in the place where they usually live.

Most applicants whose visa application requires additional administrative processing time, or who have any previous visas with a “clearance received” date printed in the annotation area, may not use the drop-off service and should make an appointment to interview in-person.

Travel to Canada, Mexico and neighboring islands (except Cuba) is handled somewhat differently than travel to other countries. 

There is a special provision called automatic visa revalidation which allows those whose U.S. entry visa has expired to briefly visit Canada, Mexico, Saint Pierre, Miquelon, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, the Windward and Leeward Islands, Trinidad, Martinique, and other British, French and Netherlands territories or possessions in or bordering the Caribbean Sea (except Cuba) and return to the United States without applying for a new visa at a U.S. consulate. The following rules apply to automatic visa revalidation:

  • The time outside the United States must not exceed 30 days and may be spent only in Canada and Mexico (for F, J, H or O) or adjacent islands (for F and J only).
  • You must not be a citizen of a country that the Department of State has determined to be a sponsor of terrorism. Currently this includes Iran, Sudan, Syria and Cuba.
  • You must have a valid Form I-20, Form DS-2019, or I-797 approval notice (for H and O visa holders). Those in F-1 and J-1 status must have a valid travel signature on the I-20 or DS-2019 Form.
  • You must have a valid passport (valid six months into the future).
  • You must have maintained status while in the United States and intend to resume that status when you return to the United States.
  • You must present your I-94 card (if you have a paper I-94 card) or a printed copy of the electronic Form I-94 from your most recent entry (available at upon re-entry to the United States.

Many students and scholars will need tourist visas to enter Canada, Mexico and neighboring islands. Contact the embassy of the country to which you intend to travel and check on entry visa requirements before making travel arrangements. If you are an F-1 or J-1 visa holder, you will need a valid travel signature from your ISS Advisor before applying for the visa to enter these countries. 

NOTE: Federal regulations prohibit those who have been denied a visa at one of the U.S. consulates in Canada, Mexico or adjacent islands from returning to the United States. Those whose visa applications are denied must return to their home country and apply for a new visa at the U.S. consulate in the home country prior to returning to the United States.

Updated: 03/22/2023 01:50PM