Special note: For information on COVID-19 related considerations regarding international travel, please see the Travel section of the COVID-19 FAQs page.
All students and scholars traveling abroad need to make sure they check the validity dates on their immigration documents to ensure everything is in order. If you have any questions, please see an OISS advisor.
F-1/F-2 and J-1/J-2 visa holders
Verify the following prior to travel:
- Passport, valid at least 6 months past the date of (re)entry into the U.S.
- Recent travel endorsement on the I-20 or DS-2019 (we recommend making sure endorsement is no older than six months)
- Valid visa stamp (Exception: Canadian citizens are not required to have a visa in their passport)
- If traveling while on F-1 OPT or the STEM OPT extension, review your documentation to make sure it includes the following:
- I-20 showing OPT is approved on pg. 2 and updated with current employer information if possible. Please note that travel signatures are only valid for 6 months while on OPT.**
- Original EAD
- Letter from your employer, if applicable
- For more information about travel on OPT, please see https://oiss.rice.edu/OPTcompliance
**Special note for students on OPT/STEM OPT: Once your OPT has been approved and you have submitted a copy of your OPT EAD to OISS, you may request an updated I-20 to update the information on the second page from "OPT Requested" to "OPT Approved." Unless you need the updated I-20 earlier for international travel purposes, we recommend waiting until your OPT has started and you have updated your employment information in the SEVP Student Portal, to ensure that this information is also printed on the new I-20.
To make the request, please email OISS at email@example.com and indicate that you would like to have an updated "OPT Approved" I-20. If you are making the request before your OPT start date, please confirm the purpose the I-20 is needed (for international travel please include estimated travel dates). Otherwise please also confirm that the employment in your SEVP Student Portal is current.
Requesting Travel Endorsement
OISS can provide travel endorsements for all F and J visa holders whose immigration records are sponsored by Rice. You have three options available to request for a travel endorsement. Please only submit one request, as multiple requests can result in duplicated and confusing SEVIS events on your record.
Option 1) Electronic request by email
You may email firstname.lastname@example.org to request for a travel signature. Please allow 1-2 business days for processing.
If you are on an F-1/F-2 visa status, you will receive a new I-20 by email. The Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has confirmed that electronically signed and issued I-20s are allowed. When you receive an I-20 by email, print it at your earliest convenience and sign it by hand (i.e., in wet ink) at the bottom of the first page under Student Attestation, after which the form will be considered valid. An electronic I-20 displayed from a mobile device is not considered valid. You may carry a copy of the SEVP Policy Guidance with you if you are concerned about the validity of an electronically issued or signed I-20.
If you are on a J-1/J-2 visa status, you will be issued a new DS-2019 in hard copy. OISS will notify you by email when it is ready for pick-up.
Option 2) Drop off most recent I-20/DS-2019 at OISS office
You may visit OISS during office hours (Monday - Friday, 8:30am - 5:00pm) with your most recently issued I-20/DS-2019 and your passport. We will process the travel signature and you will be able to pick up your signed I-20/DS-2019 the following business day.
Option 3) On-the-spot Travel Signature Hour 4:00-5:00pm
OISS offers a daily opportunity to get a travel signature while you wait. You may visit OISS Monday - Friday, 4:00 - 5:00pm with your most recently issued I-20/DS-2019 and your passport for an on-the-spot travel signature. This option may not be available during conferences, special events, etc., so please feel free to call OISS (713-348-6095) in advance to verify availability.
If your visa stamp has expired and you are traveling outside the U.S., you may need to apply for a visa stamp renewal. Please feel free to schedule an appointment with an OISS advisor to discuss the process. We have also put together some tips for the visa application process and compiled a list of helpful videos, please see https://oiss.rice.edu/visa-tips. You may also request a Letter of Support for your visa renewal application from OISS:
- If you need a travel signature, you may request for the visa renewal letter at the same time. If your travel endorsement is valid, you should request for the visa renewal letter online through our Letter Request form.
- If requested online, please allow 2 business days for visa renewal letter processing.
Please submit a copy of your renewed visa stamp to OISS at http://bit.ly/oissdocs.
If you are traveling to Mexico, Canada, or the Caribbean Islands (except Cuba) and your visa stamp has expired, you may be able to use automatic revalidation to re-enter the U.S. without renewing your visa stamp. Please schedule an appointment with an OISS advisor to review automatic revalidation guidelines. The advisor will provide you with a signed letter verifying these guidelines for you to take with you on your travels.
Travel to a Third Country
If you are traveling to a country other than your home, please note that you may require a visa to enter your destination. Visa requirements vary by country and by the citizenship of the traveler, so check the website of the embassy/consulate of the country you're going to and research the visa requirements that apply in your case. Please note that your U.S. visa status can affect the process, so you may need to inquire further. Fortunately we have many consulates located right here in Houston!
If you require proof of your valid U.S. immigration status, OISS is happy to provide an enrollment or employment verification letter, confirming your visa status at Rice. Please use our online letter request form, as needed.
Returning to Rice University
If the U.S. Port of Entry immigration officer stamps your passport with an entry stamp, it should include the following:
- Date and location of your arrival
- Visa type (e.g. F-1 or J-1)
- Admit Until Date, which is the date by which you must depart the United States. For F-1 and J-1 visa holders, instead of the date the stamp should indicate "D/S", which stands for Duration of Status
Please take a moment to review your entry stamp for accuracy. If it does not have the correct information, please let the officer know that your entry stamp is incorrect. We are aware that many Ports of Entry have moved away from issuing these stamps, so it is not a problem if you do not receive one.
Make sure to download your updated I-94 record anytime you re-enter the U.S. and submit a copy to OISS so we can update your arrival record. You may submit all new documents at http://bit.ly/oissdocs.