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Travel & Visas

General Travel Advice

Contact your airline prior to all travel, to inquire about transit visas or any other requirements for travel both domestically and internationally. A transit visa may be required, even for layovers in countries other than your final destination. Please review TSA requirements prior to travel.


A visa is affixed in your passport by the U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad and allows you to travel to the U.S.  It only needs to be valid for your entry into the U.S., and does not have to remain valid throughout your stay in the U.S., provided that you maintain your immigration status. If you travel outside of the U.S. and need to re-enter, you must have a valid/unexpired visa to return. There are exceptions to this rule for travel to Canada, Mexico, and the adjacent islands.*
*See “Automatic Visa Revalidation” below.

Form I-94

An I-94 is an arrival and departure record that you receive at the Port of Entry (such as the airport) when entering the U.S. For individuals arriving after 04/26/2013, the I-94 is accessible online. Prior to 04/26/2013 the I-94 was a paper form filled out at the Port of Entry or on the airplane. Your I-94 must remain valid at all times. When departing the U.S., you will turn in your I-94 paper card (if applicable), unless you are taking advantage of AVR.* If you forget to return your I-94 when exiting the U.S. permanently, you should follow instructions to make an effort to send it back to Department of Homeland Security (DHS/immigration).  

How Do I Obtain or Renew A Visa?

  • When applying for a new visa, please find out:
    • whether an appointment is required, and how long it may take to process your request.
    • what documents, forms, photos and fees are required
    • if they allow visa applications from third country nationals (“TCNs”)
  • Be prepared to show evidence of your financial resources.
  • Bring appropriate immigration documents: Form I-20, DS-2019, or I-797 (See “Quick Reference Table” below)
  • If an initial F-1 or J-1, pay the SEVIS fee.
  • Schedule a flight that allows sufficient time for you to obtain a visa.  Additional security checks are possible for certain individuals, which may result in delays of 30+ business days.
  • Make sure your passport is valid for 6 months from date of visa application.
  • Check with local U.S. Embassy or Consulate for possible additional documentation needed.
  • If you need a new visa and you travel outside the U.S., be aware that you are never guaranteed that a new visa will be issued, especially if you apply at a U.S. embassy or consulate in a country other than your home country.
  • If you travel to a country other than your home country, you may need a visa to enter that country.  Check that country’s immigration website for more information.
  • You may need a transit visa if arriving in a third country en route to another country.
  • If you have changed status within the U.S. and now want to travel outside of the U.S., you will need to obtain a new entry visa to match your current status to return to the U.S.
  • Canadian citizens: no visa required except for statuses A, G, E, K, and V A passport is required for air travel,but not necessarily by land or sea.

Quick Reference Table

Quick Reference Table
Status Documents needed Financial Proof needed Renewal: additional suggested documents
  • Passport
  • SEVIS I-901 fee payment receipt +
  • I-20 endorsed with valid travel signature**
Bank statements, a letter from your financial sponsor, a letter of financial aid or scholarship
  • Proof of student status (transcripts, I-card)
  • Letter from academic advisor detailing your research
  • I-20
  • EAD Card
  • Passport
Letter from your sponsoring employer verifying that employment is in a field related to your degree and degree level
  • I-20 endorsed with valid travel signature from sponsoring school, not employer
  • I-20
  • Passport
Copies of documents used by the F-1 proving sufficient finances for both F-1 and F-2
  • I-20 endorsed with valid travel signature
  • DS-2019
  • Passport
  • SEVIS I-901 fee payment receipt +
bank statements, a letter from an employer or government office granting award, a letter of financial aid or scholarship, etc.
  • DS-2019 endorsed with valid travel signature**
  • I-Card
  • Copy of Earnings Statement (if employed at UIC as a J-1 Scholar)
  • DS-2019
  • Passport
  • EAD Card, if employed
Copies of documents used by the J-1 proving sufficient finances for both J-1 and J-2, if employed: a letter from your employer
  • DS-2019 endorsed with valid travel signature of J-1′s sponsor
  • Copy of Earnings Statement, if employed
  • Original I-797
  • Passport
Letter from your sponsoring department,  Labor Condition Application (LCA), as provided by OIS
  • Copy of Earnings Statement
  • Original I-797 of H-4 or the H-1B
  • Passport
Letter of support from H-1B and/or letter from H-1B’s sponsoring department
  • (Same as first time,) including proof of relationship to the H-1B
  • Passport*
Letter from your sponsoring department
  • Original I-797 Approval notice if change of status or extension of stay was applied for while in the US
  • Passport*
Letter of support from TN and/or letter from TN’s sponsoring department
  • Same as for TN
  • Original I-797
  • Passport
Letter from your sponsoring department
  • Copy of Earnings Statement
  • Original I-797 of O-3 or the O-1
Letter of support from O-1 and/or letter from O-1′s sponsoring department
  • (Same as first time,) including proof of relationship to the O-1
  • Passport
Invitation letter from sponsoring department n/a

*Canadian citizens do not need a visa to enter the U.S.  Mexican citizens, however, must apply for a visa.
+ The SEVIS I-901 fee is required only for the initial visa application.

**See “Travel Signatures” below.

Travel Signatures: F and J Status Only

Travel Signatures: F and J Status Only
  • Bring your original, current I-20/DS-2019 to OIS.
  • Be sure you are registered; including registration for the Fall semester if summer travel is planned.
  • Requests will be ready by 1:00 p.m. the following business day, or they can also be prepared during Open Advising hours while you wait.
  • Signature valid for one year, as long as status maintained, but best to request a new signature each semester.
  • Complete the J-1 Travel Signature Form listed in the Faculty/Staff/Scholar Forms section.
  • Form must be signed by Dean or Department Head.
  • Requests will be ready by 1:00 p.m. the following business day, or they can also be prepared during Open Advising hours while you wait.
  • Submit request at least 2 weeks in advance of travel.
  • Signature valid for 6 months, as long as status maintained.

Automatic Visa Revalidation (AVR)

Definition: Your expired U.S. entry visa is considered to be automatically extended to the date of reentry provided that the visa has not been canceled, and that you have not applied for a new visa. To take advantage of AVR your travel must be to contiguous territories and for less than 30 days. Rules governing AVR are found in the United State’s Code of Federal Regulation.

  • Contiguous countries are: Canada, Mexico, and the adjacent islands: Saint Pierre, Miquelon, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, the Windward and Lee Islands, Trinidad, Martinique, the other British, French and Netherlands territories or possessions in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea
  • Does not apply to individuals from Cuba, Syria, Sudan or Iran
  • Do not surrender your paper I-94 card when departing U.S.
  • If the flight attendant or officer asks for I-94 politely inform them that you are taking advantage of the AVR provision
  • Only for travel less than 30 days
  • Not valid for people who travel from a contiguous territory, such as Canada, to a non-contiguous country, such as Germany, and return to the U.S. via a contiguous territory
  • H-1B workers are only allowed to take advantage of AVR for travel to Canada and Mexico ONLY Mexican nationals traveling to Mexico, must have a valid U.S. visa to reenter the U.S.
  • If you have changed your status while in the U.S. and hold a visa for the previous status, you may still take advantage of AVR, as long as you bring the supporting documents for your new status (see the “Quick Reference Table” above). For example, you changed your status from F-1 to H-1B, but still only have an expired F-1 visa; you may still use AVR.

Entering the U.S. – General Information

For the most accurate information regarding entry procedures to the U.S., please see the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol website. At this site you will find information regarding customs regulations, AVR, Form I-94, the Visa Waiver Program and other useful updates to help you with your travels to the U.S.

Obtaining or Renewing Your Visa in Canada or Mexico

  • First, check to see if you need a visitor visa to enter Canada or Mexico (see “Visas for Canada/Mexico” below)  Canada and Mexico have their own immigration systems and have different bi-lateral agreements with each country regarding visas.
  • Research the procedure for making a visa appointment in your desired consulate.
    • Canada
    • Mexico
      • Visa Appointment Information
      • Consulates: Ciudad Juarez, Guadalajara, Hermosillo, Matamoros, Merida, Mexico City, Monterrey, Nogales, Nuevo Laredo and Tijuana
  • Check current visa processing wait times with the Department of State
  • Wait at least 5 days after booking the appointment before purchasing your ticket for travel.  The  Consulate may make cancellations during that time
  • If you miss your appointment, you may be charged a fee, unless canceled in advance.  If you miss your appointment and do not cancel in time, you will not be allowed to make another one until 3 months after the date of your original appointment.
  • Automatic visa revalidation will no longer be available if you apply for a new U.S. entry visa in Canada, Mexico or the adjacent islands.
    • The visa must be approved before you can reenter the U.S. If the visa is denied, or subject to a security check, you must return to your home country to obtain a new visa and may not use AVR.
    • If the visa application requires a security check, you cannot reenter the U.S. under automatic visa revalidation while the application is pending.

Visas For Entry to Canada/Mexico

You may require a visa to enter Canada/Mexico.  For more information consult the following sources:

Visas For Entry to Canada/Mexico
Canada Mexico

Note: Information provided is for informational purposes only and may change without notice. Please check with OIS or the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Department of State for the most current information.