If you are planning to travel out of the United States and then return to continue studying in The Tseng College, submit a Travel Request to a DSO in ARC (Office of Admissions, Registration and Client Services) at least a week prior to your planned departure.

Travel Eligibility for all F-1 Students

You must…

  • be in status in SEVIS
  • travel when school is not in session
  • be eligible to continue your studies
  • be returning to the Tseng College to continue your studies (not transferring at the time of travel)

Tseng College Travel Request form


What is a Travel I-20?

What is a Travel I-20?

Whenever students on F-1 visas travel outside of the U.S., they must have a Form I-20 that one of their DSOs has signed (endorsed) on page 2 to present to the Customs and Border Protection officer when they re-enter the United States. An endorsed I-20 is commonly referred to as a ‘Travel I-20.’


When Do I Need a Travel I-20?

  • A Travel I-20 is required to leave and return to the U.S. WHILE AN ACTIVE F-1 STUDENT.
  • Only students who will be CONTINUING in their same school and same program are eligible for Travel I-20s.
  • Even if you want to travel to any other country right after the semester ends, and then return to the U.S. to pack up your apartment, sell your car, etc. and then go home, you CANNOT.
  • You do not need permission or a travel I-20 to travel WITHIN the 48 states of the United States. Just don’t pop over the Canadian or Mexican border; stay within the U.S.
  • Technically you do not need a travel I-20 when returning from Alaska or Hawaii (the 49th and 50th states) since they are part of the United States; however, if you travel into or through another country such as Canada or Mexico when returning to the U.S. (either planned or unplanned), you need an endorsed I-20 when reentering the U.S. Feel free to ask for a DSO’s endorsement on your I-20 if you are travelling to Alaska or Hawaii. It is just a safer approach in case your plane has to land in Canada or Mexico before arriving in the U.S.


What and Who are DSOs (Designated School Officials)?

  • Only a DSO has access to SEVIS records (I-20s) – and only for the one particular school in which they are employed.
  • The DSOs located in ARC have SEVIS access to all Tseng College students on F-1 visas.
  • Only DSOs in ARC can sign your I-20 for travel.
  • Your DSOs are:

    Ayda Vardumyan, ayda.vardumyan@csun.edu, (818) 677-7649
    Lesa Green, lesa.green@csun.edu, (818) 677-3404
    Susana Nieto, susana.nieto@csun.edu, (818) 677-2626
    Lauren Jarvis, lauren.jarvis@csun.edu, (818) 677-3272


What Do I Need for Reentry into the United States?

Required Documents for Re-Entry into the United States:

  • A Form I-20, signed by your DSO
  • A current passport, valid for at least six months after the date of your reentry.
  • A valid F-1 visa.


Recommended documents/information to have with you:

  • Evidence of financial resources
  • Evidence of student status such as tuition receipts, transcripts, or proof of enrollment.
  • Name and contact information of someone from the school’s international team such as one of the DSOs in ARC, and for SAC students: Jessica Isomoto and/or Boris Polotzek are additional good contacts for you.


Re-using an I-20 for Travel

If your I-20 was signed for travel in the last few months, you can use that I-20 for more travels, without submitting a Travel Request again. You still need to the meet the same eligibility requirements and carry the same documents listed above.

For SAC Students Only

60-Day Grace Period

All F-1 students have a 60-day grace period to either transfer to a new school or leave the U.S. when they have completed their studies.

They cannot travel and re-enter the U.S., as an F-1 student, during this grace period.

The 60-day grace period begins right after the last day of the last day of the semester.

If you are in SAC for two semesters, your 60-day grace period is after your second semester.

If you are in SAC for one semester only, you have a 60-day grace period after that one semester.

The simple message is this: Unless you are returning to CSUN to continue in a Tseng College program, you cannot use your current I-20 to travel.

NOTE: If you are simply leaving the U.S. after the term ends, that is easy. If you are not traveling in and out of the U.S. during your 60-day grace period, you don’t have to do anything special. You can just leave the U.S. without any special paperwork or requests. You can leave any day during the grace period; you just cannot return to the U.S. using your SAC I-20.

If you plan to travel OUT of the U.S. after the semester ends, AND THEN RETURN to the U.S. after travelling, you need to change to a visitor status.

Citizens of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) Countries

Your options to travel as a Visitor

  • If you are from a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program, you can travel as a visitor on that program. Change to the VWP, online, before travelling.
  • If you are not from a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program, the only way you can return to the US after the semester ends is by leaving the U.S. and obtaining a different type of visa. (B-2 Tourist Visas are most common, but any other type of visa or status that allows entry into the US would be fine.)


Visa Waiver Program (VWP)

The VWP enables most citizens or nationals of participating countries to travel to the United States for tourism for 90 days or fewer without first obtaining a visa when they meet all of these requirements:

  • Be a citizen of a VWP Participating Country
  • Have a passport that is valid for at least 6 more months.
  • Have Authorization Under ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization). To apply for ESTA and to see a list of participating countries, go to https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/.

Important Information about Traveling

  1. It is preferable to obtain an endorsed I-20 before leaving the US. However, you can leave the United States without one, but you must have an endorsed (signed) I-20 to reenter the U.S. This means that you can request to have an endorsed I-20 sent to you, if necessary.
  2. The endorsement (signature) for travel is good for 12 months – as long as you are in status in SEVIS, are returning to the Tseng College to continue your studies. (If you have applied for OPT or are currently on OPT, see below).
  3. The request form is for traveling when classes are NOT in session. If you will miss school due to travel, do NOT submit a travel request until you have determined the impact your absences may have on your grades. If you will miss a substantial number of classes, it is suggested that you meet with your instructors or with your Academic Advisor.
  4. You cannot re-enter the United States during your 60-day grace period at the end of your studies. Students from countries that are participants in the Visa Waiver Program who want to travel during their 60-day grace period can apply for an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization prior to traveling and return to the U.S. under the VWP. First see if your country of citizenship is a participant in the Visa Waiver Program and if so, apply for an ESTA.
  5. See these sites for detailed travel information:
    U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Student and Exchange Visitor Program – Travel and
    Homeland Security – Study in the States – Students
  6. Occasionally, students will be sent to Secondary Inspection when entering the U.S. This is where you are asked more detailed questions. See What is Secondary Inspection? for information about being questioned when (re)entering the United States.
  7. If you are transferring in SEVIS, you must use the new school’s I-20 to re-enter the United States.

Keep Documents With You While Traveling

When traveling, and especially when returning to the U.S., make sure you have all required documentation in your possession; do not put these items in your luggage, keep them with you!

  • The endorsed I-20,
  • A valid visa. If your F-1 visa is expired or will expire soon, you must renew your visa before returning to the United States,
  • A current passport that is valid for at least 6 months after the date of re-entry.

The U. S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) also Recommends in addition to the required documents listed above, that you also have these with you:

  • Evidence of financial resources
  • Proof of payment of the SEVIS I-901 fee.
  • Evidence of student status (recent tuition receipts, transcripts);
  • Names and contact information for one or more Designated School Officials (DSOs) at your school. See information to carry with you.

Documents to Carry to U.S. Ports of Entry

When you enter the United States, you will arrive at a port of entry and meet with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers for inspection.

The CBP officer may ask questions about your reason for travel and to inspect important documents like your:

  • Form I-20
  • Student visa
  • Passport (must be valid for at least six months after the date of your re-entry)

Be sure to hand-carry all of these items; do not put them in your checked baggage.

Record of Your Re-Entry into the U.S.

Years ago, whenever you entered or returned to the U.S., your passport was stamped. That will still happen occasionally.

However, these days, instead of a stamp in your passport, CBP (Customs and Border Protection) reports your entries into the United States electronically.

The official record of the place and date of your most recent entry can be accessed at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/

By the way, the same website has all your arrivals and departures, under ‘View Travel History.’

Visiting Mexico

Generally, all F-1 students traveling to Mexico must have the same documents as required for any travel outside of the United States:

  1. A valid passport that does not expire for at least six months following reentry in the U.S.
  2. A valid F-1 visa
  3. A valid Form I-20 endorsed (signed) for travel.

All foreigner visitors must have a valid, unexpired passport.

  • Mexico requires a passport to be valid during the time you are visiting, only, but the U.S. requires a passport to be valid for at least six more months after you re-enter the U.S. In other words, renew your passport, before your trip to Mexico, if it will expire within 6 months following your return from Mexico.
  • If you have a passport that will expire within 6 months when you are flying back to the U.S., from Mexico, you may not be allowed to board your flight. If you are in that situation, contact the airline(s) you will be flying on to ensure that they let you board the plane.
  • If you have a valid and unexpired visa of the following countries: Canada, the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and any of the countries of the Schengen Area [26 European states], you do not need a visa to enter Mexico for tourism, business or transit purposes. All individuals in this category are required to present their valid and unexpired visa along with their passports. Both documents must be valid during your entire stay in Mexico.

Do I need a tourist visa to visit Mexico?

Foreigners of any country traveling to Mexico on a cruise ship are NOT required to obtain a visa or consular stamp. F-1 students must have their passports, visas, and Travel I-20s.

Traveling to Mexico by land, or air: Most F-1 students do not need visas to visit Mexico. If you are a citizen of a country not on the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, contact the Mexican Consulate to see if you need a visa.

The Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles:
2401 W. Sixth St.
Los Angeles, CA 90057
Tel: (213) 351-6800
Fax: (213) 351-2114
E-mail: lapublico@sre.gob.mx

A list of Mexican Consulates in the U.S. is available at Mexico Online: http://www.mexonline.com/consulate.htm

You can make an appointment at any Consulate of Mexico in the U.S. through the Call Center (Mexitel) at (877) 639-4835 or online at https://citas.sre.gob.mx/

Visiting Canada

For a short visit to Canada, citizens of some countries are required to obtain a tourist visa, but citizens of other countries can use an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA).

See if your country of citizenship is a ‘Visa-Required Country’ at http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/visas.asp

You can apply for an eTA or for a tourist visa at http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/apply-how.asp#visitorvisa

This same website has topics about how long you can stay, if you need a Canadian visa, if you already have a U.S. visa, and much more information.

The website of the Canada Border Services Agency has lots of information about traveling to Canada.

Entering the U.S. Without Proper Documents

If your documents cannot be verified by CBP, if you have lost or forgotten your I-20, if you haven’t paid your SEVIS I-901 fee, and so on, you may be denied admission into the United States or you may be issued a Form I-515A, "Notice to Student or Exchange Visitor." A Form I-515A allows you to enter the US, but you must send in the required information and documents listed on the I-515A within 30 days in order to maintain your student status. If you receive a Form I-515A because you did not have your I-20 with you, request from ARC, in EU 200, to have your I-20 reprinted.  A Form I-515A allows you stay only 30 days. In that time, you are expected to fix whatever problem caused you to get the form. Therefore, it can be a serious problem if you do not take quick action after receiving a Form I-515A.

See Form I-515A Overview for more information.

Passport Expiration Dates

  • Try to keep your passport current at all times. You need to determine your country’s requirements and timelines for renewing passports. Many countries will allow you to renew your passport while in the United States. The other alternative is to renew your passport when you return home for a visit.
  • In some cases, you may want to delay leaving the United States until you have renewed your passport. You will not be able to re-enter the United States without a valid passport.
  • If your expired passport has a valid visa, you can still use that visa if you kept the old passport. Present the old passport, along with the new passport when you re-enter the country.

Travel While on Post-Completion OPT

You can travel and return to the US for the remainder of the period authorized on your EAD card as long as you:

  • Have a Form I-20 endorsed for travel within the preceding 6 months
  • Have an unexpired EAD, and
  • Are returning to resume employment, or to resume looking for employment. It is highly recommended that you have a letter from your prospective or current employer, if possible.
  • Have NOT exceeded the 90 days of unemployment limit while out of the U.S.

More information available at https://www.ice.gov/sevis/travel.

Caution! Traveling before receiving EAD card (have applied for OPT but have not been approved yet).

You can travel but look out for:

  • USCIS may send you a request for further evidence while you are away, so make sure you have provided a correct U.S. address both on your application and to your DSO. USCIS sends important documents to your U.S. address only.
  • If USCIS approves your OPT application while you are out of the country, you will still be expected to have your EAD in hand to re-enter the United States, but USCIS can only send the EAD to your U.S. address.
  • If your OPT application is still pending when you return, show the I-765 receipt notice (Form I-797) as proof of eligibility – however, there have been reports that some students have had trouble with re-entry when presenting this document instead of an EAD card.

More information available at https://www.ice.gov/sevis/travel.

Travel with Dependent I-20 and F-2 Visa

Family members on an F-2 visa can travel in and out of the United States during the entire time that the principal F-1 student would be eligible to travel. The F-1 visa holder is not required to accompany their dependents. Like F-1 students, dependent I-20s must be endorsed for travel. F-2 dependents are required to keep their passports valid and passports should not expire within 6 months after entering the US. F-2 dependents might also be issued a Form I-515A and be admitted for only 30 days if they do not have proper documentation at the time of entry. The same I-515A rules that apply to F-1 students apply to F-2 dependents.

Travel within the United States

You can travel within the United States (this includes Alaska and Hawaii) during school breaks and vacations without permission from your designated school official (DSO).

If your travel does not involve any re-entry from outside of the United States or crossing a U.S. border, you will not have to apply for re-entry to the United States with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Keep a copy of important travel documents, such as your Form I-20, "Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status,” safely with you when you travel anywhere. Your passport should be valid at all times.

Travel for Purpose of Renewing Visa or Re-Establishing SEVIS Status

If you will be re-entering the United States with a new I-20 for the purpose of getting back into SEVIS status, see SEVIS Status Issues.

Sources: Travel

Travel Request form, Tseng College Students https://csun.sjc1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_cvuQzWzecNDru9U
Visa Waiver Program VWP Information https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/tourism-visit/visa-waiver-program.html
Apply for ESTA https://www.cbp.gov/travel/international-visitors/esta
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Student and Exchange Visitor Program – Travel Info & Re-entry http://www.ice.gov/sevis/travel/
Homeland Security – Study in the States – Students – Travel Info https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/
Secondary Inspection Info https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/what-is-secondary-inspection
Form I-515A Overview https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/students/form-i-515a-overview
Arrival/Departure Forms I-94 http://www.cbp.gov/travel/international-visitors/i-94-instructions
To Print your own I-94 https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home