Student Travel Requirements

Special Notice Regarding the Executive Order of January 27, 2017

On Friday, January 27, 2017 an Executive Order was issued by the U.S. President.  This order relates to visa issuance, screening procedures, and refugees and suspends entry into the U.S. for some individuals from 7 countries.

It is important that those affected receive timely and accurate information.  The Office for International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) in the Capstone International Center has communicated directly with all students and scholars from the named countries.  This is a fluid and rapidly changing situation.  As you speak with students, faculty, and staff please advise them to contact ISSS with questions and stay attuned to the needs of these affected individuals for any additional campus resources for support.  If you have a specific issue or question related to this executive order, please consult ISSS.

Ban on Entry into the U.S.: If you are on a non-immigrant visa (e.g., F-1, J-1, H-1B, etc.) and are a citizen of, or were born in, one of the seven countries included in the Executive Order (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen), you should not travel outside of the U.S and you should talk to International Services before planning any international travel.  This ban on entry applies for 90 days from the date of the order. The Department of Homeland Security has announced that immigrant visa holders (e.g. Permanent Residents  “Green Card Holders”) are not included in the ban, but those with Permanent Resident status should anticipate additional scrutiny at the Port of Entry when returning to the U.S. –See this statement.

UPDATE: A Temporary Restraining Order was upheld on February 9, 2017, which prevents enforcement of Section 3(c) of the Executive Order, effectively halting the 90-day entry ban for immigrants and non-immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.  See the Court Decision.  This Court Decision does not impact the suspension of the interview waiver outlined below.

In-Person Interviews for ALL Visa Renewals: Another provision of the Executive Order suspends the waiver program for in-person visa interviews.  This applies to all international students and scholars (not just those from the 7 countries). This means that individuals seeking to renew a nonimmigrant visa will be required to undergo an in-person interview at the U.S. Consulate.  All international students, staff and faculty who need to renew their visa and will be traveling overseas are advised to consult with International Student and Scholar Services.   The likely impact is that it will take longer to obtain U.S. visas since you will not be able to renew your visa by mail. If you are from a visa-exempt country, such as Canada or Bermuda, this change should not affect you.

The staff within International Student and Scholar Services is committed to serving the UA community.  We will continue to assess the impact on our students, staff, and faculty, and will provide updated information and assistance.  UA is dedicated to the success and well-being of international students and scholars and values their contributions.

The following are links to resources concerning the Executive Order:

TRAVEL WITHIN THE UNITED STATES

Travel within the United States for any international student or scholar on a non-immigrant visa does not require any special documentation, letters, or any signatures from  International Student & Scholar Services.  Still, anyone on a non-immigrant visa should be able to present proof of their legal status within the United States at any time, and Alabama state law requires that you be able to document your legal visa status.

It is recommended that for travel outside of Tuscaloosa, you take your passport and accompanying documentation (i.e. I-20 or DS-2019).

Also, it is recommended that you keep photocopies of your main passport page, visa page, I-94 record, I-20/DS-2019 and any other visa documentation with you at all times even when not traveling.

Travel Signature

TRAVEL OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES

Before you travel outside of the U.S., submit the Travel Signature Request Form to obtain a travel signature on your I-20 or DS-2019 prior to travel outside of US, and make sure your F-1 or J-1 Visa is valid for re-entry.

• You must complete a Travel Signature Request Form to obtain a travel signature on your I-20/DS-2019 from an Advisor at International Student & Scholar Services in order to re-enter the U.S. after any international travel.  To obtain a travel signature, you must visit ISSS and submit a Travel Signature Request Form.
• Travel signatures are valid for up to one year (up to 6 months for F-1 students on post-completion OPT) but are not valid for re-entry beyond the I-20 or DS-2019 expiration date.
• In order to be admitted back into the U.S. after travel abroad, you must carry your I-20 or DS-2019 endorsed for travel, visa, passport, and transcripts.
• Generally, you will need to have a valid F-1 or J-1 visa stamp in your passport to be able to return to the United States.

Students should submit a Travel Signature Request Form to International Student & Scholar Services at least one week before any travel out of the United States.  One week is necessary to allow the ISSS Advisor to make any changes to your I-20/DS-2019 before your travel.  Travel signatures are valid for one year (or until the end-date of your I-20/DS-2019, whichever is earlier) and must be valid on the date which you wish to return.

Also, your I-20/DS-2019 must still be valid, meaning your program end-date must not have passed in order to be able to reenter the United States.

Generally, you will need to have a valid F-1 or J-1 visa stamp in your passport to be able to return to the United States, with the exception of visits to Canada, Mexico, and the adjacent Caribbean islands that last less than 30-days [22 C.F.R. § 41.112(d); 8 C.F.R. § 214.1 (b) (1)].

The F-1 and J-1 Visa Stamps cannot be obtained within the United States.  Visa appointments must be made with a US Consulate or Embassy outside of the United States for the renewal or initial F- or J-Visa.

Please note: those who hold Canadian citizenship do not require a Visa Stamp, but they must carry a valid, signed I-20 or DS-2019 to prove their F-1 or J-1 student status as well as proof of payment of the SEVIS Fee (an I-901 SEVIS Fee Payment Receipt).

In addition to the above documents, the Department of Homeland Security has also identified the following as important items to carry when you travel:

• Transcript. It is highly recommended that F-1 and J-1 students who will need to renew their U.S. visa stamp during travel abroad carry copies of their University of Alabama transcripts with them to show the consular officials that you have been making satisfactory progress towards your degree. An increasing number of consulates ask for transcripts when students come to renew F-1 and J-1 visas. Official transcripts can be obtained at the Registrar’s Office; unofficial transcripts are available through MyBama.

• Confirmation of Enrollment. The confirmation of enrollment is an official document which confirms your status as an active UA student and can be obtained through MyBama.

• Financial Documentation. It is a good idea to carry financial documentation when re-entering the U.S. to prove your continuing ability to pay for studies. You must have updated financial documentation with you when applying for a new visa at a US Consulate abroad.

• Additional Proof of Identity. Carry your UA Action Card with you and any old passports which you may still have.

In the event of an emergency during your travels, contact International Student & Scholar Services:
Phone: 205-348-5402
Email: international@ua.edu

If International Student & Scholar Services is closed, contact UA Police Department:
Phone: 205-348-5454
UAPD will contact an ISSS Advisor to assist you.

AUTOMATIC VISA REVALIDATION FOR TRAVEL TO CANADA, MEXICO, AND ADJACENT ISLANDS

SPECIAL INFO: Travel to Canada and Mexico and the Adjacent Islands for those in F- or J-visa status
For visits to Canada and Mexico that last less than 30-days [22 C.F.R. § 41.112(d); 8 C.F.R. § 214.1 (b) (1)], it is possible to return to the United States without having to renew an expired US visa stamp.  Those in F- or J-visa status also may visit a limited number of adjacent Caribbean islands under the automatic visa revalidation program.

• Information on Automatic Revalidation of Visa
List of Adjacent Islands for those in F- and J-visa status holders

Note: Citizens of Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria are not eligible for automatic visa revalidation and must always have a valid US Visa Stamp in order to return to the United States.

Please remember that you may be required to obtain a visa to enter Canada, Mexico, or the adjacent Caribbean islands.

For Canadian Visas
For Mexican Visas

Sample visa page

RENEWING YOUR STUDENT VISA

If you will need to renew your F-1 or J-1 Visa Stamp while you are outside of the U.S., please review the following basic advice:

1. First, if you are still on the same SEVIS I-20 or DS-2019 that you first used to enter the U.S. and have not been out-of-status for more than 5 months, you do not have to pay a SEVIS Fee again.  The SEVIS Fee is a one-time fee.
2. Second, you should submit the online visa application form DS-160.
3. Finally, you should set your visa appointment.  You should plan to apply for your visa stamp at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate with jurisdiction over your place of permanent residence. Although visa applicants may apply at any U.S. consular office abroad, it may be more difficult to qualify for the visa outside the country of permanent residence. Prior to scheduling your interview, you can check visa appointment waiting times online (Click here, to check Visa Waiting times at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will apply).

Please note that depending on your country of residence and field of study, visa processing times can exceed one month so apply early.  You will need to include the potential for visa delays in your travel plans.

Required Documentation To Take To Visa Interview Please refer to the U.S. Department of State Web site:

F-1 Student Visa Document Requirements
J-1 Student Visa Document Requirements

You should also consult the your U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you will be interviewing to renew your visa to see if there are any additional country-specific visa application requirements.

Visa Interview – Proving Non-Immigrant Intent F-1 and J-1 visas are considered non-immigrant visas. Accordingly, during the student visa interview, applicants must establish their non-immigrant intent to the satisfaction of the consular officer.  Non-immigrant intent means that you have binding ties to your home country and have a home which you have no intention of abandoning, and that you will depart the United States when you have completed your studies. It is impossible to specify the exact form the evidence of non-immigrant intent should take since applicants’ circumstances vary greatly.

VISA DELAYS – SECURITY CLEARANCES AND ADMINISTRATIVE PROCESSING
Please note that when you apply for a visa, you may be subject to a security clearance that can cause delays of weeks or even months in the issuance of your visa and your arrival in the US.  Unfortunately, if selected for Administrative Processing, there is nothing that Capstone International Services or any other office can do to expedite the processing.

The following are two common types of Administrative Processing delay that you might encounter:

• Field of Study:  If a visa applicant’s area of study is on the U.S. federal government’s “technology alert list,” which includes many of the science and technology fields, the U.S. consulate may seek a security clearance prior to granting the visa.  This process may delay your visa application by anywhere from 10 days to 3 months.  There is no way to know for certain whether you will be subject to this type of clearance.

If you study/work in one of the science or technology fields, we advise you to ask your supervisor or chair to write a letter that briefly describes the specific area of your research in layperson’s terms.  We also recommend that you carry with you a copy of your transcripts, copies of syllabi, and a copy of your resume/CV.  These materials will not necessarily deter a security clearance, but they may expedite the clearance.

• Country of Citizenship, Nationality or Birth:  A security clearance may also be required by the U.S. Consulate if a visa applicant was born in or is a citizen or national of certain countries. The list of countries is not published, but seems to include the following:  Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, and the territories of Gaza and West Bank.

PASSPORT VALIDITY - DON'T LET IT EXPIRE

Additionally, students seeking to travel abroad or reenter the United States must have a valid passport to depart or enter the U.S.

Specifically for reentry, your passport must be valid for at least 6 months after the date you intend to return to the United States.  If your passport is expiring, you should make plans to renew or extend your passport before your travel or prior to your return.

Please contact your home country’s Embassy or Consulate in the U.S. for information on how to renew or extend your passport from within the U.S.

VISA REQUIREMENTS FOR TRAVEL THROUGH OTHER COUNTRIES

VISA REQUIREMENTS FOR TRAVEL THROUGH OTHER COUNTRIES
Traveling through/to another country may involve obtaining a transit/entry visa to that country.  It is best to check the consulate website of the country you wish to visit to get the current visa procedures.  Do not assume that you will be allowed to transit through another country without a visa prior to your departure.  Failure to obtain necessary transit/entry visas may result in being denied entry onto your flight.

Please check the Embassy or Consulate for the country to which you will be traveling to determine if you require a visa.

For Canadian Visas
For Mexican Visas

EAD Card

TRAVEL ON OPT

Traveling When OPT is Pending or Approved (Prior to Degree Completion)
If you will return to the U.S. (from outside North America) before you complete your degree requirements (before the end date noted in item #5 of your I-20):

You may re-enter the U.S. with the following immigration travel documents:

• Original current, valid I-20 with a travel signature no older than 6 months from the day on which you plan to re-enter the U.S.
• Valid U.S. visa (with the exception of trips to Canada, Mexico, and Adjacent Islands for 30 days or less under Automatic Visa Revalidation)
I-94 Record
• Valid passport
• Transcript
• Letter of Registration
• Additional Photo ID (e.g., UA Action Card)
• Financial Documentation (e.g., bank statements, assistantship letter)

Traveling When OPT Has Been Approved (After Degree Completion)
If you will return to the U.S. after you complete your degree requirements (after the end date noted in item #5 of your I-20), you must have the following documents to re-enter the U.S.:

• Original new, valid I-20 endorsed for OPT (on p.3) with a travel signature no older than 6 months from the day on which you plan to re-enter the U.S.
• Your EAD card
• A letter from an employer indicating a job offer in your major field of study or that you will be returning to resume your employment
I-94 Record
• Valid passport
• Valid U.S. visa (with the exception of trips to Canada, Mexico, and Adjacent Islands for 30 days or less under Automatic Visa Revalidation)

PLEASE NOTE: It is not advisable to travel outside of the U.S.:

• While OPT authorization is pending; or
• If you have been authorized for OPT but do not have a job to begin/resume.