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Travel and Identification: You should always carry your student ID card with you. It is also recommended that students obtain a State of Illinois Identification Card.

Local Travel: Do not carry your passport around campus and Bloomington-Normal. Keep it in the Important Documents folder you were given in Pre-Orientation. Use your student ID or a state of Illinois ID.

Travel within the United States: Take your passport and I-20 with you.

Travel During Winter, Spring, Summer Breaks

  1. Always inform the International Advisor of your travel plans during a break.

  2. If your travel includes leaving the US, be sure that the travel endorsement signature on the back of your I-20 or DS-2019 is dated within 12 months of when you will return to the US.

  3. Be sure that your passport is valid for at least 6 months beyond your anticipated graduation date. If your passport will expire within 6 months you need to have it renewed when you return home.

  4. Always keep photocopies of your passport and visa page in your room and on your phone.


Travel and Your Visa

You may travel in the US on an expired visa. If you leave the country, your visa must be valid to return to the US.


Travel During OPT

Before graduation, while your post-graduate OPT application is pending, you may leave the US and return on your F-1 visa.

If you leave the US after graduation with your EAD card, you may return only if you have a letter of employment.

December Graduation and Return for Commencement

December graduates who do not apply for OPT may stay in the US for 60 days after their program ends. You (and your family) may return to the US for the spring commencement but need to apply for a tourist visa (B-2) to do so.



IWU, Bloomington-Normal

Within the Bloomington-Normal community, you should not need to carry anything other than your IWU student ID card and your state ID. Keep your other original documents together in a secure place in your room.

Outside Bloomington-Normal
If you leave Bloomington-Normal, but are staying within the state of Illinois, you should carry copies of your I-20, I-94 card, passport photo page, and visa, along with your IWU ID and your state ID. You should not need to carry your original passport with you; indeed, your passport is best kept in your room where it will not get lost.

Outside the State or the U.S.

You must always carry your original documents with you when you travel outside of Illinois or if you travel internationally. Keep your copies of your passport, visa, I-20 and I-94 card in your room or in some other safe place in case the originals are lost or stolen. Never throw away any I-20, even if you’re given a new one. 


If you are planning to travel to Canada, you may need to obtain a separate visa to do so. Check with the International Office for procedures on this, and be aware that such visa may take several weeks to obtain.

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Re-entry in F-1 Status

You can leave the U.S. and re-enter for your full-time course of study in F-1 status provided you present the required documentation. Canadian citizens do not require an entry visa to enter the U.S. from Canada, but do require an I-20. All Canadian citizens entering the U.S. are required to show a passport. You are required to carry the following documents with you to re-enter the U.S. as an F-1 student. 

  • Passport valid for at least 6 months into the future:
    • Some countries have the expiration dates of the passports automatically extended for 6 months based on an agreement with the U.S. If your country of citizenship is on this list, you may enter the U.S. using your passport until its actual expiration date. If your passport will expire, contact your consulate.
  • Unexpired F-1 visa valid for further entries:
    • You should always be aware of the expiration date and the number of entries allowed on your visa. Most visas have "M" written under entries. This means that there is no limit on the number of entries for which you can use your visa. If your visa is expired or you have already used the number of entries you are allowed, you will need to apply for a new F-1 visa in order to re-enter the U.S. An exception to this requirement exists for travel to certain countries.
  • Valid I-20 recertified within 6 months of the date on which you will return to the U.S. :
    • Recertification (travel signature) is on page 2 of the I-20. It indicates that you are maintaining valid F-1 status. The International Office can provide the signature. Each signature is valid for 1 year, although you may have the I-20 signed more frequently if you wish. Plan ahead to get your I- 20 signed before you leave the country.

We also recommend that you carry the following documents with you. It is possible that an immigration officer could ask you for these documents.

  • Receipt of SEVIS I-901 Fee (if applicable). For information on who is required to pay this fee, go to
  • Proof of full-time enrollment. You can request an enrollment verification.


Travel while on Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Travelling on an OPT requires additional documents, but is generally similar to the requirements while you are a student. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) allows for re-entry while on OPT "to resume employment after a temporary absence."

All individuals who have applied for post-completion OPT must carry the following documents:

  • Passport valid for 6 months into the future.
  • Valid F-1 entry visa, unless using visa re-validation.
  • I-20 recertified within the past 6 months. Please note that this is a change in the length of validity of recertification. Recertification is generally valid for one year, but once you are on OPT, it is valid for only 6 months.
  • If you have applied for OPT, but not yet received the Employment Authorization Document (EAD), you must also carry original receipt notice confirming your request for OPT.
  • If your OPT has been approved, you must also carry the EAD card and the employment offer letter from employer. This letter must be for the duration of your OPT and not for a permanent position.

The guidance from DHS states that if an individual has been approved for OPT and leaves the U.S. prior to receiving a job offer, the OPT authorization ends. If you are planning to leave the U.S. and do not have all of the required documentation, please speak with the International Office.

If you require a new entry visa while on OPT, be aware that there is no guarantee that you are eligible for one. You are required to establish non-immigrant intent every time you apply for a non-immigrant visa. This may be harder to establish when you are working rather than studying. 


Extended Stays Outside the U.S.

If you leave the U.S. and do not register during the normal academic year for your program, your record in the SEVIS database will be terminated. If you are registered full-time while outside the U.S., contact the International Office to verify that your F-1 status will remain valid.