Travel for F-1 and J-1 Students

Domestic Travel

F-1 and J-1 students can travel domestically (within the United States) at any time. We recommend that you still travel with all of your documents (passport, valid I-20 or DS-2019, and visa) should you need them for any reason.

International Travel

General tips:

  • Review the University’s best practices for nonimmigrant visa holders.

  • Check for visa requirements of the country you’re travelling to via their embassy’s website.

  • Follow the School’s travel registration steps

F-1 Students Travel Specifics

Required Documents for Travel:

  • Unexpired passport

  • Unexpired F-1 visa (Canadians are exempt from this requirement)

  • Unexpired I-20 with a valid travel signature on page 2

  • Signatures are valid for 12 months

  • If you need a new signature, please follow these procedures.

Suggested Documents for Travel:

Travel with Chazen

Chazen Travel Programs

The Jerome A. Chazen Institute for Global Business offers short-term travel options to enhance students’ global experience and networks. Over the course of 1-2 weeks in-country, students meet with leading executives and government officials while visiting businesses, factories, and cultural sites. Students have the opportunity to participate as well as to take a leadership role in these programs.

F-1 Students on Post-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT)

  • If you are travelling prior to applying for OPT before the end of your program (and prior to the end date on your I-20), then you can travel and re-enter on your current student status without issues.

    • Be sure to verify all of your needed documentation (listed above) before travelling.

  • If you have a pending OPT application, we do not recommend international travel. USCIS may often send Requests for Evidence on your application, which they will do via U.S. mail. There are tight deadlines around responding to these requests, so if you are outside the country you may miss the deadline.

    If you absolutely must travel, then be sure to take the following documents with you:

    • Unexpired passport

    • Unexpired F-1 visa (Canadians are exempt from this requirement)

    • I-20 with OPT Recommendation and a valid travel signature on page 2

    • Signatures are valid for 6 months when on OPT

    • I-797 USCIS receipt notice of OPT application

    • If you have an existing job offer, also bring an official job offer letter or other official documentation with you

  • If you are approved for OPT, you will need the following documents for international travel:

    • Unexpired passport

    • Unexpired F-1 visa (Canadians are exempt from this requirement)

    • I-20 with OPT Recommendation and a valid travel signature on page 2

    • Signatures are valid for 6 months when on OPT

    • Unexpired EAD card

    • Proof of employment (letter from employer, pay stubs or other pay receipts)

      • If you do not have employment yet, you will need to bring proof of your job search.

  • If you are on the Cap-Gap extension, do not leave the U.S. while your H-1B is pending. This would invalidate your application and make you ineligible for the extension.

  • If your status change has been approved, then you can travel and return under the following circumstances:

    • Your change of status to H-1B is approved

    • You return before your H-1B start date

    • You travel with the following documents:

      • Unexpired passport

      • Unexpired F-1 visa (Canadians are exempt from this requirement)

      • Cap-Gap I-20 (this I-20 should reflect your OPT extension and have an unexpired travel signature)

      • EAD

      • I-797 approval notice for the H-1B change of status

      • Proof of employment (job offer letter, work contract, proof of payment, etc.)

      • ISSO also recommends that you travel with this document as additional proof of the new travel policy.

J-1 Students and Scholars Travel Specifics

  • Required documents for travel:

    • Unexpired passport

    • Unexpired visa (Canadians are exempt from this requirement)

    • Unexpired DS-2019 with valid travel signature (these signatures are valid for 12 months)

    • SEVIS fee receipt

    • Evidence of continued employment (if you are working for Columbia University)

    • Visiting Scholar Designation letter (if you are a visiting scholar)

Registering Your Travel

We ask that all CBS student travellers register their travel, whether official Columbia travel or unofficial travel, via these steps.

Questions about travel registration can be directed to the Office of Student Affairs at osa@gsb.columbia.edu.

Travel Issues and Emergencies

Sometimes students or scholars may experience delays at the port of entry. If you are sent to secondary inspection on more than one occasion, we recommend that you file a report through DHS’s site.

As we continue to experience an ever changing global environment, we are concerned about your safety above all else. In the event of an emergency, please follow the procedures outlined on the University’s Global Travel site. We also recommend that you contact CBS through Zelon Crawford (Dean of Students) at +1 917-513-6230, or Columbia University Public Safety at +1 212-854-5555.

In the event of immigration emergencies (customs and border issues), students are advised to call Public Safety at +1 212-854-5555. Students or Customs Officers will then be routed to a Designated School Official (DSO) from ISSO. This line is open 24/7.