Documents Required to Enter the U.S.

When you enter the U.S. for the first time or when you travel and return while on a Georgia Tech I-20 or DS-2019, you will be required to show the following documents:

I-20 or DS-2019 

  • I-20: Issued to F-1 students from Georgia Tech afer they have been admitted to the university, paid their deposit, and uploaded required financial documents.

Page 1 of the I-20 has a SEVIS identification number in the top, right corner (N000_ _ _ _ _ _ _), the name of your program, your academic level, the validity dates of the I-20 (known as the Program Start Date and the Program End Date), as well as financial information for yourself and your course of study.

Page 3 includes any special authorizations of your F-1 status (OPT, CPT, Reduced Course Load) and lines for ISSS to   sign so that you may travel and re-enter the U.S. Travel signatures are valid for one year and multiple entries for continuing students, but for F-1 students on post-completion OPT, travel signatures are good for only 6 months.

Note: A travel signature is not required the first time you enter the U.S.

Note: New students are eligible to enter the U.S. as early as 30 days prior to the start date on your I-20 or DS-2019.

Throughout your time at Georgia Tech, you will likely receive updated copies of your I-20 and DS-2019 as your program changes. You should keep each copy in a safe place where it is accessible because you will be required to submit past I-20s when applying for future immigration benefits.

  • DS-2019: Issued to J-1 students, scholars, and interns. Most of these may be issued by Georgia Tech, but may have been issued by a government agency or a student exchange organization.

The identification number is at the top, right corner (N000_ _ _ _ _ _ _). You will also find information about your J-1 program, your dates of eligibility and a signature line verifying that you are eligible to travel and re-enter the United States.

Note: A travel signature is not required the first time you enter the U.S.

Note: New students are eligible to enter the U.S. as early as 30 days prior to the start date on your I-20 or DS-2019.

To request a travel signature, please log in to iStart and complete the Travel Signature e-form. OIE encourages all students, scholars, and student interns to submit a travel signature request when a plane ticket is bought to avoid last minute emergencies.

Valid Passport

Your passport is issued by your country of citizenship for the purpose of identification, and to allow you to enter and leave that country; you will not be able to travel without it. Your passport should always be valid for at least 6 months when entering the U.S. You will not be able to get a visa with a passport that is within 6 months of expiration.

Valid U.S. Visa

International students, scholars, and student interns are required to have a visa stamp in their passport to enter the U.S. Your visa stamp indicates the immigration status in which you may enter the U.S.; it is important to check that your visa has the correct visa classification as different classifications have different benefits and restrictions. For information about applying for your visa, please see OIE's Applying for an F-1/J-1 visa page.

U.S. visas are entrance documents to the United States and you may stay in the U.S. after your F-1 or J-1 visa has expired. However, if you travel outside the U.S. after it is expired, you will be required to renew your visa before returning to the U.S. U.S. visas must be issued outside the U.S. so it is not possible to renew your visa inside the U.S. When making travel plans after your visa has expired, please allow enough time to receive a new visa. For information about renewing your visa as a continuing student or scholar, please see OIE's website.

  • Citizens of Canada and Bermuda are not required to obtain F or J visas. You will use your immigration documents issued by OIE to enter, but do not require a visa.

  • There may be an exception in the requirement of having a valid U.S. visa if you are traveling to Canada, Mexico, or adjacent Caribbean Islands for less than 30 days. For more information, please visit ICE’s website covering ‘Reentry for F-1 Nonimmigrants Traveling Outside the United States for Five Months or Less’ for more information.

Copy of I-901 SEVIS Fee Receipt

You are required to pay the SEVIS fee when a new SEVIS record is created. This means that if a previous SEVIS record was terminated or completed and you receive a new SEVIS record, you will be required to pay this fee again.

I-94 Record

When international visitors arrive to the U.S., they are issued an I-94 arrival/departure record. In April 2013, Customs and Border Protection began issuing electronic I-94 records. Visitors who have entered the U.S. after April 2013 can find their electronic I-94 record at CBP's I-94 Number Retrieval website. Visitors who entered the U.S. prior to April 2013 should still have a paper I-94 card.

Other Tips for Traveling Outside the U.S.

  • The Department of Homeland Security recommends that students carry a copy of their most recent transcript and proof of financial support when they return.
  • You should consult the embassy or consulate of the country or countries to which you will be visiting to see if you need a visitor (or transit) visa for that country.
  • Frequently Asked Questions on Reentering to the US are on the Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) Website: https://www.ice.gov/sevis/travel/faq_f.htm.