Ask an Advisor: Traveling This Winter (Part 2)


Written by: Lara Jennings, International Student & Scholar Advisor

Question: I am thinking about traveling over Winter Break. Does OISS have any advice about traveling outside the U.S. during COVID?

Answer: There is no way around it, traveling outside the U.S. this year is very complicated for students studying in the U.S. on F-1 and J-1 Student Visas. A couple of weeks ago, OISS wrote about Travel This Winter and we will continue to monitor this. Here are some updates and other considerations to think about before you travel:

1. University Travel Restrictions: On November 12, Chancellor Martin announced that undergraduate students choosing to travel more than 60 miles outside of the St. Louis region will not be allowed to return to campus for the remainder of the fall semester.

Potential Impact on Immigration: Undergraduate students who are subjected to the 1-in person requirement this semester must not travel further than 60 miles outside the St. Louis region, or you risk violating your F-1 status. This is because you would not be able to return to campus and meet the in-person course requirement if you are locked out. Please be sure to complete the Thanksgiving Break Travel Commitment by the close of Friday November 20 Per University guidelines.

2. Deciding to Travel: Due to changing and unpredictable conditions, making the decision to travel outside the U.S. is risky and hard to predict. The University recently announced plans for Spring 2021 but we are still waiting to hear announcements from the U.S. government. It is expected that they will make their announcements within the next 3 to 4 weeks

Potential Impact on Immigration: New policies or announcements could potentially affect your status. You should continue to monitor your WashU emails from OISS. As plans for Spring 2021 are announced, OISS will communicate them to you as quickly as possible.

While OISS cannot make any guarantees regarding travel this winter, here is the best information we can provide should you decide to travel:

1. Make a virtual appointment with your OISS Advisor to discuss your specific travel plans. In order to reenter the U.S, you must have with you a:

  • 1. Valid Passport
  • 2. Valid U.S. Entry Visa
  • 3. Updated I-20 with a recent travel signature on Page 2
  • 4. Copy of your SEVIS Fee Receipt

2. Students do not need a travel signature to leave the country, but must have one to re-enter. Students can Request a Travel Signature Online. With the rapidly evolving conditions, we are asking students to request their I-20 no earlier than 30 days of their planned return. During the COVID Crisis, the U.S. Government permits the transmission of digital I-20’s. Thus, students will receive their signed I-20 via email from their OISS Advisors.

3. OISS has gotten many questions about how students can check or monitor travel restrictions due to the Pandemic. Here are our top considerations to keep in mind:

1. First, it is your responsibility to be aware of all current travel restrictions for each country you plan to visit or transit through. Our best advice is to check and check often throughout your travel as conditions can change frequently.

2. U.S. Department of State, Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs, U.S.           Embassies and the respective Department of State/Embassy equivalents for your home country are direct sources that should be frequently checked for COVID                 travel updates/restrictions.

3. There are other non-direct sources out there that can be used as to monitor travel conditions such as, International Air Transport Association (IATA). When using these resources they should always be checked or confirmed by going back to the direct source (i.e. governmental or airline website).

Additional Resources:

WashU Together: COVID-19 Response

Safety Guidance Specific to the Thanksgiving Holiday