What to Know Before You Travel: Reentering the U.S


Written by: Martha Turner, International Student & Scholar Associate Director

In the past, international students always had to prepare before they traveled internationally.  The validity of passport and visa had to be double-check and a travel signature needed to be obtained on their I-20 or DS-2019.  But things have gotten more complicated in the last year.

Some things remain the same.  You still need a valid passport and visa to enter the U.S.  You still need a travel signature from OISS. But now, rather than going in person to OISS, you should request a travel signature on line at https://students.wustl.edu/international-student-travel-signature-request. Pre-COVID, we asked you to obtain a travel signature before you left the U.S.  However, this has changed. Now that we are emailing an updated I-20 to you, we ask that you wait until 30 days before your return to the U.S. to request the travel signature.  Remember you do not need a signature to leave the U.S., only to reenter. We will send you the new I-20 with a travel signature within 2 weeks from your submitting the request online. Upon receipt of the I-20, print it out so that you have a hard copy to present to a visa officer or border official.

In the past, if you needed to renew your visa, you had to plan enough time to schedule an appointment while you were at home before reentering the U.S.

Right now, that is not always possible as many consulates are closed due to the pandemic. We believe that more consulates will be opening in the summer but there has been no official announcement from the State Department. So check first before you travel.

As of March 11th, the State Department expanded interview waiver eligibility. If your F-1 or J-1 visa expired within the last 48 months, you can apply for a visa renewal without an interview.  This policy is in effect through December 31, 2021.

Please note that if you have a previously used F-1 visa whose dates are still valid, you may use that to reenter the U.S., even if you have a new I-20 with a different SEVIS ID.

In the past, COVID testing or proof of vaccine was not required.

As of January 26, 2021, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) imposed a rule that passengers must show a negative COVID test to enter the U.S. from outside of the U.S. For more details, see requirements on the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/testing-international-air-travelers.html

In order to enter the U.S., there is still no requirement to document that you have been vaccinated.

As for WashU policies, the university does not required a negative COVID test to arrive on campus, nor documentation that you have been vaccinated. Students also are not required to quarantine upon arrival. OISS will update international students if these requirements change.