Frequently Asked Questions about Travel during Summer 2020

OISS recommends that current F-1 and J-1 students do not travel outside of the United States during Summer 2020.

If you travel abroad, there are many issues that could prevent you from returning to WashU on time, including consulate closures, visa issues, travel restrictions and quarantines.

If I can’t return on time for classes in the fall, what could happen?

OISS has received information from SEVP about the Fall 2020 term, and we are currently working very hard to see how this will affect each of our international students during the Fall 2020 semester. As soon as we have more information, we will be in touch with students.

My visa is expired, don’t I have to renew it?
People often use the terms “visa” and “immigration status” to mean the same thing; but they refer to different things. The term “visa” refers only to the visa that is in your passport, whereas “immigration status” refers to your formal immigration classification in the U.S. as indicated on one’s I-94 record (such as F-1 or J-1).

The only reason that you would have to renew your visa is if you are traveling internationally. Visas cannot be renewed from within the U.S. (If you have to travel home and your visa is expired, you would need to renew the visa in your home country before you could return to the U.S.)

Example: an F-1 student has an I-20 with a program end date of 12/15/2020. The F-1 visa in their passport expires 7/1/2020. This student would not have to renew their visa before 7/1/20 in order to legally stay in the country. The expiration of the visa will not affect their immigration status and they can remain in the U.S. as long as they are otherwise maintaining their status.

You can still apply for work authorization, such as CPT and OPT, if your visa has expired.

I heard people are getting appointments with the US consulates, can’t I just make an appointment to renew my visa?
Currently the U.S. consulates are closed and are not processing visa applications. Some students have been able to make appointments for later in the summer to renew their visas. However, if the consulates are still closed when those appointments arrive, the students will have to reschedule and may not be able to get a new visa before the Fall term starts. Right now in many countries, the earliest visa appointments are not available until August or September, much too late to return in time for the Fall semester.
My passport is expiring soon, what do I do?
You must have a valid passport at all times. Your passport can be renewed while inside the U.S., contact your home country’s embassy for more information.
If fall semester classes are online only, won’t I be able to take classes remotely from my home country and keep my F-1 immigration status?

Under normal circumstances, F-1 students may not be enrolled in more than one online course per semester. However, for the Spring 2020 and Summer 2020 terms, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) announced that students could temporarily engage in distance-learning, either from within the U.S. or outside the country.

SEVP has not extended the same exceptions for Fall 2020. OISS and Washington University are currently reviewing the plan for Fall 2020 and will provide updated information to students soon.

I have a valid visa, so it’s ok for me to travel, right?
Not necessarily. Right now there are many travel restrictions in and out of many countries, including the U.S., and new travel restrictions could be put in place at any time which could stop you from returning to WashU when you need to. In addition, many students are simply having a hard time finding flights in or out of the U.S., or are having their flights cancelled and rescheduled multiple times. It could be difficult to get a flight back before the start of classes.
I have to travel home, how can I get a travel signature?

If you are a current student, and you do not have a current I-20 with a travel signature, or if your current travel signature is more than 6 months old, you can use our Travel Signature Request Form to request an updated travel signature on your I-20. We now have confirmation that the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), the Department of State, and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will accept electronic signed I-20s, so your OISS advisor will email you a new I-20 with a travel signature on it. We recommend you then print that I-20 so that you have a hard copy with you when you travel. You should be able to use this new I-20, along with your valid passport and valid F-1 visa, to re-enter the United States.

If you are returning to the U.S. after August 4th, please wait to request a travel signature until the beginning of August. Based on the new SEVP Fall 2020 guidance, anyone entering the U.S. after August 4th will need a special notation on their I-20, and it will take us some time to add that notation to all I-20s.

I am already in my home country, and worried about getting back to WashU. How can I get a travel signature?

If you are a current student, and you do not have a current I-20 with a travel signature, or if your current travel signature is more than 6 months old, you can use our Travel Signature Request Form to request an updated travel signature on your I-20. We now have confirmation that the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), the Department of State, and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will accept electronic signed I-20s, so your OISS advisor will email you a new I-20 with a travel signature on it. We recommend you then print that I-20 so that you have a hard copy with you when you travel. You should be able to use this new I-20, along with your valid passport and valid F-1 visa, to re-enter the United States.