Travel and Re-entry to the U.S.

Individuals in F-1 or J-1 status should ensure they have all required documentation when re-entering the U.S. Students on post-completion OPT, STEM OPT or Academic Training (AT) have additional document requirements.

What is a Travel Signature?

A travel signature needs to be obtained from ISSS after a student's initial arrival to the U.S. and before the next time departing the U.S. It confirms to the U.S. Port of Entry that a student has checked in with the school, is maintaining their immigration status, and should be let in as a continuing F-1 or J-1 student. The travel signature section is found on page 2 of a Form I-20 and in the lower right corner of a Form DS-2019. Request a travel signature at least one week before any anticipated travel, and since a travel signature is needed every year, mark your calendars after receiving your first travel signature so you remember for next year! 

Travel Signature Request Process

All F-1 students (current, Post-Completion OPT, STEM OPT) should use this online request to obtain a new Form I-20 with a travel signature. J-1 students should instead email isss@babson.edu.

Documentation Needed for Re-entry to the U.S.


  • Passport—Your pasport must be valid at least six months into the future at all times, especially upon entry to the U.S.
  • Form I-20 (F-1) or Form DS-2019 (J-1) with current travel signature—a travel signature on your Form I-20 (page 2) or DS-2019 (page 1) is valid for one year for current students. A more current travel signature is needed only if you will be applying for a new F-1 or J-1 entry visa while you are outside the U.S.     
  • F-1 or J-1 entry visa—Your student visa must be valid on the date of your return to the U.S. (it does not need to remain valid during your stay in the U.S.). If you have an expired passport with a valid U.S. entry visa, you do not need to get a new visa stamp in your new passport as long as you carry both passports when you enter the U.S. If your visa has expired and you are traveling outside the U.S. you will need to renew it at a U.S. consulate or embassy outside the U.S. before you can return to the U.S. 
    • Canadians or Bermudians do not need an F-1 visa. Status is obtained at the U.S. Port of Entry once F-1/J-1 documents are presented
    • Never enter the U.S. as a tourist during your program!
  • Confirmation of Enrollment (recommended)—(i.e. class schedule, current academic transcript or enrollment letter) Enrollment Verification letters are available from the Registrar’s Office.
  • Original funding documents (optional)—Personal bank statement or letter of financial support from your sponsor. All financial documents should be less than one year old.

Additional information and documentation needed for Post-Completion OPT students:

  • Employment Authorization Document (EAD) - while the EAD is marked, “Not valid for re-entry” this simply means that the card alone is not sufficient for re-entering the U.S.; it must be accompanied by all other immigration documents
  • Proof of current employment or a job offer letter:
    • A letter from your current or prospective employer which confirms employment or a job offer. There is no specific format but should be on company letterhead with dates of employment listed.
    • Business documentation for those who have started their own company
  • Form I-20 with a current travel signature (less than six months old)

Additional Travel Considerations:

  • Travel Before Program Completion: After applying for post-completion OPT but before completion of your program (end date listed on your Form I-20) you may travel and re-enter the U.S. without proof of employment.
  • Travel & Re-entry before OPT Start date: After the completion of your program, if you leave the U.S. and re-enter before your OPT start date (as indicated on your EAD), you should have all the documentation as listed above.
  • Cap-Gap Extension of OPT: If you have an H-1B application pending, students are strongly advised not to depart the U.S. until they qualify for travel and re-entry in H-1B status. Visit our CAP-GAP Extension Of OPT page for additional information.

Note: If you re-enter the U.S. in another status (such as B-1/B-2 tourist), you will no longer be eligible for or able to use OPT.

Additional information and documentation needed for STEM OPT students:

  • Valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD) showing your approved STEM OPT extension
  • Most recent Form I-20 with valid travel signature (less than six months old)
  • Proof of employment - evidence of a job offer or resumption of employment
  • Valid F-1 visa - if your F-1 visa has expired you will need to apply for a new one at a U.S. consulate outside the U.S. 
    • Canadians do not need an F-1 visa
    • Do not enter as a tourist throughout your STEM OPT period.

If you need to leave the U.S. before receiving your STEM OPT EAD, contact isss@babson.edu.

If your employer has filed for an H-1B visa on your behalf, check with your employer about any travel plans as leaving the U.S. while an H-1B application is pending may jeopardize your application.

Additional information and documentation needed for J-1 students with Post-Completion Academic Training (AT):

  • Updated Form DS-2019 showing Academic Training, updated program end date, and a current travel signature (less than six months old)
  • Academic Training letter from the Glavin Office
  • Proof of current employment
    • Job offer letter or a letter from your current employer confirming active employment. There is no specific format but should be on company letterhead with dates of employment listed.

Mango Punch #EEAF00 Entering in Tourist Status

Students should NEVER enter the U.S. in tourist (B1/B2) immigration status as it could jeopardize eligibility for U.S. work authorization. All students must request F-1/J-1 status, presenting their Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 to the immigration inspector at the U.S. port of entry. ALWAYS check your online I-94 record to ensure that your most recent entry was properly notated with “F-1” or “J-1".

Speak with an international student advisor in the Glavin Office if you have issues obtaining your most recent entry or if the information is incorrect.

Delayed Entry into the U.S. / Secondary Inspection

If the port of entry officer cannot initially verify your information or you do not have all of the required documentation to enter in F-1 or J-1 status, you may be directed to an interview area known as “secondary inspection.” Secondary inspection allows inspectors to conduct additional research in order to verify the information. In the event that the Officer needs to verify information with your school or program, we strongly advise that you have the Glavin Office (+1.781.239.4565) and Public Safety (+1.781.239.5555) available. Failure to provide proper documentation and to comply with entry/exit procedures is cause to refuse the exchange visitor admission into the United States.

Temporary Entrance (Form I-515A) 

Under certain circumstances, if a student/scholar is mostly, but not fully in compliance, they may be issued a Form I-515A, “Notice to Student or Exchange Visitor.” This form authorizes temporary admission into the U.S. and requires the student/exchange visitor to take immediate action to submit proper documentation with the assistance of an advisor. If you receive a Form I-515A, please email ISSS as soon as possible after you enter the U.S. to speak with an International Student & Scholar Advisor about the procedure for getting your documents and immigration status corrected.

DHS Trip

If you have experienced delayed entry on more than one occasion while traveling to the U.S. as an F-1 or J-1 student, you may submit a DHS Traveler Redress Inquiry to resolve your difficulties.