International students wishing to study in the United States need to obtain an I-20 form from their respective educational institution to apply for a student visa. The I-20 form is a certificate of eligibility for non-immigrant student status, and it contains important information about the student’s academic program, personal information, and financial support. However, one crucial detail that often gets overlooked is the travel signature that must be obtained before leaving the United States and returning to continue their studies. In this article, we will explore what the travel signature I-20 is and why it is important for international students.
What is a Travel Signature I-20?
A travel signature I-20 is a document issued to international students by their designated school official (DSO) that allows them to temporarily leave the United States and return to continue their studies. The travel signature is a small stamp or endorsement on the I-20 form that confirms the student’s enrollment status and serves as a verification of their visa eligibility. It is required by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) upon re-entry to the United States, along with a valid student visa and passport.
Why is the Travel Signature I-20 Important?
The travel signature I-20 is important because it allows international students to leave and return to the United States without any issues or delays. Without a valid travel signature, students may be denied re-entry to the U.S. and may have to apply for a new student visa, which can be a lengthy and costly process. It is recommended that students obtain a travel signature every 12 months, or whenever they plan to leave the U.S. for any reason, such as study abroad programs, internships, or personal travel.
How to Obtain a Travel Signature I-20?
To obtain a travel signature I-20, international students must contact their DSO at least two weeks before their departure date. The DSO will verify the student’s enrollment status and update their SEVIS record, which is an online system used by U.S. immigration authorities to track non-immigrant students. Once the SEVIS record is updated, the DSO will issue a new I-20 form with the travel signature. It is important to note that each DSO may have different procedures and requirements for issuing travel signatures, so students should consult with them directly.
|Q: How long is a travel signature I-20 valid?
|A: A travel signature I-20 is typically valid for one year or until the end of the program, whichever comes first. It is recommended that students obtain a new travel signature every 12 months, even if they have not traveled outside the U.S. during that time.
|Q: Can I travel outside the U.S. without a travel signature?
|A: No, international students must have a valid travel signature on their I-20 form to temporarily leave and re-enter the U.S. If they do not have a valid travel signature, they may be denied re-entry and may have to apply for a new student visa.
|Q: How long does it take to obtain a travel signature?
|A: It is recommended that students contact their DSO at least two weeks before their departure date to obtain a travel signature. However, processing times may vary depending on the DSO’s workload, so students should plan accordingly and allow for additional time if needed.
|Q: Can I obtain a travel signature if I am on Optional Practical Training (OPT)?
|A: Yes, international students on OPT or STEM OPT may obtain a travel signature, but they must also have a valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and a job offer or proof of employment in the U.S.
|Q: Can I obtain a travel signature if I am not enrolled in classes?
|A: No, international students must be enrolled in a full-time academic program to be eligible for a travel signature. If they are not enrolled, they may have to apply for a new student visa or change their visa status.
The travel signature I-20 is an important document that every international student must obtain before leaving the U.S. and returning to continue their studies. It serves as a verification of their visa eligibility and enrollment status, and it allows them to re-enter the U.S. without any issues or delays. Students should consult with their DSO to obtain a travel signature and make sure to renew it every 12 months or whenever they plan to leave the U.S. for any reason. By following these guidelines, international students can enjoy a smooth and successful academic journey in the United States.