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Visas & Travel


A visa is like a "ticket of admission." You apply for it outside the U.S. and need it to enter the U.S. Those of you coming temporarily to study in the U.S. usually have a non-immigrant student or F-1/J-1 visa. Your visa type, expiration date, issuing office, and the number of entries permitted will be stamped in your passport. You may stay in the U. S. even if your visa has expired, but you may not leave and then re-enter if your visa has expired. (An exception occurs if you are returning from an adjacent country, e.g., Canada or Mexico, after a stay of less than 30 days, and you may then be eligible for an automatic extension at the border). Note that Canadian students need an I-20 or DS/2019 form but do not need to have an F-1 or J-1 visa stamped in the passport.

If you are an F-1 or J-1 student, you have been admitted for "Duration of Status" which means that you may stay in the U. S. as long as you are a regularly registered, full-time student. Different visas have different advantages and restrictions. Check with the International Student Center for information regarding your visa.

Travel Outside the U.S. And Re-Admission

If you have an F-1 or J-1 visa, you will need to present the following documents at the U.S. port of entry:

  1. Valid Passport
  2. Valid F-1 or J-1Visa (except for passport holders from Canada)
  3. Valid form I-20 or DS-2019 with signature less than one year old on page 2
  4. Proof of I-901 (SEVIS) fee payment (optional)
  5. Swarthmore Transcripts (optional)
  6. Financial Information (optional) 

For other kinds of visas, other documentation may be needed. Permanent residents, for example, need to show their Legal Permanent Resident (LPR) card in addition to the passport.

If students have issues entering the U.S. more than once, they may submit a request to DHS TRIP

Please note that Canada requires a visa for admission of many international students, depending on their country of citizenship.