Traveling Outside of the U.S. and Re-entry

Traveling to Canada, Mexico, or the Adjacent Islands

A student or scholar who plans to re-enter the U.S. after a trip of less than 30 days solely to Canada, Mexico or adjacent islands*, other than Cuba, will need the following documents for re-entry:

  • A passport valid for at least six months beyond the date of re-entry
  • An unexpired I-94
  • F-1—A valid form I-20 with a valid travel signature on the second page by OISS
  • J-1—A valid form DS-2019 with a valid travel signature by OISS
  • H-1—Original H-1B approval notice (I-797), letter from employer verifying employment, and a copy of the H-1B petition

*Adjacent islands include: Saint Pierre, Miquelon, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, the Windward and Leeward Islands, Trinidad, Martinique, and other British, French, and Netherlands territory or possessions in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea.

Traveling Outside of the U.S. for More Than 30 Days

Traveling overseas or to Canada, Mexico and adjacent islands for more than 30 days requires the student to have in his or her possession the following for re-entry:

  • A valid passport for at least six months beyond the date of re-entry.
  • A valid U.S. entry visa in the passport.
  • F-1—Form I-20 with a valid travel signature on the second page by OISS
  • J-1—Form DS-2019 with a valid travel signature by OISS
  • H-1—Original H-1B approval notice (I-797), letter from employer verifying employment, and a copy of the H-1B petition

When traveling to any country outside of the U.S., check with the country embassy whether you require an entry visa into that particular country. A non-immigrant visitor visa to Canada and Mexico may be required for most (but not all) countries. Be sure to check the Canadian visa information sheet at the Office of International Students and Scholars for instructions. Allow adequate time to apply for your visa. Again, call early to allow for acquiring an entry visa to that country, if required.

Family Travel

If family members are traveling without you, they will need to carry all the above listed materials, including an I-20 or DS-2019 issued with their name on the form.

Domestic Travel

U.S. immigration law has always required foreign national in the United States to carry with them documentation of their legal status. This law, however, was rarely enforced until September 11. We now strongly suggest that all foreign national employees and students carry with them at all times documentation of their legal immigration status in the U.S. This is especially important for foreign nationals who will be traveling domestically, since U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials check documents of passengers boarding at least some domestic flights. Specifically, we suggest that foreign national employees carry with them (only those forms that pertain to them) passports, I-94 cards, I-797 Approval Notices, Employment Authorization Cards, DS-2019 Forms (for J-1 employees and students) and I-20 Forms with signature of Designated School Official (for F-1 students). Recent pay stubs, a copy of your transcript, or a currently dated letter from the employer may also be helpful.

International Travel

It has always been necessary for foreign nationals to present documentation of their entitlement to entry upon returning to the U.S. from international travel. There is no change in these requirements since September 11, although documents may well be subject to greater scrutiny, and longer delays at airports should be expected. Nationals of certain foreign countries can expect to be subject to increased scrutiny from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services inspectors.

The greatest changes may be expected for travel to and from Canada or Mexico. Instead of random inspections of Canadian and Mexican nationals coming to the U.S. (and U.S. nationals going to Canada or Mexico), 100-percent document inspection is to be expected. In addition, nationals of certain countries may require a special security clearance to obtain a visa to enter Mexico, which security clearance may take approximately 30 days.

There are some reports of immigration inspectors requiring aliens to relinquish their I-94 Departure Cards upon leaving the United States and traveling to Canada. This is especially significant for Canadian nationals traveling without visas since they are required to present documentation of their eligibility for their nonimmigrant status upon returning to the U.S.

Requesting a New U.S. Entry Visa

To request a new visa from a U.S. consulate or embassy you should have with you the following items:

  • I-20 or DS-2019 signed by OISS within the past 12 months
  • Official Lehigh transcript and/or registration record for the next term
  • Original financial guarantee (department letter, personal support, government letter) showing your ability to cover the cost of your schooling
  • Certificate letter stating full-time status issued by OISS (must be requested through iHome)
  • A passport valid for at least six months after the date of re-entry
  • Completed and signed Form DS-160. Forms are available without charge at all U.S. consular offices and on the Visa Services website under Visa Applications Forms
  • A receipt for visa processing fee. A receipt showing payment of the visa application fee for each applicant, including each child listed in a parent’s passport who is also applying for a U.S. visa, is needed.
  • Proof you will be returning to your home country after your stay is completed in the U.S.

Technology Alert Assistance

For some students and scholars requesting F and J visas who have a background or experience in certain areas of science and advanced technology, additional information and review may be required by the Consular Officer.  To assist in processing your application as quickly as possible, please ensure that you bring the following documentation.

Please take with you to your interview:

  • DS-160
  • Current CV/resume
  • Full list of all of your publications, if you have any.
  • Passport, financial support (assistantship letter or bank statement etc.), I-20 or DS-2019, admission to Lehigh
  • Letter from you which includes personal information
  • Letter from your advisor which answers the technical information from the questions below

Qualifications Questionnaire

In order to assist you in your application for a visa, please construct a letter that includes the answers to the questions below in as much detail as possible.  You may wish to write a letter with your personal information and have your advisor write a letter of all the minute details of your research, etc.

  • Name?
  • Passport Number?
  • Describe in detail your current field of research/work.
  • Describe your current position.
  • Provide dates and reasons for any past travel to the U.S.
  • Provide a detailed statement of the purpose of your visit to the U.S.
  • What organizations and individual facilities will you have access to in the U.S.?
  • Describe in detail the real and potential applications of your work or research.  Assume that you are describing your work to a qualified professional in your field.
  • What work, if any, does your U.S. sponsor do for the U.S. government? Is any of that work sensitive or classified? Will you be involved in the work?
  • Describe in detail what research or work you will perform in the U.S. and explain how your trip to the United States will benefit or change your current research or work.
  • Who is funding your trip?
  • Provide a list of three references of people who are familiar with your work or research. List their names, professional title, and contact information.
  • Provide your trip itinerary with contact information for where you will be staying in the U.S. If you are a student, provide the contact information for the professors who will be overseeing your studies/research.
  • List the names of all accompanying travelers, including both family members and colleagues.

Visa Processing—Bulletin on New Visa Screening Procedures

Recently announced new visa-screening procedures may have implications for foreign students, among other nonimmigrant groups. The State Department has indicated that visa processing, for a period of several months, will be slower for some individuals in some countries due to extra screening. According to spokesman Richard Boucher, certain individuals applying for visas in certain countries can expect at least a 20-day processing delay. The list of countries will include Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

We advise students and scholars to apply early and expect delays, and to prepare letters for students and scholars that permit late arrivals. Members may also consult individual embassy websites for periodic updates on country-specific visa processing. Go to

There have been no across-the-board changes in visa processing at U.S. consulates outside of the United States. However, some individual consulates have changed their procedures or even closed for periods of time. Greater delays in the visa issuing process may be expected, especially at certain consulates. Our office will be pleased to advise you of the latest information of which we are aware regarding specific consulates. In addition, the Department of State website contains links to specific consular websites, which provide updated visa processing information. We suggest that employees and students traveling to U.S. consulates apply for visas should contact the consulate in advance to make certain they are aware of the most up-to-date procedures and requirements, which are subject to change at any time.

Canadian and Mexican Visa Information

Consulate General of Canada in New York
1251 Avenue of the Americas (6th Ave.)
Concourse Level
New York, NY 10020-1175
Hours: Monday to Friday, 9:00 am - 12:00 pm and 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Telephone: (212) 596-1666
Fax: (212) 596-1759

Consulate General of Canada in Buffalo
3000 HSBC Center
Immigration Regional Programme Centre
Buffalo, NY 14203-2884
Hours: Monday to Friday, 9:00 am – 12:00 pm and 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Telephone: The regional program center does not accept or respond to telephone calls.
Fax: (716) 852-2477 or (716) 858-9591

Mexican Consulate in New York
27 East 39th Street
New York, NY 10016
Hours: Monday to Friday, 8:00 am – 11:45 am
Telephone: (212) 217-6400
Fax: (212) 217-6493

Mexican Consulate in Philadelphia
111 South Independence Mall East
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Hours: Monday to Friday, 8:30 am – 12:30 pm and 3:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Telephone: (215) 922-4262
Fax: (215) 923-7281

If you do not know whether your country of citizenship requires an entry visa to Canada or Mexico, please contact the consulate either by phone or check the websites (information above). Should you require a visa into Canada or Mexico, the website does include visa application forms for you to download and information on what you need to present to obtain the entry visa into Canada or Mexico.