Travel Reminder for Students and Exchange Visitors

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) screens foreign nationals seeking to enter the United States. Students and exchange visitors who intend to travel outside of the U.S need to have proper documentation to present to the CBP officer in order to gain admission. The arrival procedures outlined below, can help minimize waiting times at the U.S. ports of entry (POEs), and reduce the need for the issuance of the Notice to Student or Exchange Visitor (I-515A).

The I-515A ca be issued to students and exchange visitors attempting to enter the United States in F-1, M-1, and J-1 statuses without all of the necessary travel paperwork, or including those who travel with unsigned or outdated travel documents. The I-515A form allows for lawful admission to the United States for a period of 30 days, during which time students must remit appropriate documentation. The failure to timely submit the required documentation may result in termination of the related Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) records.

According to the CBP, careful planning by students and exchange visitors can ensure that delays at the POE are minimal and reduce the need for issuance of the I-515A. It therefore would be better for everyone involved – the student / exchange visitor, the school, and the U.S. government – for F-1, M-1, and J-1 foreign nationals to travel with appropriate documents, as described below.

Proper Travel Forms

A student in F-1 or M-1 status, coming to the United States to begin or resume his/her studies, must carry the following documents.

  • Valid passport
  • Valid F-1 or M-1 visa
  • Current I-20, endorsed by the Designated School Official for travel
  • Evidence of financial resources
  • I-901 fee payment receipt

An exchange visitor in J-1 status must present the following travel documents.

  • Valid passport
  • Valid J-1 visa
  • Form DS-2019 (filled out in blue ink)
  • Evidence of financial resources
  • Form I-901 fee payment receipt

In addition, the CBP suggests that students in F-1, M-1, and J-1 status carry evidence of their student or exchange visitor status, such as recent tuition receipts, transcripts, and acceptance letters, as well as the name and contact information of the Designated School Official (DSO) or Responsible Officer (RO).


Although these requirements are not new, many routinely forget to obtain proper documentation that would allow them to travel safely to the United States. While these individuals are fortunate that the I-515A procedure is in place, so that they may gain temporary admission to the United States, it would be best to avoid this process altogether. Those who are subject to these requirements should plan well in advance of travel to obtain proper documentation. In case of emergency, the documentation should be requested immediately all efforts should be made to have this in hand when seeking to reenter the United States.

Originally posted 12.Oct.2007, this article is still relevant and has been updated for our readers.


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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.