Entering the US with a University of Memphis I-20

To lessen any potential problems upon arrival in the United States, you are encouraged to follow the guidelines below:

  • Be certain to carry all three pages of the I-20 to the consular office and also carry them with you when crossing the U.S. border. Do not put cash, bank demand drafts, scholarship or sponsorship letters, the I-20, or your passport in your checked luggage – instead, keep these vitally important items well secured on your person.
  • Make sure that the school name listed on your F-1 visa page matches the school name on your I-20. If they do not match, see section II below.
  • Present both I-20 and the passport when entering the U.S. Note that the officer at the Port of Entry has complete discretion when deciding to let people cross the border into the U.S., and can also refuse to allow entry to the U.S. If there are questions regarding a new student's paperwork, the Homeland Security Officer at the border can also issue a form I-515 temporary entry permit. Please let our office know immediately if you receive this kind of document.
  • Come to campus and report to our office in a timely manner. The staff here will need to make photocopies of your passport, new border crossing stamp, visa page, and so on. We will also be collecting data from you regarding your planned address for the school year, so please plan accordingly.
  • Students are welcome to consider Residence Life on-campus housing.
  • Consider your insurance options prior to arriving. In the U.S., health insurance is not automatically provided but is instead a purchase to make from your choice of companies. See Insurance Information for F-1 Visa Holders Independent Insurance Options.


Traveling Within the U.S.

Travel within the United States does not require i-20 travel signatures nor any other special documentation. F1 students should take original travel documents. 

Traveling Outside of the U.S. 

F-1 visa holding students are normally eligible to leave the U. S. for temporary trips while they are studying. This can include leaving the U.S. for a conference, visiting family, or spending the summer at home. However, some specific details must be observed when traveling:

Be certain to have a valid F-1 visa in your passport upon your return to the U.S. **
Be certain that your form I-20 has been endorsed for travel on page two by staff in your International Student Services office. We recommend that this travel endorsement be applied within 6 months of your planned trip.Due to meetings and other possible availability issues, please plan to get your I-20 travel signatures at least one week prior to traveling.
Please plan to have F-2 spouse/child I-20s signed in addition to the main F-1 student I-20, if the F-2 family members are also traveling.
Be certain that your passport will still be valid for at least six additional months into the future upon your return to the U.S. This is a mandatory condition of maintaining legal F-1 status while inside the U.S.
Before leaving, check for any possible need for transit visas in other countries as you progress towards your destination.
Be prepared with alternate plans in case your travel is unexpectedly disrupted. As we have seen in recent news, new federal travel restrictions can erupt unexpectedly and without warning.
** Automatic Revalidation – for some F-1 visa holders, it is possible to take short-term trips to Canada or Mexico (30 days or less), under the Automatic Revalidation program, which recognizes expired F-1 visas in combination with Active I-20s for travel purposes. 

Travel Endorsements 

Before leaving the U.S. F1and F2 visa holders need to request a travel endorsement signature through the International Portal. Travel endorsements for enrolled students are good for one year. Students should submit their request at least 2 weeks prior to their departure date. 

Required Documents for Travel Endorsements:  

Valid F-1 or F2 visa
Valid passport with an expiration date that is at least six months beyond the date of re-entry.
I-20 endorsed by ISS advisor F-1 students pursuing a program of study need their travel endorsement within past 12 months
F-1 students on OPT need their travel endorsement within past 6 months
F-1 students on OPT must carry their OPT EAD and proof of employment.
Please allow up to 5 business days for our office to process your request. 

Crossing the Border Checklist