Continuing F-1/J-1 students can travel abroad and return to the U.S. to resume their studies. Please review the information below before traveling this winter recess:

1. International students must have a valid travel signature on their I-20/DS-2019 to re-enter the U.S. in F-1/J-1 status. Each travel signature is valid for one year from the date it was signed and six months for students on OPT or STEM OPT Extension. Please check your I-20/DS-2019 today and read more about travel signature requests and other requirements for re-entry to the U.S. A travel signature is not needed to depart the U.S. but is required for re-entry.

2. Students with valid F-/J-1 visas do not need to apply for a new visa before traveling to the U.S. to resume their studies.

3. Visa appointments at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad remain backlogged. If you apply for a new visa stamp this winter, you are responsible for scheduling the appointment on your own and informing your academic department that your return to the US may be delayed if your visa stamp is not issued in a timely manner. Please remember that it will likely take 3-5 days after your visa is approved before your passport is returned to you with your new visa stamp.

4. If you find yourself without an I-20 or DS-2019 upon re-entering the U.S., you may be eligible for a Form I-515A. The I-515A is a document issued by the U.S. Port of Entry officer that allows students and scholars to re-enter the U.S. on a temporary status of 30 days. If you do not have a valid travel signature, you will likely be issued a Form I-515A by the U.S. Port of Entry officer. Since this temporary stay document only allows a 30-day stay in the U.S., you must meet with an OIS advisor immediately upon arrival to fix your status to F-1 or J-1 D/S. Entering on an I-515A may cause some delays at the Port of Entry, so please plan accordingly.

5. Emergency Contact Information During University Break

  • Send an email to the OIS email account ( This email account will be checked periodically during university holidays. Only inquiries requiring immediate attention will receive a response during office closures.
  • Students experiencing a true emergency at the U.S. Port of Entry can call the USC Department of Public Safety (DPS) at (213) 740-6000.
  • Students detained by U.S. immigration officials at an airport or land border port-of-entry may call the USC Immigration Clinic Emergency Hotline at (213) 740-7435 and leave a detailed message including name, date of birth, nationality, current location, airline, and flight number, phone number, and email address. A representative from the Immigration Clinic will provide initial guidance.
  • The USC Immigration Clinic will only assist students detained by U.S. immigration officials. Please do not contact the Immigration Clinic for other OIS or immigration-related matters.