Travel & Reentry
New students are permitted to enter the U.S. up to 30 days before the I-20 Program Start Date (typically the first day of classes). Students should enter the U.S. by the first day of classes or they risk being denied entry by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
When entering the U.S. for the first time in F-1 status, be prepared with all of the documents you brought with you to the visa interview. Generally, the CBP officer at the port of entry will only ask for your passport, F-1 visa, and I-20, but you may be asked to provide evidence of SEVIS fee payment, financial resources, admission letter, etc.
Be sure you are using the F-1 visa and have presented your I-20. If you enter in any status other than F-1, you will need to exit the U.S. and re-enter in the proper status before you can begin studying.
Students who have an I-20 that states "Initial Attendance," "Transfer Requested," or "Change of Education Level," must report their arrival to OIP up to 30 days before classes begin but no later than the first day of classes, and within 15 days of entering the U.S. Most students will check in by completing the "Immigration Intake" form in the "Admissions Checklist" at Sunapsis. This first I-20 from UTEP should only be used for the initial entry, and only before classes begin. After OIP processes the arrival check-in, the student will receive a new I-20 that states "Continued Attendance."
Subsequent Entries & Travel Signatures
After your initial entry in F-1 status, you must have a valid signature in the Travel Endorsement section on page 2 of your I-20 each time you re-enter the U.S. A signature is valid if it less than 12 months old. Some CBP officers may subject you to additional questioning if your signature was dated more than six months prior, especially if you are a Border Commuter. Also, students on OPT must receive a new signature every six months. While the I-20 explicitly states that the signature is valid for up to one year, students may request a new signature every six months to avoid problems traveling.
To request a new signature on your I-20, submit the "Travel Signature Request" in the "Letters/Signature Requests" tab through Sunapsis. You will receive an email to confirm once your e-form is submitted, and another email to confirm when your request has been approved. Once you receive the email that your request has been approved, you should bring your current I-20 into the OIP office in order to receive the signature. To avoid processing delays, please wait until you receive the approval email to come into the office, and only come in during the hours designated in the approval email. (If your I-20 is damaged, please submit the "I-20 Replacement Request" through the "F-1 Student Services" tab instead. We will print a new I-20 with a new travel signature for you.)
IMPORTANT: Do not wait until the last minute to request a Travel Signature. We recommend submitting the request at least 1-2 weeks before you plan to leave the U.S. to provide plenty of time for OIP processing, and so you can make plans to visit the office. We recommend that you regularly request a new travel signature, even if you do not have travel plans, so that you avoid any last-minute requests for emergent travel plans.
Most temporary (nonimmigrant) visitors must present a valid, unexpired U.S. visa in order to be admitted by CBP at each entry into the U.S. In some cases, individuals who meet all other admissions requirements may be admitted with an expired visa through a provision called Automatic Revalidation. For more information, see Applying for a Visa.