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Travel and Entering the U.S.

When preparing for your initial entry to the United States for study at FIT, keep in mind that you may enter the U.S. no more than 30 days before the PROGRAM START DATE indicated in the PROGRAM OF STUDY section of your I-20, nor after that date.

Make sure to put in your carry-on the original 3 pages of your I-20, a valid F-1 visa, a passport valid for at least the next six months, a copy of financial documents showing adequate funds to study at FIT, and a copy of your letter of admission to FIT. It is also a good idea to carry a copy of your SEVIS fee receipt. Canadians exempt from visa requirements must also be prepared to show proof of payment of the SEVIS fee (see Obtaining an F-1 Visa for more information).

Pay attention at the airport or any U.S. port of entry!

Status will be granted at the port of entry by the receiving Immigration inspector, who will stamp your passport and handwrite "F-1 D/S" on it. The inspector will also provide you with a sheet directing you to the I-94 retrieval website, where, after entering your arrival information, you will be able to print out your I-94 number. Once you have reached your destination, it is strongly recommended that you print out and save this information to verify you have been admitted to the U.S. in the correct status. Please note: those entering at land ports of entry will have their passports stamped, marked "F-1 D/S," and issued the paper I-94, a small white card usually stapled into your passport. Keep in mind that you will have to correct any errors made by Immigration in the entry procedure, so it is important that you pay attention.

Once you have reached your destination, make copies of these documents and keep them in a safe place. If originals are misplaced, it is often easier to get them replaced with copies.

Reentering the U.S.

Reentering the U.S. with your FIT I-20 and valid F-1 visa* is very similar to your initial F-1 entry, except you must have page 2 of your I-20 signed by the International Student Advisor before you depart the U.S. While the I-20 indicates that the International Student Advisor's signature is valid for one year, it is recommended that you have your I-20 signed each semester. To ease your re-entry, be sure to have a valid F-1 visa, a passport valid for at least the next six months, a copy of financial documents showing adequate funds to study at FIT, an unofficial transcript of courses already completed, copies of all old I-20s, and a printout of pre-registration for next semester (if unavailable, take a copy of your current schedule). You can print out your unofficial transcript and schedules from the Online Information System accessible through MyFIT.

Students traveling while on post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT) should take a current, signed 1-20 showing employer information on page 2, OPT card, valid F-1 visa, and a valid passport. See F-1 Employment Options for more information on OPT and travel.

Keep in mind whenever you reenter the U.S., you should receive a new stamp and handwritten "F-1 D/S" recording the entry in your passport. Soon after you reach your destination, visit the I-94 retrieval website to verify that you have been admitted to the U.S. in the correct status. Always print out and save a copy of your most recent I-94 entry information, so that you can demonstrate your status in the U.S. at any time.

* If your visa expires before you plan to return to the U.S., you will have to renew it. See Obtaining an F-1 Visa for further instructions. Canadians are exempt from the F-1 visa requirement.

COVID-related Travel Advisories

Updated: Jan. 24, 2021
International travel is still complicated. Many recent travel-related directives from the U.S. federal and state governments, further restricting movement both locally and globally, remain in place. Many other countries, such as Canada, China, India, Thailand, and the European Union have also issued restrictions impacting international travelers, and many countries, including the U.S., are now requiring negative COVID test results, or evidence of recovery, prior to flying. For this reason, it is recommended that you thoroughly plan any travel, as there is no guarantee you will be able to reach or return to the U.S. directly from your point of origin, and you may need to factor in mandatory periods of quarantine once you reach your final destination. We expect this situation to improve at some point, but it is impossible to predict when that will be given the fluid pandemic environment.

On January 12, 2021, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) stated that CDC has issued "an Order requiring all air passengers arriving to the U.S. from a foreign country to get tested no more than 3 days before their flight departs and to provide proof of the negative result or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 to the airline before boarding the flight. This Order will go into effect on January 26, 2021." A set of CDC Frequently Asked Questions clarifies that "This Order applies to all air passengers, 2 years of age or older, traveling into the U.S., including U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents."

A January 12, 2021 CDC press release effective January 26, 2021 states:

"Air passengers are required to get a viral test (a test for current infection) within the 3 days before their flight to the U.S. departs, and provide written documentation of their laboratory test result (paper or electronic copy) to the airline or provide documentation of having recovered from COVID-19. Airlines must confirm the negative test result for all passengers or documentation of recovery before they board. If a passenger does not provide documentation of a negative test or recovery, or chooses not to take a test, the airline must deny boarding to the passenger. This order [...] will become effective on January 26, 2021."

On January 21, 2021, President Biden issued Executive Order on Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel, which directs relevant agencies to assess the January 12, 2021 CDC order requiring a negative COVID-19 test result for airline passengers traveling into the U.S., and, based on that assessment, take any further appropriate actions and planning regarding air, land, and sea travel. This means further restrictions may be applied at any time, so it is vital you continually check with your airline prior to attempting travel.

For detailed updates on U.S. international travel and visa restrictions, please consult resources foundhere. And for a comprehensive world map of other countries’ travel and visa restrictions, please click here. You can also check for the latest travel alerts on theU.S. Department of State’s Travel Advisories page and its Travel Advisory color-coded world map.
Thankfully, the U.S. travel ban for students returning from Schengen countries, Ireland, and the United Kingdom was lifted on July 16, 2020, so students in F-1 status seeking entry to the U.S. from those European countries, Ireland, and the U.K. may now return directly to the U.S. without restriction. Unfortunately, travel restrictions for those seeking entry to the U.S. from China and Iran still remain in place.
U.S. starts to resume routine visa services
Via its Twitter account (@TravelGov), on July 13, 2020, the U.S. Department of State tweeted: "U.S. embassies and consulates are beginning the phased resumption of routine visa services. The dates for each embassy or consulate will depend on local conditions. We are unable to provide details for each location. Please monitor the embassy or consulate website for updates."  This updates DOS's prior announcement from March 20, 2020, stating the U.S. Department of State (DOS) had temporarily suspended all routine visa services at Embassies and Consulates worldwide, and promising embassies and consulates would "cancel all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments as of March 20, 2020" and resume offering "routing visa services" on a post-by-post basis as soon as "resources allow." 

For instance, Mission India recently announced that it would resume student visa appointments starting August 17, 2020 on a limited basis in Chennai, New Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Mumbai, with priority given to those who had appointment dates August 12, 2020 and earlier. 
DOS recommends consulting the U.S. Embassy’s website in your country for specific guidance on services. To find embassy or consulate websites, go to https://www.usembassy.gov/. The embassy links direct you to the embassy website, but you will have to do some hunting to find relevant COVID-19 information, as each embassy website is organized differently. Those attempting to get visa appointments are encouraged to check your local U.S. embassy or consulate's website daily for updates. Even if you have received word that your appointment has been cancelled, once your local consulate reopens, as a student, you should be able to obtain an expedited appointment within 30 days of your program start date. Expedited appointment instructions and eligibility criteria can usually be found by visiting the "Nonimmigrant Visa Application" section of the consular website and selecting "Apply for an Expedited Appointment." If your visa appointment has been cancelled, please note that the Machine Readable Visa (MRV) fee is valid and may be used for a visa appointment in the country where it was purchased within one year of the date of payment. This also applies to payment of the I-901 SEVIS fee for initial SEVIS records.
On August 25, 2020, DOS announced a temporary expansion of a provision allowing consular officers to waive the in-person interview requirement for those applying to renew a visa in the same visa classification and category if not more than 12 months have passed since the prior visa expired. Until March 31, 2021, this temporary expansion will allow such waivers if the prior visa has not expired more than 24 months ago.
U.S. limits travel across Canadian & Mexican Borders
Effective March 20, 2020, the U.S. has limited movement across its Canadian and Mexican land borders to “essential travel.” Essential travel does include “individuals traveling to attend educational institutions” and “individuals traveling to work in the United States,” among others, but again, given changing local restrictions on movement, it is strongly advised that you anticipate your ability to arrive at and return from your destination when planning any trip abroad in the near future. On May 26, 2020, these U.S. land border directives were extended indefinitely, to be reviewed every 30 days.
For students planning to arrive in New York. . .
Please read if this applies to you!
Effective November 4, 2020, NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued new guidance requiring anyone returning to New York from significant travel (more than 24 hours) from any U.S. state except New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, or Massachusetts to 1) have a COVID test up to 3 days prior to arrival in NY, 2) quarantine for 3 days in NY, and, 3) on the 4th day in NY, obtain another COVID test. If both tests prove negative, the traveler may cease quarantining and will be exempt from any further self-quarantine requirement. Travelers returning from insignificant domestic travel to non-contiguous states (less than 24 hours) do not have to test prior to returning to NY, but must fill out the NY Traveler Health Form below and obtain a COVID test 4 days after arrival. If a test proves positive, local health departments will issue isolation orders and initiate contact tracing. 

To ensure the well-being of the FIT community, at this time anyone coming to FIT from outside NY will be required to quarantine for 5 days on entry to the U.S. and take a COVID test in the Great Hall at the end of it; once the negative result is received, the quarantine will end. This includes FIT students living on as well as off campus. Travelers entering New York are required to submit the electronic NY Traveler Health Form to the NY State Department of Health on arrival. Prior to completing the form, be sure to take a screenshot of the last page of your response, as proof of submitting this form will be required for all SUNY international students arriving in New York from these areas. You will then need to upload that screenshot to FIT's Health Portal via the instructions below. Please consult FIT Health Services or Residential Life if residing in Alumni Hall for further instructions on arriving on campus, as these requirements are subject to change. 

How to submit your NY Traveler Health Form screenshot:
  1. Log in to the FIT Health Portal at https://fit. studenthealthportal.com with your FIT username and password.
  2. Click Document Upload.
  3. Under Document Type, select NY Traveler Health Form.
  4. Click Browse & browse for the screenshot of your NY Traveler Health Form.
  5. Click Save.
Given these developments involving significant travel restrictions, please plan your travel to, from, and within the U.S. accordingly.