OVIS Winter Break Travel Checklist

Planning Winter Break Travel

International students, scholars, faculty and staff who will be traveling outside the U.S. during the winter break should be sure to have your immigration documents in order prior to departing.

Effective November 8, 2021 the U.S. government implemented a new global travel policy that requires nonimmigrants traveling to the U.S. by air from anywhere in the world to establish they are fully vaccinated, with limited exceptions.  It is critical that Dartmouth travelers understand and comply with these requirements in order to be able to return to campus for the winter term.

The travel policy was amended on December 2, 2021 to tighten the requirements for COVID testing prior to flight departure for return to the U.S.  These new requirements go into effect December 6, 2021.

The original Presidential Proclamation of October 25, 2021 and Fact Sheet can be found at the below links:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/10/25/a-proclamation-on-advancing-the-safe-resumption-of-global-travel-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/ 

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/10/25/fact-sheet-biden-administration-releases-additional-detail-for-implementing-a-safer-more-stringent-international-air-travel-system/ 

The December 3, 2021 White House announcement can be found at:  https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/12/02/fact-sheet-president-biden-announces-new-actions-to-protect-americans-against-the-delta-and-omicron-variants-as-we-battle-covid-19-this-winter/ 

The CDC guidance can be found at:  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/testing-international-air-travelers.html 

December 29, 2021

Rescission of travel restrictions from southern African countries

On December 28, 2021 the White House issued a Proclamation revoking the November 26, 2021 Proclamation restricting travel to the U.S. from eight countries in southern Africa.  The new Proclamation goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. EST on December 31, 2021.  Please see the State Department website for additional details.

December 3, 2021

White House Announces Changes to International Travel Policy

On December 2, 2021 the White House announced a number of new actions designed to address COVID-19.  The announcement outlined new protocols for international travel, including the requirement that all inbound international travelers obtain a COVID test within one day of departure, regardless of vaccination status or citizenship. The CDC has updated its guidance as well.  This is a change from the original international travel policy issued on October 25, 2021, which mandated a test within 3 days of departure.

November 29, 2021

NEW PRESIDENTIAL PROCLAMATION RESTRICTING TRAVEL FROM CERTAIN AFRICAN COUNTRIES, EFFECTIVE NOVEMBER 29, 2021

On November 26, 2021 the White House issued a Proclamation, effective November 29, 2021 that restricts travel to the U.S. for noncitizens who were physically present in the following countries within the 14-day period preceding travel to the U.S.:  Botswana; Eswatini; Lesotho; Malawi; Mozambique; Namibia; South Africa; and, Zimbabwe.  The restrictions are in response to the new COVID-19 Omicron variant present in those countries.  While the Proclamation does reference an exception for a noncitizen whose entry "would be in the national interest," neither the State Department or the Department of Homeland Security have confirmed the criteria for National Interest Exceptions (NIEs). 

In a November 28, 2021 U.S. Customs & Border Protection bulletin the agency confirmed that NIEs issued under previous Proclamations are void with respect to the November 26, 2021 Proclamation. OVIS will continue to provide updates as they become available. 

Document Requirements

For those making visa applications at U.S. consulates, be prepared for possible delays in visa issuance. This checklist can help you to prepare for your trip:

Valid passport

Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond the expiration of your period of authorized stay in the U.S.

Valid visa stamp

Unless you are Canadian and visa exempt, your visa stamp in your passport must be valid at the time of your planned reentry to the U.S. and must reflect your correct nonimmigrant visa status. If you have changed your immigration status since your last admission to the U.S., you will need to apply for a new visa stamp in order to reenter the country.

Valid Form I-20 (F-1 Students) or Form DS-2019 (J-1 Exchange Visitors)

Check your form to make sure you will reenter before the program end date, and that you have a valid travel signature from OVIS. The travel signature for F-1 and J-1 visa holders is valid for 12 months, unless you are a graduated F-1 student on OPT or STEM OPT, in which case your I-20 travel signature is valid for 6 months. To request a travel signature, see the instructions in the OVIS websiteNote that SEVP recently released new guidance confirming that electronic signatures on Forms I-20 are acceptable.  Students can use Forms I-20 with an electronic signature, or an electronically produced copy of a wet signature.  Students MUST print out the Form I-20 and carry the paper copy for presentation at a U.S. Consular appointment and when seeking admission to the U.S. as a U.S. port-of-entry.

The SEVIS policy can be found at:  https://www.ice.gov/doclib/sevis/pdf/I20-guidance.pdf  

Plan for possible visa issuance delays

The holiday season is a busy travel time, and with the ongoing pandemic and the rescission of the COVID-related travel bans on travelers coming from certain countries, higher volumes of applications can be expected at posts worldwide.  Be sure to check the website of the U.S. consulate or embassy for hours of operation, specific application procedures including required documentation, and processing times. For students, bring a copy of your transcript as proof of enrollment. Dartmouth employees can bring an updated employment verification letter issued by Human Resources and copies of your two most recent pay statements. Visit the Department of State website at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/wait-times.html for more information.

Security clearances

U.S. Consular Officers can require visa applications to undergo additional security clearances based on country of nationality, a name that is similar to a name on a government watch list, study or work in a field involving sensitive technologies, or other reasons. If an application requires an additional clearance, it will be placed in "administrative processing" and the visa will not be issued until the process is complete, which can take several weeks or longer. For more information on administrative processing, visit https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/administrative-processing-information.html

Admission at U.S. port-of-entry and automated Form I-94 record

For F-1 students with a previously terminated SEVIS record, expect to undergo additional screening at the Customs & Border Protection Agency's (CBP) secondary inspection so that your valid F-1 status can be verified in the SEVIS system.

I-94 record

If traveling by air, CBP at most ports-of-entry will issue an admission stamp in the passport, and once in the U.S. with access to the Internet and a printer, a copy of the I-94 record of arrival can be accessed on CBP's website. If traveling by land crossing from Canada or Mexico, you must request a "new admission" if you want your entry recorded in the agency's electronic system. OVIS recommends the I-94 record be accessed and printed for every new arrival to the U.S. to ensure accuracy. If there is an error in your I-94 record, contact OVIS for assistance in having it corrected. Visit the I-94 website at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/recent-search.

CANADIAN students should be sure to present their F-1 Form I-20 for admission.  Failure to do so could result in admission as a visitor instead of a student, and the student could be instructed to return to the port of entry or make an appointment at the CBP Deferred Inspections Office at Logan Airport in Boston, MA to have the error corrected.