When planning for your spring break or summer trip, choosing the right clothes to bring, packing all of your essentials, and arranging transportation are all undoubtedly important. But according to Marisa Atencio, the Director of International Student and Scholar Services at Georgia Tech, the first step in the planning process should involve your travel documents. When we recently sat down with her to talk about international student travel, she gave the following piece of advice: “Before you even buy a plane ticket, make sure that your travel documents are in order.” She went on to break down exactly how to do just that.
- Make copies. You should make copies of important documents—such as passports, licenses, and identification cards—and store them in a safe place. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for documents to be stolen over the course of a trip, and not having backups can make the process of recovering from the theft more difficult.
- Check validity. Review your visa and immigration forms (I-20 or DS-2019) to ensure they’re not expired or invalid. The signature on your I-20 or DS-2019 form from your school needs to have been signed less than one year previous to the date you return to the U.S. In addition, your visa stamp must be valid to be readmitted to the U.S. For a more in-depth look at visas and traveling abroad as an international student, check out this article written by an immigration attorney for our blog.
Keep in mind that every campus has its own process for getting the travel signature, and there may be lead time for getting one (think of all the other students also planning to travel abroad for spring break or summer!). Checking your visa isn’t something you want to leave until the last minute.
By incorporating document planning into your overall travel plans, you can avoid any last-minute surprises that might derail a great trip.
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