All international students, scholars and family members planning to depart temporarily from the U.S. and return to the UC Merced must have a valid passport in order to exit the U.S. The passport must also be valid for a minimum of six months into the future at the time of re-entry to the U.S. There are a few exceptions to this passport rule outlined on the government website (look for "Countries with Agreements").
Except for Canadian citizens, all international students, scholars and family members will also need to have a valid U.S. visa stamp in their passport specific to their current activities (teacher, student, researcher, etc.). If your current visa has expired, you will need to apply for a new visa while outside the U.S.
Traveling in H-1B Status
Please check your documents well in advance of your trip. (If you are traveling to Canada, Mexico or the adjacent islands for less than 30 days, you may be eligible for a visa renewal exemption.)
- Valid U.S. visa in the passport
- Valid passport (see details below)
- Valid I-797 Approval Notice
- Copy of all supporting documents issued to you in the OIA check-in package (Form 1-797 Approval Notice, Copy of Form I-129, Labor Condition application, etc.)
- Copies of your last three paystubs (to prove you have been employed and maintaining H-1B status)
- Your UC Merced employment offer letter
- Copies of your approved I-140 receipt notice (if applicable)
NOTE: Some U.S. consulates ask H-1B employees in the sciences to provide details about their work and access to data and materials. Please review the consulate requirements carefully as they may ask for additional information.
Passport Duration and Status Issues
When traveling, be aware of your passport expiration date because it may shorten your approved H-1B or O-1 time. Your passport should be valid beyond the approved end date on your H-1B or O-1 I-797. For example, if your passport expires six months before your I-797 Approval expires, then immigration (upon return to the U.S. in the airport) will shorten your stay by six months. Please speak to an advisor in OIA if you have any questions about this.
This passport expiration issue affects dependent status as well.
Renewing Your Visa While Outside the United States
Download this MS Word document outlining the visa renewal and port of entry process
Travel During Extension Process or Change of Employers
If you have any plans to travel outside the U.S. during the H-1B extension process you must speak to your OIA advisor as soon as possible. There may not be any difficulty if you plan to return to the U.S. before the expiration of your current approved H-1B status and with a valid H-1B visa stamp; however, in many cases the action of departing from the U.S. during the extension process can make the new H-1B extension inactive, or void.
If you plan to leave the U.S. and your current H-1B status has expired, you cannot return to the U.S. until the extension application is approved, and the approval notice is sent to you. Finally you will need to apply for a new H-1B visa stamp with a consulate or embassy before you can return to the U.S. It is not possible to obtain visa stamps inside the U.S.
Travel During Change of Immigration Status
Scholars may not travel outside the U.S. during a pending change of status petition (e.g., those who are changing from an F-1/J-1/Other to H-1B or O-1). Please contact an OIA advisor for further details.