Participants on J-1 visas who want to go on vacation with their host parents outside of the U.S. must make sure they have all their travel documents on hand, including entry documents to the country/ies to be visited and particularly for reentry to the U.S. A formal approval from AFSUSA and the AFS Office in the participant’s home country is required for foreign trips. Students and host families can request their Liaison to contact firstname.lastname@example.org to secure permission to travel.
Verifying Documents for Foreign Participants Traveling Outside the U.S.
Hosted Participants must verify that their passport is valid before traveling outside the U.S. Check the photo page of the passport to determine the expiration date. An expired passport cannot be used for international travel. Passports must first be renewed at the consulate with jurisdiction over the participant’s state or city of residence.
Participants must also verify that their J-1 visa is valid. The J-1 visa appears as a holographic foil in the passport. Confirm that the visa is valid and that it allows multiple entries. An "M" under "Entries" signifies multiple entry; an "S" signifies single entry. An expired or single-entry visa cannot be used to re-enter the United States. Please see exceptions under Automatic Re-validation below.
I-94 Arrival/Departure Record. Participants must have a printout of their I-94 electronic record for presentation to the immigration officer: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home
Prior to traveling outside the US, it is essential to ensure that the participant’s Certificate of Eligibility J-1 Visa form (DS-2019) is signed by an AFS Responsible Officer (RO/ARO) for travel. The signature box in the DS-2019 is labeled Travel Validation by Responsible Officer. The signature in the box confirms that the participant is in good standing with AFS.
If the DS-2019 does not have a signature in the Travel Validation by Responsible Officer box,
request their Liaison to email email@example.com 3 weeks prior to intended travel. They will be instructed to mail the form with a self-addressed, pre-paid envelope to AFS-USA, ATTN: ARO, 120 Wall Street, 16th Fl, New York, NY 10005.
Please see – Travel Documents Checklist for U.S. Hosted Participants for your reference.
Seeking Approval and Verifying Documents for Sponsored Programs Participants Traveling Outside the U.S.
Sponsored Programs Participants wishing to travel outside of the U.S. must gain prior permission from the U.S. Department of State and have DS-2019 paperwork completed.
To request approval, they should contact their Liaison who will seek permission for travel with the FLEX, YES or CBYX Sponsored Programs Specialist. This process must begin AT LEAST 6 weeks PRIOR to the intended travel.
The Sponsored Programs staff will review the travel request and submit it to the U.S. Department of State for review. The U.S. Department of State can approve or deny any request, as they see fit. Therefore, we recommend against making any non-refundable travel arrangements until you have received State Department feedback. If your travel is approved, Sponsored Programs staff will provide instructions regarding where and how to mail the DS-2019 for endorsement, including specific instructions for the type of mail to be used.
Participants must NOT depart the U.S. without receiving the approvals and DS-2019 paperwork noted above. The U.S. Department of State reserves the right to decline an international travel request at their discretion.
These policies apply regardless of the mode of transportation or duration of travel –they do apply to day trips by car to Canada and Mexico, for example.
Entry documents for countries to be visited
It is the responsibility of the hosted participant to contact the consular offices in the U.S. or consult the consular website of the country(ies) that will be visited to ensure that they have the proper visa and documentation needed for admission into the country(ies).
Website of Foreign Embassies in the United States: https://embassy.goabroad.com/embassies-in/united-states
Embassies in Washington, D.C.: http://www.embassy.org/embassies
Travel to Canada and Mexico
Please be advised that a visa may be required for a hosted participant to travel to Canada or Mexico. It is the participant’s responsibility to determine whether a visa is necessary and, if so, to take steps to obtain one. Participants may contact their local Canadian or Mexican consulate for further information or consult the following websites:
Embassy of Canada: http://www.cic.gc.ca
Embassy of Mexico: https://embassy-finder.com/mexico_in_usa
Travel to Mexico is strictly prohibited in states listed in the Department of State DO NOT TRAVEL Advisory list (Level 4 threat). All other requests will be considered on a case by case basis. See Department of State – Mexico Travel Advisory.
Both Canada and Mexico require any minor entering their countries without their parents to present a letter of permission signed by either or both parents giving the student permission to enter alone. The letter must be notarized, and it must be the original document rather than a fax or email. These letters required by Canada and Mexico border officials should not go through the AFS offices; rather, the parent(s)/guardian(s) back home should send these letters directly to their children. Not all border officials ask for this letter, which makes it easy to overlook that it is a legal requirement for both countries. As always, it is the responsibility of the host parents to remain informed of immigration requirements when entering another country with their hosted student.
Automatic Re-validation of U.S. Visa
(Canada, Mexico, and adjacent islands Only)
Before a hosted participant travels outside the U.S., they must be sure that their visa allows "multiple entries.” Expired and single-entry visas are not valid for reentry to the US. For hosted participants with an expired, multiple entry J-1 visa foil in their passports, their visas will be considered automatically re-validated when they re-enter the U.S. from Canada or Mexico as long as ALL of the following are true:
Hosted participant has been in Canada or Mexico for less than 30 days
Hosted participant has a valid admission status (I-94 electronic record)
Hosted participant has an expired, multiple entry J-1 visa in the passport
Hosted participant is in possession of an endorsed DS-2019 form
Hosted participant will not apply for a U.S. visa while abroad/does not have a valid pending visa application to the U.S.
Hosted participant is not from one of the countries currently considered by the U.S. federal government to be state sponsors of terrorism
Participants should print out a copy of their I-94 electronic record before departure for presentation to the immigration officer upon reentry: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home
For details regarding automatic re-validation, refer to the following website:
In the case of a Sponsored Program participant (FLEX, YES and CBYX scholarship recipients), the documentation is the same as above except that the Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status (DS-2019) can ONLY be endorsed by the U.S. Department of State or American Councils for International Education.