Everything You Need to Know About Traveling Outside the U.S. During Your J-1 Program

Filed in J-1 Regulation Explainers by on August 15, 2014 43 Comments
  •  Can I travel outside the United States during my J-1 training program or internship?

This is perhaps the most common question we get from J-1 and J-2 Exchange Visitors. J-1 trainees and interns frequently email us to ask if they and their J-2 dependents are allowed to travel outside the United States during their J-1 visa programs.

The answer is: of course you are! You are not restricted to the United States during your time as a J-1. You are our valued visitor, and we want you to be able to enjoy the time here while also taking advantage of opportunities that are available to you outside United States borders.

That said, there are two things you can do to make leaving and reentering the United States during your J-1 program much easier.

  • Check your visa expiration date. (Note: the info below does not apply to Canadians, who do not obtain physical visa stamps in their passports but rather use the DS-2019 in lieu of a visa)

You will not be allowed to enter the United States—or in many cases, even board a plane flying to the United States—with an expired visa in your passport, even if you have a valid DS-2019 that says your training program or internship has not ended.

If your visa will expire while you are traveling outside the United States, and you plan to reenter the United States to continue your training program, you must apply for a new J-1 visa at a United States consulate in a country where you are a resident.

The process for applying for the J-1 or J-2 visa while you are traveling abroad is the same as when you first applied: you fill out the DS-160 form on the embassy or consulate website, pay the visa application fee, schedule an appointment and then visit the United States consulate for an in-person interview.

Important: Please consider that although a visa denial is unlikely if you have remained in compliance with your immigration status, it is not guaranteed that you will be issued a second J-1 or J-2 visa just because you were issued the first one before you began your training program or internship.

  • Have your DS-2019 Travel Validated.

Before you leave the country the first time, make sure to contact your J-1 sponsor (that’s us: the American Immigration Council) to obtain a Travel Validation authorization signature on your DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility.

  • What is a “Travel Validation?”

Good question! The United States Department of State (DOS) and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) require that all J-1 Trainees/Interns and J-2 dependents have their DS-2019 forms validated for travel taking place outside the United States.

The validation on the DS-2019 form(s) will let United Stations customs officers know that your J-1 visa sponsor ( the American Immigration Council) is aware that you will be traveling outside the United States during your J-1 program.

Obtaining the signature will help you avoid delays at the port of entry when you return from traveling abroad.

  • How can I get my DS-2019 signed with a Travel Validation?

You will need to send us your DS-2019, which we will sign in the Travel Validation signature field. The signature is valid for up to 12 months from the date the form is signed. As long as you present your DS-2019(s) to the United States customs officers when you return to the country, you can leave and reenter multiple times.

Also, when you send us your DS-2019, please include the Travel Validation Request form as a cover letter, signed by your supervisor.

  • When should I send you the form? Or, what do I do if I have to travel urgently and plan to leave very soon?

Please send us your DS 2019 no later than 2 weeks before your date of travel, so that we can return the form to you with plenty of time to spare.

If you will be traveling in less than 2 weeks, then you should send the DS-2019 using an overnight courier service (FedEx, UPS, DHL, etc.) and include a self-addressed and paid overnight envelope in the packet so we can return the form to you before you travel abroad.

  • Where do I send the DS-2019 Certificate(s) and the Travel Validation Request form?

You may send the form to the following address:

American Immigration Council
International Exchange Center
Suite 200
1331 G Street NW
Washington, D.C.  20005

  • What should I do when I get back to the United States?

When you return from traveling abroad, make sure to send us a copy of your I-94 Admission Number Confirmation, which you can look up here.

Also, email your visa sponsor (yes, that is still us) to let us know if you have recently returned from traveling abroad.

We ask that when you do return, you email us a copy of your I-94 Admission Number confirmation, which can be retrieved here.

  • Do I need to have my DS-2019 signed with a Travel Validation each time I leave the United States?

No. Since the travel validation signature is good for 12 months from the date it is signed, you only need to have the form signed the first time you travel outside the United States, or if you plan to reenter the United States after 12 months from the date next to your first Travel Validation Signature.

Sound easy? It is! We understand that not all travel is planned, so try your best to let us know about your travel plans in advance so that we can coordinate signing your DS-2019 documents. If you must leave and there is absolutely no time to obtain the signature, do not panic.

As long as you have a valid DS-2019 and J-1 or J-2 visa, you will be permitted to enter the United States.

Two things might happen, though. First, you may be subject to additional verification questions from the United States customs officers, which can take extra time. Or, you may be admitted conditionally on 515(a) status, which also creates additional and unnecessary work for you and for us.

What is 515(a) status you ask? That is probably a good subject for a future post…

Until then, make sure GET YOUR DS-2019(s) TRAVEL VALIDATED!

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  • Colette

    My J1 visa stamp expires June 30. I plan to travel to Toronto for my sister’s graduation and return to the US June 19. Will I have an issue re-entering because of the timeframe? What is the rule for traveling on J1 visa so close to its expiration date? Of note, I will have a new ds-2019 in hand.

    • Hello Collette,

      We encourage you to reach out to your current sponsor of your J-1 program for information as to how to proceed.

      Thank you for stopping by our blog!

  • Sourav

    My J1 visa expires on 30 April 2017. I plan to travel my home country (India) for my own marriage and will return back on 13 February 2017. Will there can be any issue while re-entering US??

    • Hello Sourav,

      Please reach out to your current sponsor regarding your visa status and planned travel. They will be the best suited to assist you.

  • SANKALP GUPTA

    Pls answer my question …. i got my visa from nov to april…. my j1 program started on 3 rd novmber 2015 .. as i was not enjoying my work there i planned to leave by december and left immidietly… now after one year i again plan to go for j1 program all over again…. will there be a problem … pls answer this … i really want to know ???

    • Hello Sankalp,

      We encourage you to speak with an immigration attorney regarding your unique situation. They will be able to best assist you.

  • Kibileri Williams

    The current J1 stamp in my passport is expired because I did not travel out of the country since its expiration date last June. However I do hold an up to date DS-2019 for the current academic year. Can I travel to Trinidad and Barbados in February without renewing the stamp in my passport? I could not schedule a visa appointment during the time of my trip because there are no appointments available at the consulate during those ten days. Will I be allowed re-entry since it is a trip of less than 30 days to a Caribbean island only?

    • Hello Kibileri,

      Please reach out to your current sponsor of your J-1 program for information as to your visa. Thanks for reading our blog!

  • Hayk Davtyan

    In case if I forgot to validate my DS-2019, can I send it to my sponsor to sing it when I am outside or us already?

    • Hello Hayk,

      We encourage you to reach out to your current sponsor of your J-1 program for information as to how to proceed.

      Thank you for stopping by our blog!

  • Amy Peckham-Driver

    I’m an Au Pair currently serving my first year on the J-1 Visa. I intend to extend my Visa by a further 12 months. I’ve heard that during the second year of a J-1 Visa, it automatically reverts to a single entry visa. However, I can’t find any information online to support this. Can you confirm whether or not the J-1 is always a multiple entry visa?

    • Hello Amy,

      Thank you for your inquiry. As the Council works only with trainee and intern categories of the J-1 visa, we encourage you to contact your sponsor for your au pair category J-1 for more information. They will be the most knowledgeable about your specific circumstances and the regulations for your visa.

  • Megan

    I am currently an Au Pair in my first year on the J-1 Visa. At the end of my au pair year I have a travel month in which I would like to take a cruise to the Bahamas which departs and returns to Florida would I be able to re enter the USA at that point? I read up a little bit on a re entry visa, would I need that for my travel month?

    • Hello Megan,
      That sounds like a wonderful trip to take! We encourage you to speak with your current J-1 au pair visa sponsor. They will be able to provide the best guidance.
      Safe travels!

  • Rabita Madina

    I am currently a high school foreign exchange student in Wisconsin. Right now, not only I have a valid j-1 visa, but I also have a valid B1/B2 visa. Do I still need my DS2019 form signed to go to Canada and re-enter the US? My exchange student program banned me to travel because they said I am violating DOS policies and they refused to sign my DS2019 form

    • Hello Rabita,

      We hope you’re staying warm! As you are on a J-1 for a high school exchange, please speak with the responsible officer who issued your DS-2019. Their contact information is located in Box 7 and they should be able to go over all of the regulations pertaining to travel with you.

  • Yogesh kedare

    I am currently on J1 visa.my visa going to expire on may so i planing to apply for same J1 visa.so on which bases they approve second J1 visa.and if second J1 visa approval so can i travel to home country for couple of weeks and can i come back to USA.

    • Hello Yogesh,

      These are great questions! Each J-1 category has slightly different regulations that dictate whether or not you are eligible to apply for a second J-1 visa in that category. We encourage you to speak with your current sponsor regarding your options. You can find their contact information in box 7 of your DS-2019.

    • Yogesh kedare

      But on what bases they approve another j1 visa

  • Sharon Morais

    The International Student Advisor from my University signed my DS-2019 for travel validation. Should I still sent the document for the American Immigrant Council? Thanks

    • Hello Sharon,
      Thank you for your question. If your International Student Advisor has signed off as your designated sponsor for your program, then you do not need to send anything to the American Immigration Council. The only J-1 exchange visitors who should send travel validation requests to the Council are those who are currently participating in Council-sponsored training programs as interns or trainees.

      • Sharon Morais

        Thank you!! 🙂

  • Eleonora

    I’m an au pair and I planned a cruise to caribbean islands. My Visa is expiring in these days, but I have the travel validation on my new DS and I know with that I’m allowed to travel to Mexico, canada and adjacent islands because are considered contiguous to the USA.
    But I would like to know if you can affirm this information and if every Island except Cuba, or can I have problems to come back here?!

    My sponsor wasn’t helpful about that and I tried to keep in touch with embassies and the US Department, but they just answer to visit some links and I didn’t find anything helpful. I’m trying to have some information from everybody can help me.

    Thank you

    • Hello Eleonora,
      If you travel outside of the United States and your visa expires before you re-enter, you should obtain a new visa before you will be able to return. Please reach out to your sponsor for additional clarification and guidance.

  • Rachael Rose

    Hello, I am on a J-1 trainee & internship visa and was hoping to take a vacation to Cuba soon. I would be re-entering the us on my J-1 still. Is it possible to vacation in Cuba an re-enter the US? I’ll be travelling with a New Zealand passport.
    Thanks,

    • Hello Rachael,
      As we understand the regulations for the trainee and intern J-1 visa, you are able to travel to Cuba and re-enter the United States as long as all of your J-1 documentation/visa is valid and up-to-date. You will need to follow-up on any regulations pertaining to you and your passport for travel to Cuba.

  • Carolina Acuña Beltran

    Hello, I’m an Au Pair, my J1 visa expires in may 15 and I will like to go on a cruise in the travel month (June 8), I am aloud to go on the cruise? Even if my visa and DS is expired? Then when I come back to USA I will enter with my turist visa is that posible? What you know about that, thank you

    • Hello Carolina,
      Thank you for your message. I encourage you to reach out to the sponsoring organization who assisted you with the visa process to inquire about taking a cruise after your au pair visa expires. They will be the most knowledgeable about your particular situation and the regulations pertaining to you.

  • Caroline Puspita

    Hi, i’m a J1 trainee. If my J1 visa get extension, can i still go overseas?
    and to re-enter the United States to continue my training program,do i must apply for a new J-1 visa at a United States consulate in a
    country where i am a resident?

    • Hello Caroline,
      Great question! Once an extension has been processed, if you are approved and provided an updated DS-2019, you will notice that the end date of your visa will expire before your extended DS-2019. If you travel outside of the United States after the physical visa expires, you will be required to obtain a new visa stamp before you will be able to re-enter the United States on J-1 status to complete your training.

  • Leanne Ryland

    Hi

    My son is working for Disney in Orlando and has a j1 visa. He is an Australian passport holder. He arrived in the USA on 22 Jan 2017. The J 1 visa expires on 22 Jan 2018. He finishes working for disney on 15 June 2017. My husband and I are going to meet him and we are all travelling to Mexico departing Orlando on 16 June. We are spending one week in Mexico and departing on 23 June for Los Angeles. He will spend one day in LA before catching a flight to Australia . He will not be returning to Disney to work after our departure from mexico.

    My question is once he departs the USA on a J1 visa can he returned to the USA for 36 hours before he boards a flight to Australia?

    Thank you

    Leanne Ryland

    • Hello Leanne,
      Thank you for your inquiry. We encourage your son to reach out to his sponsor with Disney for additional information regarding his visa and whether he will be eligible to return to the United States following the trip to Mexico.

      • Leanne Ryland

        Can I apply to get him an esta Visa to return to the USA while we are in Mexico?

        • Hello Leanna,
          Please contact the sponsor of your son’s J-1 visa program. They will be the most knowledgeable about his program and the options available to him.

          • Leanne Ryland

            Thank you

  • Chantel

    Hi I’m a holder of a j1 visa it’s expires 04 may 2021 i used it for my first travel last year so I was wondering if I can travel to the USA on my own with the visa without any sponsor because I have 5 years on mines

    • Hello Chantel,

      This is a great question. We recommend you reach out to the former sponsor who assisted you with the original J-1 visa program application. They will be able to best advise you on what is possible with your visa stamp.

  • Gillian Cahill

    Hi there,

    I am J1 visa holder and my visa expires may 29th. I am currently visiting home for a week and have had my DS-2019 validated by my visa sponsors. I recently started my first Internship and got approval via e-mail a month ago by my visa sponsors to start my internship. Just one thing, I sent my signed DS-7002 last week and they have not yet received it, i have to return to the states on thursday and am afraid it wont get to them in time. Will it be ok to to just have my travel validation or do you think this will cause problems?

    Thank you
    gill

    • Hello Gillian,

      Thank you for reaching out. We encourage you to contact your sponsor and inquire about the status of your documentation as well as how to go about returning to the United States to resume your training. They will be the most capable of assisting you.

  • Blanche versp

    Hello,

    My J1 visa expires on the 15th of June. How long do I have to leave the country?

    Thank you for letting me know,

    Bee

    • Hello Bee,
      Most J-1 visa holders have the benefit of a 30-day grace period following the conclusion of their program. I encourage you to reach out to your current sponsor to inquire about this grace period and your J-1 program to verify the last possible day you can be in the United States.

  • Judy

    hello,

    I’ve just got J2 visa and planning to enter the US this July. My husband who is a J1 visa holder is already working in the US since this January. I am planning to travel to Mexoco when I got into the US this July, but I am concerning about the required signature on DS2019 form that I need in order to travel outside the country. Since I’m planning to leave for Mexico at the same day of arriving the US, I think I don’t have time to get the signature. Is it possible to go outside the country without the signature? my husband will have the signature on his DS2019 form for sure. If it’s not possible, I guess I need to change my plan.
    Thank you in advance.

    Judy

    • Hello Judy,

      Thank you for your message. Please reach out to the sponsor of your husband’s J-1 program for further information about your travel validation and your options.

      Safe travels and enjoy your time in Mexico!