J-1 principals and J-2 dependents can travel independently of one another. However, a J-1 visa holder cannot leave J-2 dependents alone in the USA for more than 30 days. Doing so will result in both the J-1 principal and J-2 dependents being “out of status” and possible program termination. Exchange Visitors should consult with the Responsible Officer/Alternate Responsible in the International Programs Office when requesting travel validation on their DS-2019 forms to make certain traveling outside the USA without their dependents will not jeopardize their program status.
When an Exchange Visitor departs, s/he surrenders the I-94 Form (Arrival/Departure Record); therefore, when s/he returns to the United States, s/he must have the proper documents to get a new I-94 with the correct visa classification and immigration status. Exchange Visitors must make certain they have obtained the necessary visas and transit visas for all countries of destination.
J-1 exchange visitors should take copies of invitation/appointment letters and other supporting documentation about their programs with them when exiting the country with the intention of returning. This may help when attempting to re-enter the USA .
Temporary Admission by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services with Form I-515
If the DS-2019 is lost, not stamped, not signed or not endorsed for travel outside the US, or if there is any other problem when presenting it at the port of entry, the immigration officer will determine if you have a valid J-1 visa stamp and are qualified in all other respects for admission as an Exchange Visitor. The officer may then admit you to the United States in Exchange Visitor status for a period of 30 days and issue Form I-515 (Notice to Student or Exchange Visitor). There is no guarantee that the officer will temporarily admit you to the United States if you do not have your DS-2019. You may be required to leave the United States without being admitted. You must inform the Responsible Officer in the International Programs Office about this notice as soon as you return to your program site. Those issued a Form I-515 must go to a local United States Citizenship and Immigration Services office and present updated documents and a fee during the 30-day period. The Responsible Officer will assist in helping you with your documentation and give you instructions on contacting the appropriate office for your appointment.
Travel to Canada, Mexico or Adjacent Islands
If J-1 visa holders travel to Canada, Mexico or adjacent islands (except Cuba ) for less than 30 days, they may be eligible for an automatic extension of their visas. Upon exiting, the Exchange Visitor must have a valid passport and endorsed (signed for travel) DS-2019 Form and should not give up the I-94 card at the border when departing. If the US Visa in the passport has expired and the Exchange Visitor is only planning to travel to one of these countries, an Exchange Visitor may be able to return to the US in J-1 status without obtaining a new visa. Contact the Mexican Consulate or Consulate General of Canada prior to traveling to check policies and procedures. Citizens of some countries may require a visa to enter Mexico or Canada . Please be cautious when driving to Canada or Mexico by car. Be very aware of where the border zone begins. Crossing this line will automatically require you to present immigration documents for departure, entry or re-entry.
Travel within the United States
Once an exchange visitor has entered the USA with the proper visa and has a stamped DS-2019 to verify status, s/he may travel within the USA without restriction. Exchange visitors may also travel to Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and other US territories. Exchange Visitors should still carry all documentation to prove immigration status. It is very wise to leave a copy of travel plans and an itinerary with your host advisor, a trusted friend and/or relatives. Leaving photocopies of your important documents in a safe place, in care of a trusted friend or relative can also assist in the event your documents are lost or stolen.
Next Program Regulation: Program Progress Reports