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Travel outside the USA

All exchange visitors and their J-2 dependents who plan to leave the US during their program, even for a day, must have the following documents to reenter the U.S.:

  • A valid passport,
  • A valid visa, and
  • A copy of the DS-2019 Form with a travel signature from an IVP Specialist

How to Obtain a Travel Signature on Your DS-2019 Form

The Exchange Visitor must send their original DS-2019 to the International Programs Office at least 3 weeks before traveling so that the DS-2019 form can be signed and mailed back to the traveler prior to departure. Contact your IVP Specialist so that she knows to expect your package. You should mail your original DS-2019 form to:

Your IVP Specialist’s name
US Forest Service International Programs
1 Thomas Circle NW
Suite 400Washington, DC 20005 

If your departure date is sooner than 3 weeks, then please contact your IVP specialist to discuss your options.

The endorsement signature is valid for 12 months. An additional signature is required for any 12-month period after that.

If an Exchange Visitor requires any adjustments to their SEVIS record and DS-2019, such as a program extension, these should be completed and a new DS-2019 should be issued and signed before the planned travel.

Visas and Passports

If the J-1 visa and entry stamps are in an expired passport and a new passport has been reissued, exchange visitors will need to carry both passports when traveling.  If the J-1/J-2 visa holder goes home for a vacation, contact the US Embassy/Consulate to request information on the process of acquiring a new stamp/visa in the new passport.

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 US.

When an EV departs and when s/he returns, the I-94 Form (Arrival/Departure Record) will automatically be updated in the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol database. Before departing, they should check to see that they have obtained the necessary visas and transit visas for all countries of destination. They should also check to see they have all the proper documents to be re-admitted to the United States with correct visa classification and immigration status.  These include a valid passport, J-1 visa, DS-2019 and copies of their invitation letter or other program materials.  After re-entering the US, the Visitor should go to to print their I-94 Form, and send it to their IVP Program Specialist.

J-2 Dependents

J-1 visa holders and their 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 an IVP Program Specialist when requesting travel validation on their DS-2019 forms to make certain traveling outside the US without their dependents will not jeopardize their program status.

Temporary Admission by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with Form I-515A

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-515A (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 IVP Specialist about this notice as soon as you return to your program site and work together to submit all of the necessary paperwork to SEVP.  You will need to submit all necessary paperwork within 30 days of your entry date. If you fail to complete any required action or fail to send all of the necessary documents to SEVP by that date, your SEVIS status may be terminated.

Travel to Canada or Mexico

If J-1 visa holders travel to Canada or Mexico for less than 30 days, they may be eligible for an automatic extension of their visas. Upon exiting, the EV must have a valid passport and endorsed (signed for travel) DS-2019 Form.  If the US Visa in the passport has expired and the EV is only planning to travel to one of these countries, an EV 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 USA

Once an exchange visitor has entered the US with the proper visa and has a stamped DS-2019 to verify status, s/he may travel within the US without restriction.   Exchange visitors may also travel to Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and other US territories.  EVs 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.

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