Photo of LAWA studentsIn order to return after a temporary absence abroad, J-1 students need:

  • Valid/unexpired Passport (valid six months into the future)
  • Valid/unexpired J-1 entry visa stamped in the passport (certain exceptions apply)
  • original DS-2019 Form with a travel signature from the program sponsor within the last year (for current students) or within six months (for students on post-completion Academic Training)
  • original financial documentation
  • unofficial transcript from MyAccess (current students only)

At the port of entry, the immigration inspector should inspect the DS-2019 and return it to you. The inspector should also inspect the passport with the J-1 visa (if applicable), issue an admission stamp, write “J-1/DS”, and return the passport to you. The inspector may or may not request to see the other documents listed above. After entry, verify that the entry was properly recorded electronically by checking your I-94 record online. A copy of this electronic entry record should be printed for your records after each entry to the U.S.

Travel Signature

To obtain a travel signature in person, bring the original DS-2019 Form to Graduate Programs during walk-in hours. Outside of walk-in hours, you may leave the form at the front desk. Please note that there is a three-day processing time for travel signature requests left at the front desk.

Valid J-1 Visa Stamp

If the J-1 entry visa stamp in your passport has expired and you plan to travel outside the United States, you must return to a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad to obtain a new J-1 visa. J-1 visas may not be renewed inside the United States. Exchange visitors should generally allow 2-8 weeks for processing. Students on post-completion AT should be aware that it can be difficult to renew a J-1 visa during AT. Consulates interview most visa applicants, so it is advisable to contact the consulate for an appointment prior to finalizing travel plans. Some students will also be subject to Security Advisory Opinions because of their citizenship, countries of national origin, or other reasons at the discretion of the Consular Officer. Security Advisory Opinions commonly take one month but may require as long as 4-6 months in rare cases.  Please note: Some students will need to renew their passports during the course of their studies or post-completion academic training period. If the visa is still valid at this time, there is no need to apply for a visa renewal. Students in this circumstance should travel with both passports—the expired passport containing the valid U.S. visa and the valid passport, which does not contain a visa stamp.

Port of Entry Procedures

During entry procedures, students should be patient and answer all questions clearly. Some student may be directed to secondary inspection. Secondary inspection allows U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers to view your record in the Student and Exchange Visitor System (SEVIS) and ask additional questions. If you do not have all required travel documents with you, you may be issued a Form I-515a. If you are issued a Form I-515a, it is important to submit the required documentation as soon as possible. Please contact your international student advisor for assistance if you receive a Form I-515a.

Travel to Canada, Mexico & Neighboring Islands for J-1 Students

Travel to Canada, Mexico and neighboring islands (except Cuba) is handled somewhat differently than travel to other countries.

There is a special provision called automatic visa revalidation which allows those whose U.S. entry visa has expired to briefly visit Canada, Mexico, Saint Pierre, Miquelon, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, the Windward and Leeward Islands, Trinidad, Martinique, and other British, French and Netherlands territories or possessions in or bordering the Caribbean Sea (except Cuba) and return to the United States without applying for a new visa at a U.S. consulate. The following rules apply to automatic visa revalidation for J-1 students:

  • The time outside the United States must not exceed 30 days and may be spent only in Canada and Mexico or adjacent islands.
  • You must not be a citizen of a country that the Department of State has determined to be a sponsor of terrorism. Currently this includes Iran, Sudan, Syria and Cuba.
  • You must have a Form DS-2019 with valid travel signature.
  • You must have a valid/unexpired passport (valid six months into the future).
  • You must have maintained status while in the United States and intend to resume that status when you return to the United States.
  • You must present your I-94 card (if you have a paper I-94 card) or a printed copy of the electronic Form I-94 from your most recent entry upon re-entry to the United States.

Many students will need tourist visas to enter Canada, Mexico and neighboring islands. Contact the embassy of the country to which you intend to travel and check on entry visa requirements before making travel arrangements.  J-1 visa holders will need a valid travel signature on the DS-2019 before applying for the visa to enter these countries.

NOTE: Federal regulations prohibit those who have been denied a visa at one of the U.S. consulates in Canada, Mexico or adjacent islands from returning to the United States. Those whose visa applications are denied must return to their home country and apply for a new visa at the U.S. consulate in the home country prior to returning to the United States.