If you are in J-1 exchange visitor status wishing to travel outside the United States, you should be aware of regulations concerning your re-entry into the U.S. As a J-1 nonimmigrant, you and your dependents are responsible for obtaining the necessary documents required for re-entry into the U.S. after international travel. If you leave the U.S., there is never a guarantee that, if a new visa is required, a new visa will be issued, or you will be allowed to re-enter the country. The risk of being refused a visa or being denied entry to the U.S. should be weighed against your desire to continue academic or professional activities in the U.S.
If you currently have a change of status petition pending with USCIS, be sure to speak with your scholar advisor BEFORE leaving the U.S. to avoid problems with your petition.
Documents Needed to Enter the U.S.
The following documents are required to enter the United States:
- Valid Passport: If your passport will expire soon, you must renew your passport before re-entry to the U.S.
- Valid J-1 visa in passport: If your visa has expired or will expire before returning to the U.S., you must renew the visa at a U.S. consulate while abroad. (Canadians are exempt from this requirement.)
- Form DS-2019 signed by the J-1 program sponsor. Your international scholar advisor at the OISS is authorized to sign the DS-2019 for those on Washington University’ J-1 program.
- Although not required, it is recommended you have a letter from your department confirming your sponsorship.
Applying for a J-1 Visa Overseas
All visa applications require a valid passport, a completed visa application, Form DS-160 and visa processing fee. Because the processing of visa applications varies at each consulate, it is important you visit the website of the consulate where you will be applying for a visa in order to see what documentation is required. The time needed for processing an application may also be indicated on the consulate’s website.
Find information on individual US consular office procedures for processing visa applications on the U.S. Embassy website. Form DS-160 can be found on the designated consulate’s Web page.
Security Checks/Administrative Processing
All visa applicants will undergo security checks, commonly referred to at consulates as administrative processing. Security checks can delay or even result in the denial of a visa. Because of this, you should apply for the visa well in advance of the date you wish to travel to the U.S. The State Department has its own reasons for running security checks on applicants, and there is no way to predict with certainty who will be subject to these checks.
Note that we are seeing lengthy delays due to security checks for some individuals who are applying for visas while outside the U.S.
Applying for a Visa in a Country Other than your Home Country
Persons applying for a visa in a country other than their country of citizenship are referred to as Third Country Nationals (TCNs). Visas may be necessary for travel to a third country. If you are applying for a visa in a third country, you will need to contact that country’s consulate in either the United States or abroad to determine if a visa or other documents are necessary for entry.
Although some consulates accept visa applications from TCNs, the process will likely be more time-consuming because the consular officer must take extra measures to verify the applicant’s relationship to his or her home country and to the U.S.
For information on U.S. consular office procedures for processing visa applications, visit the U.S. Embassy’s website.
Automatic Visa Revalidation
Persons in J-1 status who travel for fewer than 30 days solely to Canada, Mexico or the adjacent islands in the Caribbean may be eligible for an automatic extension of their visa at a port of entry. As a person in J status, your visa can be “extended” to the date of re-entry, eliminating the need to obtain a new visa at a U.S. consulate before your re-entry to the U.S.
When traveling to contiguous territory by air, you should keep your I-94. Airlines will wish to collect your I-94 upon departure, but you will not qualify for automatic visa revalidation if you cannot present the I-94 at the time of re-entry to the U.S.
To be eligible for automatic visa revalidation at a port of entry, you must have:
- Your I-94 endorsed by a CBP officer to show a valid period of stay in the U.S.
- A valid passport
- A previously valid visa for J status or another status
- A valid Form DS-2019 signed by the J-1 program sponsor (the international scholar advisor)
Some individuals are not eligible for automatic visa revalidation. For restrictions, visit the Department of State website.
A J-2 dependent who wishes to travel outside the U.S. for a temporary visit and re-enter the U.S. should have the following documentation:
- Valid passport
- Valid J-2 visa in passport
- Valid Form DS-2019 issued in the name of the J-2 dependent, endorsed for travel by the J-1 program sponsor (the international scholar advisor)
- Evidence of relationship to the principal applicant, such as a birth certificate for children or marriage certificate for spouses
- Proof of financial support
A J-2 dependent may stay in the U.S. while the J-1 scholar travels only if the J-1 is outside of the U.S. for a short length of time. If the J-1 is traveling outside the U.S. for a significant length of time, the J-2 dependents should accompany the J-1. J-2 status is contingent on the validity of the J-1’s status. If the J-1 is out of the U.S. for a long period of time, the J-2 dependent can fall out of status, and could have difficulties obtaining a J-2 visa in the future.
After You Re-Enter the U.S.
All J-1 scholars and their J-2 dependents should check their electronic I-94 information upon re-entry to the U.S. The I-94 should have an end date of “D/S,” meaning “duration of status.” This means that your stay in the U.S. is legal as long as you maintain your nonimmigrant status. Your status end date is indicated on your DS-2019. I-94 information can be checked at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov.
If your I-94 record is marked with a specific date rather than “D/S”, you should contact the OISS immediately.
Scholars are encouraged to send their international scholar advisor a printout of their new I-94 information after every arrival in the U.S.
Traveling during the 30-Day Grace Period
J-1 exchange visitors are granted a 30-day grace period at the completion of the J-1 program. The grace period begins the day after the end date listed on the DS-2019. Travel within the United States is allowed during this time period. However, J-1 exchange visitors departing the U.S. during the grace period end their J-1 status effective on the day of departure. Thus, individuals will not be permitted re-entry to the U.S. in J-1 status.