J-1 Travel and Re-entry

While you are in J-1 status, you are permitted to leave the U.S. and re-enter in J-1 status provided you present the required documentation. If you intend to re-enter the U.S. and continue your full-time course of study, you must always be admitted to the U.S. in J-1 status. This section provides detailed information on the requirements for traveling outside the United States and re-entering in J-1 status. Please note that if you are sponsored by a program other than UNK you should discuss your status and any travel requirements with your program sponsor.

The following topics are addressed:

Documents Required for Re-entry in J-1 Status

You are required to carry the following documents with you to re-enter the U.S. as a J-1 student. We encourage you to use this section as a checklist to ensure that you have everything you need to successfully re-enter the U.S. in J-1 status.

  • Passport valid for at least 6 months into the future: Some countries have the expiration dates of the passports automatically extended for 6 months based on an agreement with the U.S. If your country of citizenship is on this list, you may enter the U.S. using your passport until its actual expiration date. Check here to see if your country is on the list. If your passport will expire, contact your consulate. Consular locations can be found at https://www.usembassy.gov/. Canadian citizens are currently exempt from the passport requirement; however, we recommend that you carry your passport when entering the U.S.
  • Unexpired J-1 visa valid for further entries: You should always be aware of the expiration date and the number of entries allowed on your visa. Most visas have "M" written under entries. This means that there is no limit on the number of entries for which you can use your visa. If your visa is expired or you have already used the number of entries you are allowed, you will need to apply for a new J-1 visa in order to re-enter the U.S.
  • Valid DS-2019 recertified within 12 months of the date of entry: Recertifications (the signatures in the bottom right-hand corner of your DS-2019) tell the immigration inspector at the port of entry that you are maintaining valid J-1 status. Only the RO/ARO is authorized by the Department of Homeland Security to sign your DS-2019 and provide a letter of validation for re-entry purposes. The signatures are valid for 12 months from the date of signature, although you may have the DS-2019 signed more frequently if you wish.

Obtaining a New J-1 Visa

If your entry visa has expired and your travel does not qualify for visa revalidation, you must apply for a new visa at an American consulate before re-entering the U.S. Entry visas can only be issued outside the United States. We recommend that you apply for the new visa in your home country; however, if you are unable to return to your home country and need to travel to a third country, it may be possible to apply for a visa there. We recommend in this case that you first contact the U.S. consulate in the country where you will be traveling to confirm that they will review your application. It is possible they would refuse to do so and ask you to travel to your home country. You should also be prepared for potential delays in visa issuance. A list of visa wait times is available on the Department of State website.

When you go to the consulate, you will need to bring your passport, DS-2019, financial documentation, and proof of full-time enrollment, as well as any other documents requested by the consulate.

If you have ever overstayed your authorized stay (as noted on your I-94 card) in the United States, you will be required to return to your home country to apply for a new entry visa.

Travel to Canada, Mexico and Caribbean

If you are traveling only to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean (except Cuba and Bermuda) for fewer than thirty days, you may return to the U.S. with an expired J-1 entry visa in your passport. To qualify for this privilege, you must:

  1. Be in lawful J-1 status.
  2. Have an unexpired I-94 card indicating your J-1 status in your passport when you enter the U.S. Do not surrender the I-94 card when you leave the U.S. If you do, you will not be eligible for visa revalidation.
  3. Have a current, recertified DS-2019 in your possession.
  4. Have a passport valid at least six months into the future on the day you return to the U.S.
  5. Travel only to one of the destinations named above and for fewer than thirty days. For example, you cannot use automatic revalidation to enter Canada, depart to another country, return to Canada, and then return to the U.S. within 30 days.
  6. Not apply for a U.S. visa while in Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean. If you apply for a U.S. entry visa during your visit to one of these destinations, you must wait for it to be issued before you return. If your visa application is denied by the American consulate, you are not allowed to use automatic revalidation to return to the U.S. You will be required to travel to your country of citizenship to apply for a new visa.
  7. Have a J-1 visa (expired or valid) in your passport or an approval notice for change of status to J-1 and the invalid visa of your previous non-immigrant status in your passport.
  8. Be a citizen of a country other than Syria, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, North Korea, Cuba, or Libya. Nationals of these countries are not eligible for visa revalidation. If you are a national of one of the above countries, you must always have a valid visa in your passport to enter the United States.

Travel for Canadian Students

Canadian citizens do not currently need a passport or entry visa to enter the U.S. from Canada; however, we recommend that you use a passport to enter the U.S. as it may be required for other purposes, i.e. obtaining a Social Security Number. Beginning December 31, 2006, all Canadian citizens entering the U.S. by air or sea will be required to show a passport to enter the United States. Effective December 31, 2007, a passport will be required for all entries to the U.S. If you are entering the U.S. from a country other than Canada, you are required to present a passport at the port of entry.

Those entering the U.S. to study should request J-1 status at the border and must always show the Form DS-2019 and supporting financial documentation to the immigration inspector at the port of entry. Be sure to check your I-94 card before you leave the inspection area to ensure that the I-94 card was properly notated with J-1, D/S. Often, your I-94 card will not be removed from your passport when you leave the U.S., and you will not receive a new one when you re-enter. This is not a problem. Just be aware that if the I-94 card is removed, you must get a new one with the J-1 notation when you re-enter.

Travel Within the United States

In general, special permission is not required to travel within the U.S. We recommend that you carry your passport, I-94 card, and DS-2019 with you whenever you travel outside the Kearney metropolitan area.

Travel to a Third Country

When traveling to a third country (a country other than the U.S. or your home country), you are responsible for knowing whether you need an entry visa for that country. Travel to Canada and Mexico is common from the U.S.

Canadian visas - Persons from many countries are required to obtain a Canadian entry visa when entering Canada from the U.S. Consult the Canadian Consulate General for visa regulations concerning your country before making travel arrangements.

Mexican visas - Tourist cards or visas may be required for travel to Mexico. Information is available from the Consulate General of Mexico.

Travel for Dependents

Entry requirements for dependents are essentially the same as those for holders of J-1 visas. Each dependent must carry his/her original DS-2019. If traveling separately from the principal visa holder, dependents should also carry a photocopy of the J-1's visa, I-94 card, and DS-2019. Note that if J-2 status was obtained through a change of status application, the J-2 will not be issued an J-2 entry visa unless the student has already obtained an J-1 entry visa.

Entry document checklist for dependents:

  • Passport valid for at least 6 months into the future
  • Valid J-2 entry visa
  • DS-2019 signed on page 3 within the last 12 months
  • Photocopies of the principal visa holder's passport, I-94 card, and DS-2019