Travel and Re-entry to the United States

J-1 Scholars and Student Interns

In order to return to the United States after a visit abroad, J-1 scholars, student interns, and their J-2 dependents must present:

  • a valid passport (valid six months into the future);
  • a valid J-1/J-2 visa stamped in the passport (certain exceptions apply); and
  • original Form DS-2019 with a travel signature from the program sponsor within the last year.

Most DS-2019 Forms are signed for travel at orientation. These signatures are valid for up to one year or until the end of your program, whichever is sooner.  If your travel signature has expired or you didn't receive one at orientation, please bring your original Form DS-2019 to OGS for a travel signature during walk-in hours.

If your J-1 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 renew your J-1 visa (Exception: travel to Canada, Mexico and the adjacent islands, except Cuba, for stays of 30 days or less). J-1 visas cannot be renewed inside the United States. Exchange visitors should generally allow 2-8 weeks for processing. Consulates interview most visa applicants, so it is advisable to contact the Consulate for an appointment prior to finalizing travel plans.

Some scholars will also be subject to additional administrative processing because of their country of origin, citizenship, their field of study or research, or at the discretion of the Consular Officer. Administrative processing commonly takes six to eight weeks but may take longer in some cases.

H-1B, E-3, and O-1 Visa Holders

In order to return to the United States after a visit abroad, H-1B, E-3, and O-1 temporary workers need to present:

  • a valid passport (valid 6 months beyond H-1B, E-3 or O-1 approval expiration);
  • a valid H-1B, E-3 or O-1 visa stamped in the passport (certain exceptions apply);
  • the employee portion of the I-797 approval notice (not required for E-3); and
  • a copy of their most recent pay stub (recommended).

If your H-1B, E-3 or O-1 visa stamp has expired or you have changed your status to H-1B, E-3 or O-1 and you plan to travel outside the United States, you must apply at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy for the visa stamp. Visa stamps are not issued or renewed inside the United States. Consulates interview most visa applicants, so it is advisable to contact the Consulate for an appointment prior to finalizing travel plans. You should contact OGS prior to applying for a visa to request a letter of support. You are also advised to bring the original I-797 approval notice as well as the copy of the H-1B, E-3 or O-1 petition as well as the original USCIS J-1 waiver approval (if applicable).

Some employees will be subject to additional administrative processing because of their country of origin, citizenship, their field of study or research or at the discretion of the Consular Officer. Administrative processing commonly takes six to eight weeks but may take longer in some cases.

Entry/exit border procedures

During entry procedures, you should be patient and answer all questions clearly. Omission or misrepresentation of information can result in denial of entry. If you encounter any serious difficulty, please call OGS at (202) 687-5867 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday or the Georgetown University Police Department (GUPD) at (202) 687-4343 after hours or on weekends. GUPD will contact an OGS staff member to assist you.

Travel to Canada, Mexico & Neighboring Islands

Travel to Canada, Mexico, and neighboring islands 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 or Mexico (for H-1B and O-1 temporary workers) and 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, (for J-1 scholars and student interns) 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:

  • The time outside the United States must not exceed 30 days and may be spent only in Canada and Mexico (for J, H or O) or adjacent islands (for J only).
  • 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, and Syria.
  • You must have a valid Form DS-2019 or I-797 approval notice (for H and O visa holders). Those in J-1 status must have a valid travel signature on their Form DS-2019.
  • You must have a valid 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 Form I-94 from your most recent entry at upon entry to the United States.

Many scholars* 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. If you are a J-1 visa holder, you will need a valid travel signature from your IS Advisor before applying for the visa to enter these countries. If you have problems obtaining an entry visa, contact your IS Advisor.

*When traveling to Mexico for stays of less than 30 days on an expired J visa, automatic revalidation still applies for re-entry to the United States. However, all scholars with an expired J-1 visa (no matter their country of origin) now require a Mexican visa to enter Mexico. For more information, click here.

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 their home country prior to returning to the United States. For information on how to make an appointment for a visa interview in Canada or Mexico, click here.