Travel Out and Re-entry to the U.S.

For J-1 Students

In order to return to the United States after a visit abroad, J-1 students and scholars must present:

  • a valid passport (valid six months into the future);
  • a valid 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 and scholars)
  • original financial documentation;
  • a copy of SEVIS Fee Payment (https://fmjfee.com)
  • a copy of the academic transcript (current students only);

What Happens at the Port of Entry? 

  • At the port of entry, the immigration inspector should inspect the DS-2019 Form and return it to the student.
  • 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 the student.
  • The inspector may or may not request to see the other documents listed above.  

I-94 RECORD

After entry, the student should verify that the entry was properly recorded electronically at www.cbp.gov/i94. A copy of this electronic entry record should be printed for the student's records after each entry to the U.S.

Travel Signature

To obtain a travel signature in person, bring the original DS-2019 Form to OGS during Walk-in Hours (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 1 pm - 4 pm or Wednesday from 10 am - 1 pm). 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 never 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, fields of study, 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.

Entry/exit border procedures

During entry procedures, students and scholars 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.

Biometric Identity Management

The Department of  Homeland Security's Office of Biometric Identity Management provides biometric identification services that help federal, state and local government decision makers accurately identify the people they encounter and determine whether those people pose a risk to the United States. Upon entry to the United States, all visitors are subject to biometric identification through digital photographs and fingerprinting.

The data collected from F, J or M visa holders will be forwarded to SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System), confirming that the person has entered or exited the United States. For more information, please see thOBIM website.

Travel to Canada, Mexico & Neighboring Islands

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:

  • The time outside the United States must not exceed 30 days and may be spent only in Canada and Mexico (for F, J, H or O) or adjacent islands (for F and 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 I-20, Form DS-2019, or I-797 approval notice (for H and O visa holders). Those in F-1 and J-1 status must have a valid travel signature on the I-20 or DS-2019 Form.
  • 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 a printed copy of the electronic Form I-94 from your most recent entry (available at www.cbp.gov/i94) upon re-entry to the United States.

Many students and 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 an F-1 or J-1 visa holder, you will need a valid travel signature from your IS Advisor before applying for the visa to enter these countries. 

*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 U.S. However, all students (including those on post-completion AT) with an expired J U.S. 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 the 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.