J-1 Travel

Required documents for re-entering the United States in J status

Both J-1 students and their J-2 dependents must have the following documents to reenter the United States: 

  • Passport that is valid for six months beyond entry date to the U.S. or valid passport from a country on the passport agreement list
  • Valid J-1 or J-2 entry visa
  • Properly endorsed and valid DS-2019
  • Documentation of the funding as it appears on the DS-2019

If your DS-2019 was issued by the University of Illinois, you should bring the above-mentioned documents to International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) at least one full week in advance of your departure from Champaign-Urbana. In some cases, an ISSS advisor will endorse your DS-2019 to travel. In others, we will need to prepare a new DS-2019, especially if the information on your current DS-2019 is no longer valid, or if your dependents will travel separately from you. If your DS-2019 was issued by a sponsoring agency, you should contact your program sponsor well in advance of your travel for instructions and assistance regarding your travel. Citizens of Canada do not need a U.S. entry visa.

Travel with an expired U.S. entry visa

In some cases, a new entry visa is required to reenter the U.S.; in other cases it is not.

IMPORTANT: Once the program end date on your I-20/DS-2019 document has passed, you will NOT be able to travel outside of the US and re-enter in your current status during your 30-day grace period.  This includes to automatic revalidation countries. 

Travel of less than 30 days to Canada, Mexico, or a Caribbean Island (other than Cuba):You do not need to apply for a new U.S. entry visa if you plan to travel to a contiguous territory for less than 30 days, provided that you have the required documents for re-entry to the United States. This is known as "automatic revalidation". Do not surrender your I-94, before you leave the U.S.; if you do so, you must obtain a new visa to return. If you received an electronic I-94 then prior to your trip print out your electronic admission record from www.cbp.gov/i94 and secure it with your other immigration documents. Citizens of Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Libya, Sudan, Syria, and Cuba are not eligible for automatic revalidation. People with cancelled visas are not eligible for automatic revalidation and also people with single entry visas may not be eligible for automatic revalidation, as a single entry visa may be presumed cancelled.  Finally, if you apply for a new U.S. entry visa in a contiguous territory, you may not reenter the U.S. using automatic revalidation.

Travel to any other country: You must apply for a new entry visa in an U.S. Embassy or Consulate General.  Students must present the following documents to the visa officer:

  1. valid passport
  2. properly endorsed valid DS-2019
  3. any previously issued I-797 approval notices for change of status
  4. documents verifying the financial resources appearing on your DS-2019 (for example, a letter of financial aid, bank statement, letter verifying employment)

The specific Embassy or Consulate that you will be applying for your U.S. entry visa at may require additional documentation. It is advisable to contact the Embassy or Consulate prior to your interview to obtain a full list of required documents.

J-2 dependents must also show proof of relationship to the J-1 principal (birth or marriage certificate). The documents, procedures, and processing time required to obtain a visa can vary from post to post. Click here for links to many U.S. Embassies abroad or here for general information about applying for a U.S. entry visa.

Special cautions for U.S. entry visa renewal

If you need a new entry visa to return to the U.S., you should be aware that there is never a guarantee that one will be issued. Certain factors may complicate your visa application. Following is a list of some of the more common potential pitfalls:

  • You must have the proper documents with you when you apply for a new visa. It is critical that you stop by International Student and Scholar Services at least one full week prior to your departure from Champaign-Urbana. Bring your passport and DS-2019(s) with you. The receptionist can determine what must be done with your documents to assist you in applying for a new entry visa. You should also check specific requirements for visa issuance in the particular U.S. Embassy or Consulate General where you will apply. 
  • Students whose field of study or research appears on the Department of State Critical Fields List may experience visa issuing delays of at least 30 additional days while a Security Advisory Opinion is sought.  There is no way to expedite this process.  Make your travel plans accordingly.
  • It may be more difficult to obtain a renewal of your entry visa if you are engaged in academic training after completion of studies. You should be prepared to document strong ties to your home country.
  • It can be more challenging to obtain a new U.S. entry visa outside of your country of citizenship or permanent residence. You may be asked to apply for the visa in your home country. If you decide to apply for a U.S. entry visa outside of your home country, you should contact the Consulate or Embassy where you will be applying to find out if you need to provide any extra documentation.
  • You must have an appointment to make a visa application in an U.S. Consulate in Canada or Mexico. Visit www.nvars.com to make your appointment.  It may take several weeks to get an appointment. Be sure to check with the Canadian or Mexican Consulate to see if you need a visa to enter either country. Keep in mind that it may be difficult to get a U.S. entry visa in either country.  If you apply for a U.S. entry visa in Canada, Mexico, or one of the adjacent Caribbean islands, you may not re-enter the United States using the "automatic revalidation" benefit.
  • You may need an entry visa for countries other than your own, even if you are passing through in transit. Please contact the Consulate or Embassy for the country or countries that you will be visiting for more information.

Click here for points to consider when applying for a non-immigrant visa.

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