Travel During a J-1 Program

Travel Within the US

Travel within the United States is not restricted for J-1 exchange visitors, and no special documents are required. However, each time that you travel within the US during the standard work week (Monday through Friday) when are you expected to be at your J-1 site of activities, you must inform the Center for Global Health. You will report in country travel through your Terra Dotta Scholar Portal. Once you are logged in to Terra Dotta, navigate to the Requests tab, click J-1 In Country Travel Form, and provide the required information. 

Travel Outside of the US

During your J-1 program, you are permitted to travel outside of the United States. However, any time that you do travel outside of the United States, you do so at your own risk. You are not guaranteed re-entry into the US, and many factors or situations may prevent you from re-entering the US as planned. We have provided you with some basic information below that will help you in preparing for your travel and re-entry into the US. You may also contact the MUSC Center for Global Health (CGH) directly if you have any questions regarding your specific situation and travel plans. 

Travel Duration

In order to maintain J-1 status, you must be continually engaged in the J-1 program activities throughout the duration of the program and cannot take a leave of absence of over 30 days from the program. This means that any out of country travel for personal reasons cannot exceed 30 consecutive days. If you will be engaging in J-1 program activities at a site outside of the United States,  CGH must approve this activity in advance and create an out of country record in the SEVIS system.

Out-of-Country Travel Authorization

You must submit the J-1 Out of Country Travel Form through your Terra Dotta Scholar Portal EACH TIME you plan on traveling outside of the US during your J-1 program. The form must be submitted at least 3 weeks in advanceof the anticipated departure date. However, we recommend that you submit the form earlier if you require a DS-2019 travel signature.  This form is required even if you do not need a new travel signature on your DS-2019 for this trip.

Once you are logged in to your Terra Dotta Scholar Portal, navigate to the Requests tab, and click J-1 Out of Country Travel Form. Read the instructions thoroughly.  Provide the required information upload the required supporting documentation. You will be required to upload a verification of your travel request signed by your sponsoring MUSC department (the form is linked within the instructions panel).

Travel Signature on Form DS-2019

You must have a valid travel signature on your current Form DS-2019. The travel validation signature is found in the bottom right-hand portion of the Form DS-2019. The Form DS-2019 travel signature can only be provided by a Responsible Officer or Alternate Responsible Officer in CGH. Each travel signature is valid for one year. 

If you need a travel signature, you must first submit the Out of Country Travel Form through Terra Dotta.  Once this request is approved, you must then schedule an appointment with a CGH staff member to get the travel signature on your DS-2019 form. Please note that we operate by appointment only for travel signatures, document collection, and meetings and cannot accommodate unscheduled meetings.

J-2 Dependents

The US Department of State advises J-2 spouses and children to accompany the primary J-1 exchange visitor during out of country travel whenever possible. CGH is responsible for monitoring both J-1 and J-2 travel. If your J-2 dependents will travel outside of the US but you will remain in the US, you are still required to inform our office of your J-2 dependents’ travel plans. Each J-2 dependent must also have a valid Form DS-2019 with a valid travel signature.

Travel Documents

You must have the following documents on you (not in your luggage) when you reenter the US:

  • Valid passport
  • Valid J-1 visa*
  • Form DS-2019 issued by MUSC with valid travel signature

* Canadian citizens are exempt from visa requirements.Applying for a New J-1 Visa

The J-1 visa in your passport is a travel document that allows you to request entry into the United States from abroad. If your J-1 visa has expired (or if you do not have a J-1 visa in your passport), you must apply for a new J-1 visa at a US consulate outside the US before you return. It is not possible to obtain a new J-1 visa inside of the US.   

You should take into consideration the time associated with applying for a visa when making your travel plans. The visa application process often takes longer than expected, so advanced planning is essential. Since each US consulate handles visa issuance differently, you must refer to the website of the consulate where you will apply for your visa for more information on visa application procedures and requirements. You can also get an idea of the estimated wait times for visa interview appointments and applications (see the Resources section), but keep in mind that these are estimations, not guaranteed processing times.

Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the visa applicant’s interview with a consular officer. Most administrative processing is resolved within 60 days of the visa interview. When administrative processing is required, the timing will vary based on individual circumstances of each case. MUSC is not able to intervene in the visa application process at the consulates in order to expedite the processing of your application.

If your visa application is selected for administrative processing, you must notify CGH immediately (via e-mail) so that we are aware of your situation. You must also provide the date of your visa interview, location of the consulate and your application case number.

It is recommended that you apply for a visa in your home country of citizenship. Applying for a visa at a consulate in another country is considered applying in a “third country.” Visa processing at a third country consulate can take longer and is a bit more complex. If you want to apply for a visa in a country other than your home country, you must contact the consulate where you want to apply to inquire if they will accept an application from a “third country national.” Furthermore, you will want to allow plenty of time for the processing of your J-1 visa application while abroad, as the application may take longer than normal if you are in a country other than your home country. You must also take any measures necessary to secure an entry visa or travel permission to enter the third country.

Automatic Visa Revalidation 

If your J-1 passport visa has expired, and you are traveling to Canada or Mexico for less than 30 days, you may be eligible for automatic visa validation. This means that you may be able to request re-entry into the US with an expired visa, as long as your travel meets certain criteria, and as long as you have a valid passport, valid DS-2019 form, and valid I-94 record. See the Resources section for more information.

Communication with CGH 

You are required to keep in contact with the Center for Global Health if your travel plans will change. You must contact CGH by e-mail immediatelyif your return to the US is delayed for any reason so that we are aware of your situation. Even if you cannot access your MUSC e-mail account during your travels abroad, you are expected to use your personal e-mail account to contact CGH. 

When you return to the US, you must provide CGH with the following:

Resources for Travel Outside of the United States

Please note that governmental web addresses frequently change. If the below links are broken, you should try a general web search using your keywords, or simply go to the main page for the US Department of State or US Customs and Border Protection and use the search feature within.