If you plan on coming to the US for six months or more, the odds are pretty good you will return home, or go on a trip outside of the country at least once during your time here.
There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to international travel on a J-1 exchange program:
What Is Considered International Travel?
- Anywhere outside of the United States. Yes, this also includes Canada and Mexico as they are different countries even though we share borders.
Check Your US Visa
- Make sure you received a Multiple Entry Visa. If your visa is for single entry, you won’t be able to re-enter on that visa once you leave even if the dates show it is still valid. Under “Entries” there should be the letter “M” to indicate a Multiple Entry Visa (see image example below).
- Note the expiration date of the visa, highlighted in blue below. If you extended your program with your sponsor, your visa is not automatically extended too. Your sponsor cannot extend your visa, so make sure your trip ends before your visa expires, or you make additional plans during your trip to renew or extend your visa.
- You will also need to obtain Travel Authorization from your sponsor for international travel except for Canada, Mexico, and the Adjacent Islands.
- Note: Not all customs officials receive consistent training, so you may wish to still obtain Travel Authorization for trips to these areas or you may end up with more paperwork.
- It is recommended that you ask about the Travel Authorization process with your sponsor before you start your program, or at least 2-3 weeks in advance in case you have to send paperwork into your sponsor.
How Many Days Will You Be Outside the US?
- Check with your sponsor if they place a limit on international travel during your program. If there is a maximum time they will approve, ask if it is on a per trip basis or if it is the total for your program. You should also ask if it re-sets if you end up extending your program.
- Example: Sponsor ABC has a 30 day limit. Their limit is the total amount of time you can spend outside of the US. It does not reset if you end up staying longer. If you have a 6 month internship and you leave the US for 15 days, then extend for another 6 months, you will only be allowed an additional 15 days of travel outside of the US.
- Want to travel outside the US before or after your J-1 program? Make sure you read up on the Grace Period before planning your trip!