Note: This information is intended for J-1 students who are under the J-1 sponsorship of Teachers College's J-1 Exchange Visitor Program, P-1-00189. Students who are sponsored by an external organization (IIE / LASPAU / AMIDEAST / OSI) should contact their sponsoring organization for travel instructions, certification, and information.
In general, the following documents are required for reentry into the U.S.:
The travel signature is made in the lower right hand of your DS-2019, and is done by the Office of International Students and Schoalrs (OISS) at Teachers College. A travel signature or endorsement is valid for a maximum period of one year, or until your DS-2019 expires, whichever is earlier. Note that you do NOT need a travel signature if you do not travel outside of the United States, and that having a travel signature does not mean that you are required to travel.
Upon return to the United States, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will issue a new I-94 admission number record (proof of your legal non-immigrant status information) which should include a "J-1 D/S" - indicating that you are being allowed to re-enter the country as a J-1 student for "duration of status." You can retrieve your I-94 record by visiting the US-CBP website here.
If you have issues accessing your new I-94 record, contact the Office of International Students and Scholars immediately upon your return.
If you are taking a short-term trip, less than 30 days, to one of these destinations and will return to the United States directly, you may return on the basis of an expired J-1 visa: your J-1 visa does not need to be valid in order for you to be eligible to return. However, you must still have a valid passport, an expired or unexpired U.S. visa, your unexpired DS-2019 with a travel signature.
Students who have completed their program of study and have been authorized for J-1 post-completion Academic Training will have a new DS-2019 covering the period of authorized academic training, and are subject to the same J-1 travel requirements indicated above for continuing J-1 students. J-1 students on post-completion Academic Training should also carry evidence of employment, such as a job letter or paystub, indicating current, on-going J-1 employment in accordance with your Academic Training authorization.
J-2 dependents should carry their own individual DS-2019 forms when traveling, whether traveling alone or together with the J-1 student. In addition, each J-2 dependent must have a valid J-2 visa. If the J-2 dependents are traveling alone, it is strongly recommended that they carry copies of the J-1 student's DS-2019, J-1 visa, I-94 record, and Academic Training authorization (if applicable).
Whenever you wish to leave the U.S. temporarily for a trip abroad, check with the consulate of the country you intend to visit regarding entry requirements. You may need to apply for a visa to enter that country. Note that most consulates will not issue you an entry visa if your US visa has expired and/or your DS-2019 has not been endorsed for re-entry to the United States.
U.S. entry visas are issued (a) only at U.S. consulates outside of the United States; and are necessary only for the purpose of re-entering the United States following a temporary absence or trip abroad. You do not need a valid J-1 visa to stay in the U.S. as a J-1 student, but you do need a valid visa to return to the U.S. as a J-1 student (exception: see information about travel to Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean, above), whether to continue studies and/or post-completion Academic Training.
If your visa has or will expire and if you plan to travel, you may need to apply for a new J-1 visa at a U.S. consulate prior to returning (note: Canadian citizens are not required to have entry visas). Plan carefully, as waiting times and application procedures may be lengthy. In general, you will need the following in order to obtain a new J-1 visa:
Useful Web Sites for Applying for a New US Visa