In general, you will need the following documents in order to return to the United States as a J-1 exchange visitor:
Upon return to the U.S., the port of entry officer may stamp your passport with a “J-1 D/S” (for those individuals in J-1 status). This indicates that you are being allowed to re-enter the country in J-1 status for "duration of status," i.e., for the period of your J-1 program as indicated on your DS-2019.
It is also very important to print out your new I-94 admission information after you return to the United States from the port of entry website. We recommend downloading your most recent I-94 record at least 24 hours after entry to the U.S. Make sure your I-94 record has been entered correctly. If there are any errors, please email us a copy of the I-94 so we can advise on next steps.
We ask that you notify the OISS whenever you plan to be outside the US for a prolonged time period so we can update your J-1 record accordingly.
We recommend that you consider obtaining a travel signature on the Form DS-2019 at least 2 weeks before you intend to travel outside the U.S. to obtain a travel signature for re-entry. There are two ways in which you can obtain a travel signature:
Option 1: Sign in to your TC-Compass and complete the J-1 Scholar/Professor Travel Signature Request. Once approved, we will mail your original DS-2019 signed for travel to your preferred address.
Option 2: Bring your most recently issued and original DS-2019 (as well as your dependents’ DS-2019s if they will be traveling with you) to the OISS. Waiting until immediately before your departure may result in you not being able to obtain a signature if the international advisor is out of the office at that time. Please plan ahead when visiting the OISS, particularly around holidays or Teachers College closure days when the OISS may be closed.
A travel signature for J-1 Research Scholar/Professor is valid for up to one year or until the end of the J-1 program end date indicated on the DS-2019, whichever is sooner.
A travel signature for a J-1 Short Term Scholar is valid up to 6 months or until the end of the J-1 program end date indicated on the DS-2019, whichever is sooner.
You do not need a travel signature for every trip you plan to take - a travel signature is valid for multiple trips, provided you have the above documents.
Note that you do not need a travel signature if you do not travel outside the U.S.
J-2 dependents should carry their own individual DS-2019 forms when traveling, whether traveling alone or together with a J-1 exchange visitor. In addition, each J-2 dependent must have a valid J-2 visa upon re-entry to the U.S. If the J-2 dependents are traveling alone, it is strongly recommended that they carry copies of the J-1 exchange visitor's DS-2019, J-1 visa, and I-94 card or electronic I-94 print out.
If you are taking a short trip (less than 30 days) to one of these destinations and will return to the United States directly, you may return with an expired 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 the following:
1) An unexpired passport valid at least six months into the future from the date of re-entry
2) An expired or unexpired J-1 visa
3) Your unexpired DS-2019 with a travel signature from the OISS
Note: You must keep your I-94 card or electronic I-94 print out when you leave the U.S. and have it readily available for re-entry. Simply show your existing I-94 for re-entry purposes, along with your passport, expired / unexpired visa, and signed I-20/DS-2019. However, you must be sure to keep your I-94 card (if applicable). If your I-94 card is taken or lost, you will need to obtain a new J-1 visa from a U.S. Embassy in order to return to the U.S.
Exception: If you go to Canada, Mexico, or the adjacent islands of the Caribbean for the purpose of applying for a new J-1 visa, your visa application must be successful. If it is rejected for any reason, you are not eligible to return to the United States. You must go to your home country and apply for a visa at a U.S. consulate there.
*The adjacent islands include: the Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Hispaniola (Haiti and The Dominican Republic), Jamaica, Martinique, St. Pierre and Miquelon, Trinidad and Tobago, The Leeward Islands (Anguilla, Antigua, Guadeloupe, Nevis, St. Kitts and The British Virgin Islands), The Windward Islands (Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia and St. Vincent) and other British, French or Dutch territories or possessions in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea.