International Travel in J-1 Status

To travel outside the U.S. J-1 students and scholars in J-1s need these documents to re-enter the U.S.:

  • valid passport
  • valid J-1 visa
  • DS-2019 with a current travel signature (i.e. must have been signed within the last 12 months)
  • Current Students are recommended to have a unofficial transcript copy (transcript requests should be submitted to University Registrar).
  • Students on Academic Training (AT) should carry their Academic Training Authorization Letter.
  • Scholars employed by W&M are recommended to carry a paycheck stub copy.

Note: This list only applies to return travel to the U.S.; you must check and see if you need a visa to enter the country (including transit visas) where you are going. Check the website of the embassy of the country you want to visit.

Getting a Travel Signature

Travel signatures cover all return travel to the U.S. for 12 months from the signature date (i.e. you do not need to get a new signature each time you travel). If you travel outside the U.S., in order to re-enter your DS-2019 must have been signed for travel by the Reves Center in the last 12 months. Travel signatures are in the Travel Validation box in the bottom right hand corner of your DS-2019.

If you need a travel signature, complete a Travel Signature Request Form (pdf) and drop it off with your DS-2019 at the Reves Center. Your DS-2019 will be signed and ready for pick-up in 2 business days.

If you have a problem at the U.S. border during regular office hours, call the Reves Center at (757) 221-3594. Outside of regular office hours, contact the W&M Police at (757) 221-4596, and they will contact an International Student Advisor.

Automatic Visa Re-Validation

Returning from Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean Islands
You usually must have a valid visa to return to the U.S. from abroad. However, there is a special provision called Automatic Visa Revalidation that applies to some travel. If you are in J-1 status and your J-1 visa is expired, you may still return to the U.S. from a trip to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean Islands even with an expired visa, provided that you meet all of these conditions:

  • your passport is valid
  • you have a valid DS-2019 with a valid travel signature
  • you have an expired J-1 visa
  • you only go to Canada, Mexico, and/or the Caribbean islands (except Cuba) and do not stay outside the U.S. for more than 30 days
  • you do not apply for a new U.S. visa while abroad (otherwise you have to wait for it to be approved and use it to reenter)
  • you keep your I-94 card when you depart the U.S. (i.e., don’t give it up)
  • you are not a citizen of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan, North Korea, or Cuba

If you changed status while in the U.S. (e.g. H-4 to J-1) using Form I-539 and thus never had an J-1 visa, you can use automatic visa revalidation provision, provided the same conditions above apply. You would need to carry the documents listed above and also your previous visa and a Change of Status Approval Notice (Form I-797). You should also request a letter from the Reves Center that explains your eligibility to re-enter under this provision. 

International Cruise Travel

When you travel on a "closed loop" cruise (beginning and ending the cruise at the same port in the U.S.), your I-94 record will not show your entry date after returning from the cruise. The lack of an entry date in this situation is not an I-94 error. Once you reenter the U.S. after the cruise, your I-94 will be revalidated with no change to your status or previous date of entry.

Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virign Islands

These are U.S. territories and thus an F-1 student does not need a visa to travel to those locations from within the U.S., or to return to the U.S. from those locations.