Travel During an Active J-1 Program

Travel Within the United States

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 activity, 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, and provide the required information. 

Travel Outside of the United States

During your active J-1 program, you are permitted to travel outside of the United States. However, please keep in mind that any time that you travel outside of the United States, you do so at your own risk. Nonimmigrant J-1 visa holders are not guaranteed re-entry into the United States. Many factors or situations may prevent you from re-entering the US as planned.

We have provided you with some general information below that will help you in preparing for your travel and re-entry into the US. You can also contact the Center for Global Health 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 you 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 are a Research Scholar or Professor and you would like to participate in J-1 program activities at a site outside of the United States for an extended duration (over 30 days), you can apply in advance for out of country program participation authorization. The Center for Global Health must approve this request in advance and create an out of country record in the SEVIS system. Out of country program participation authorization is granted solely at the discretion of the Center for Global Health and is not guaranteed. Refer to the J-1 Out of Country Program Participation page for more details.

Out of Country Travel Request

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

Before submitting the request in Terra Dotta, you must get the J-1 Out of Country Travel Department Verification form signed by your faculty supervisor and an administrator in your sponsoring MUSC department. If you do not know which administrator in your department should sign this form, please ask your faculty supervisor.

To submit the request, log 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 (the completed  J-1 Out of Country Travel Department Verification form). Ensure that the form has both signatures before uploading.

A Center for Global Health advisor will notify you by email once your request has been processed.

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 the Center for Global Health. Each travel signature is valid for one year. 

If you need a travel signature, you must first submit the J-1 Out of Country Travel request through Terra Dotta. Once this request is approved, you will then be notified to schedule an appointment with an advisor in the Center for Global Health to get the travel signature on your Form DS-2019. Please note that we operate by appointment only for travel signatures 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. As the program sponsor, MUSC 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 the Center for Global Health 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 embassy/consulate outside the US before you return. It is not possible to obtain a new J-1 visa while you are physically present in the United States.

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 should 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, but keep in mind that these are estimations, not guaranteed processing times.

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 should 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.

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, please notify the Center for Global Health immediately so that we are aware of your situation. Please provide the date of your visa interview, location of the consulate and your application case number. 

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 Form DS-2019, and valid I-94 record. Refer to the DOS Automatic Visa Revalidation webpage for more information. 

Communication with the Center for Global Health

You are required to keep in contact with the Center for Global Health if your travel plans will change. You must contact CGH immediately if 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 email account during your travels abroad, you are expected to use your personal email account to contact CGH. 

Return to the United States

When you return to the US, you must submit the following documents:

  • I-94 admission record (retrieved from the CBP I-94 website)
  • Copy of new J-1 visa in passport (if applicable)
  • Copy of new passport biographic page (if applicable)

You will submit these documents through the Submit Arrival Documentation request within your Terra Dotta Scholar Portal. Once you are logged in to Terra Dotta, navigate to the Requests tab, click Submit Arrival Documentation, and proceed with uploading the documents and providing the necessary information. 

You are required to complete the Submit Arrival Documentation request in Terra Dotta each time you enter the United States after travel abroad during your J-1 program. You must complete a separate Submit Arrival Documentation request for any J-2 dependents who also traveled and re-entered the US.