Travel & Reentry

Keep in mind the following if you plan to travel domestically or internationally.

  • Be aware of any restrictions and requirements for the country you plan to visit.
  • Be sure to carry all of your immigration-related documentation on you at all times.
  • Your intended return to the U.S. may be delayed based on worldwide events or other situations. We strongly encourage all students traveling to have a backup plan should they be required to remain abroad.

Documents Needed for Travel

Student TypeRequired Documents
J-1: Current Student & Their DependentMost recent valid DS-2019 form with a travel signature that is less than 1 year old. Request travel signature in iGlobal. Valid passport (that won’t expire for at least 6 months)Valid J-1 or J-2 visa (except Canadian citizens). Optional documents: evidence of financial resources, official UC Santa Cruz transcript, name and contact information of your International Student Advisor.
J-1: Student on Post-Completion Academic Training (AT)Most recent valid DS-2019 form with a travel signature that is less than 1 year old. Request travel signature in iGlobal. Valid passport (that won’t expire for at least 6 months). Valid J-1 visa (except Canadian citizens). Job offer letter
J-2: Dependent of Student on ATMost recent valid DS-2019 form with a travel signature that is less than 1 year old. Request travel signature in iGlobal. Valid passport (that won’t expire for at least 6 months). Valid J-2 visa (except Canadian citizens). Additional recommended documents: copy of J-1 student’s DS-2019 showing AT and job offer letter

Travel Signatures

Travel signatures are International Student Advisor signatures that can be found on your DS-2019. When ISSP provides a travel endorsement on your document, this confirms to the U.S. government that you are eligible to return to the university. When you travel internationally in J status (including J-2 dependents), you must have a valid travel signature on your DS-2019 at the time of re-entry to the U.S.

Travel Signature Validity

Travel signatures are valid for 12 months or until the expiration date of your DS-2019 (whichever is earlier). Travel signatures are located in the lower right-hand corner on page 1 of the DS-2019. 

For the example listed above:

  • Travel Signature Issued: 11/07/2020
  • Travel Signature expired: 11/06/2021 (1 year validity)

Getting a New Travel Signature

If the travel signature on your DS-2019 is no longer valid, you will need to request a new one. Log into iGlobal and on the left select ISSP J-1 Requests and select Travel Signature and Reprint Request.

For J-1 students:

  • Submit a travel signature request in iGlobal.
  • After the International Student Advisor issues the new DS-2019, they will email you so you know when it’s ready to download and sign. This is considered an original document, and must be signed to be valid for travel.
  • Note: The International Student Advisor‘s signature will be electronic, but the student’s signature must be an original signature printed and signed in ink. 

Applying for or Renewing a J-1 Visa

Applying for or renewing your visa takes time, please plan accordingly. Current visa wait times can be viewed on the State Dept website. Look specifically at the wait times for “student/exchange visitor visas.” Most visa applicants will be required to appear for a personal interview at the consulate/embassy. In addition, security checks can delay visa issuance by several weeks or months.

To renew your visa, you will need the following documents:

J Students and their Dependents Online DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa Application. Valid passport. DS-2019 with proper signatures. Proof of funding as reflected on your DS-2019. Proof of continued enrollment or research documents that demonstrate ties to home country. Students on post-completion AT: DS-2019 with AT details and employment/internship letter. Note: The information above is for general guidance. Please locate your local U.S. Embassy/consulate to find out the specific procedures and documents required for your visa application.
Recommended Additional DocumentsLetter from PI or faculty advisor for those in advanced areas of science or technology in case of background check

Third-Party Countries & Visa Applications

ISSP recommends applying for a new visa in your home country whenever possible. Attempting to renew your visa in a “third-party country” (i.e. not the U.S. and not your home country), can cause application delays or even rejections. Accepting and approving third-party applicants is at the discretion of the specific embassy or consulate you wish to visit.

If you are hoping to renew your visa in a third-party country, you must check with the individual embassy or consulate to which you want to apply. Verify:

  1. If they accept third-party applicants
  2. If it is likely your application will be delayed or rejected, and
  3. If they have an estimated time frame for third-party applications

Often third-party countries must clear your application with your home country, which can cause significant application delays or even rejections.

Visa Validity and Arrest Records

It’s possible that your visa has been revoked without your knowledge if you’ve been arrested or convicted of a crime in the U.S., such as driving under the influence of alcohol or while intoxicated. If you find yourself in this situation, check the validity of your visa with the embassy or consulate where you received it. If it has been revoked or canceled, contact an International Student Advisor. We can help you identify an immigration attorney if the need arises.

Practice your Visa Interview

You will only have 2 or 3 minutes to make your case for the visa. You should be prepared to explain what you are studying, what you plan to do after your studies are completed, why you want to study in the U.S. rather than your home country, and why you will return to your home country after the completion of your studies.

It is important to note that J-1 statuses are strictly non-immigrant statuses; if you show immigrant intent, the visa will be denied. For more tips on applying for a non-immigrant visa, please see 10 Points to Remember When Applying for a Student Visa from NAFSA.

Administrative Processing (Background Check)

Consulates may submit visa applicants to “administrative processing” (background check) for a variety of reasons. These can include (but are not limited to) the applicant’s field of study or research, visa application location, country of citizenship, or connections that are either actual (by citizenship or birth) or assumed, such as with a primarily Arab or Muslim populated country. Students from China, as well as students applying for a visa in a third-party country, are frequently subjected to background checks.

Administrative processing typically takes six to eight weeks to complete and may be repeated. Neither UC Santa Cruz, the embassy, nor the Department of State in Washington can influence the length of the background check.

For more information, visit the U.S. Department of State’s Administrative Processing Information webpage.

Automatic Revalidation

Automatic visa revalidation allows most J-1 students to take a trip of fewer than 30 days to Canada, Mexico, or one of the islands adjacent to the U.S. (with the exception of Cuba) and reenter the U.S. on an expired visa, as long as you have proper documentation and have not applied for a new visa during your visit abroad. This process revalidates your visa for the single trip back to the U.S. but does not renew the visa.

Students who are citizens of Iran, Syria, Sudan, or Cuba, or who requested a J visa during their visit and were denied, are not eligible for automatic revalidation. It also does not apply to those traveling from another country to the U. S. via Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean islands.

To find out whether you are eligible to use Automatic Revalidation, please visit the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement website. You can also consult with an International Student Advisor.

I-515A Form

An I-515A form is given to an J-1 student if they do not present all the required documents when entering the US and is granted only temporary admission at the discretion of the CBP Officer. An I-515A requires J-1 students to submit the documents listed on the I-515A within 30 days to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP).

SEVP will terminate the SEVIS record of any J-1 student who does not comply with the I-515A form within the 30-day response period. If SEVP does not receive the required documentation at the address provided on the I-515A by the expiration date, the student’s SEVIS record will be terminated the next day and they will be required to leave the U.S. immediately.

If the student mails all the required original documents to SEVP by the deadline and SEVP approves his/her continued admission, SEVP will return the DS-2019 to ISSP. An International Student Advisor will then contact the student to pick up their document.

If you receive an I-515A, please be sure to work with an International Student Advisor to resolve it as soon as possible.

Grace Period

The term ‘Grace Period’ refers to the time before and after your J-1 program that you are allowed to stay in the U.S. to prepare for your program or departure. The Grace Period length is different for J-1 students. During your grace period, you are only permitted to engage in particular activities. Your DS-2019 or any other paperwork does not display the grace period.

J-1 Student Grace Period Length:

  • Pre-program: Enter U.S. up to 30 days before your DS-2019 start date
    • This grace period at the beginning of your program allows you time to settle in and begin looking for an on-campus job, if you so choose.
  • Post-program: Following completion of DS-2019 end date, you have a 30-day grace period
    • During the grace period following your end date you may NOT attend classes or work

Activities Allowed in Grace Period

You may not attend classes or work during the grace period following your end date unless you’ve been approved for post-completion OPT or Academic Training. You can, however, complete unfinished work, such as your thesis or dissertation (filing fee status, etc).

The Grace Period is simply a time for you to prepare for departure. You can travel inside the U.S. or apply for another immigration status. If your program of study has ended or you have not been approved for Academic Training, you will not be able to re-enter the U.S. in J status. You have the option of re-entering the U.S. under a different status, such as tourist.

Complying with the Grace Period

Once your DS-2019 end date passes, you must do one of the following by the end of the grace period:

  • Leave the U.S., thus ending your J-1 status
  • J-1: Have approved Academic Training (if eligible)
  • Transfer your SEVIS record to another school (if eligible)
  • Have a Change of Status application pending (consult with your new sponsor for guidance)

Customs Declarations and Items Brought Into the U.S.

You may need to alert Customs officials about certain products you are bringing into the U. S. in your luggage, in addition to giving immigration documents to US officials. Before landing, you will be requested to complete a customs declaration form while aboard the plane. This form must be read carefully and thoroughly filled out.

Certain items, including some foods, are prohibited from entering the United States. For more information, click on the links below.

General Travel Tips

  • Admission to the United States is not guaranteed even if you have valid documents, such as a valid visa. The port of entry officer has authority over admission.
  • Always use the most recently issued DS-2019 form. Copies of previous documents should be saved for record-keeping, but are not necessary for travel.
  • Work authorization in the U.S. does not exempt you from visa requirements.
  • Each time you enter the U.S., your I-94 Record changes. You will be given an Electronic I-94 Record when you re-enter (except during Automatic Revalidation or arriving from a land border, which may be a paper I-94). In most cases, Canadian citizens are given only one I-94 record, which is valid for multiple entries and departures.
  • To leave the U.S, you do not need a travel signature on your DS-2019 form.
  • If you plan to travel to a country other than your home country, make sure you have the necessary entry documents for that country.
  • You should not re-enter the U.S. on a B-1/B-2 visa or via the visa waiver program while you are enrolled at UC Santa Cruz. Under those statuses, enrollment in a course of study and work is prohibited, forcing you to leave and re-enter the U.S. to resume your studies.

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Last modified: Jan 10, 2024