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Traveling Outside the U.S. During Study

The following information is intended for students in J-1 status under the sponsorship of Boston University's Exchange Visitor Program.  While the information below may be helpful to individuals sponsored by other exchange visitor programs (e.g., Fulbright, Humphrey, etc.) it is recommended that you consult with your sponsor regarding travel and, in particular, travel signatures.

Travel to Home Country
If you plan to travel to your country of citizenship or legal permanent residence, you should only require a valid passport or other travel document issued by that country to ensure entry.

For Entry to Another Country

Be sure to contact the embassy or consulate in the U.S. of the country or countries you intend to visit in order to verify their visa requirements.  Visa requirements of countries do change, so it is always safest to have the most current information before you travel.  You can be turned away at the border or denied boarding at the airport/seaport if you do not possess the appropriate visa to enter the country of destination.

For Return to the U.S.

Required Documents
Many students choose to travel outside the United States during the course of their study, often returning to their home country during summer or winter school breaks, or visiting other countries for vacations. In addition, many Boston University students take advantage of visiting Canada due to its close proximity to Boston.


Anyone may leave the U.S. at any time. However, to return to the United States in valid J-1 status, you are required to hold the following documents:

  • Valid passport at least 6 months into the future

  • Valid J-1 visa stamp

  • Your Form DS-2019 endorsed by the responsible officer (RO) or alternate responsible officer (ARO) at the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO). This "travel signature" indicates that you are in good standing at BU and are eligible to return. Only an RO/ARO at the ISSO is authorized to sign your Form DS-2019. An RO/ARO travel authorization signature is valid for one year except for travel to Canada, Mexico and adjacent islands, in which case the signature is valid for six months.

Travel Signatures
To request a travel authorization signature on your Form DS-2019, please visit the ISSO with your passport and most recent Form DS-2019. Travel signature requests are processed in one business day. However, in case of complications with your documents or record, we recommend that you request your travel signature at least one week in advance of the day you plan to travel.

If you plan to visit a country other than your home country, please consult the embassy or consulate of that country to find out if you will require a tourist visa to enter. You may find information about foreign embassies and consulates in the U.S. by visiting

If you have been on a study abroad program or have interrupted your studies for any reason (such as a certified Leave of Absence) you may need a new Form DS-2019 to return to the United States. Please contact your International Student Advisor at the ISSO for more information.

If the J-1 stamp in your passport is expired and you will be traveling outside the U.S., you will need to apply for a new visa stamp in order to reenter the U.S., except when traveling to Canada, Mexico or adjacent islands. Please see "Obtaining a J-1 Visa and Entering the U.S."

Visiting Canada, Mexico or Adjacent Islands
Traveling to territories that are contiguous to the United States or in the neighboring Caribbean should generally be treated like travel to any other country.  However, there are special exceptions that allow for an easier return to the U.S. if you have an expired J-1 visa.


Boston University
May 7, 2013

Boston University International Students & Scholars Office