If you are in the US on a J-1 Visa, I am sure you have already dreamed of all the places you are going to visit while in this country. If any of these places are abroad such as Mexico or Canada, you will have to go through the process required to leave the country. This may change depending on the company, but in this post, you will find the general procedure and the paperwork you will need. There is a lot of information out there about going abroad on a J-1 Visa, but many seem confusing. Here it is all neatly and simply organized.
Step 1: See if you have a multi-entry Visa
To know if you have a multi-entry visa, just check on the Visa under entries. If it is an “M”, that means you have a multi-entry visa and can leave the country during your stay. Make sure to check this first, since otherwise you might be stuck in whatever country you are traveling to.
Step 2: Check if your visa will still be valid when you reenter
If you are traveling abroad, make sure your visa is still valid on the date of reentry. This is important so you are let back into the country. You may be able to reenter the country after your visa has expired if you do not need a visa for the US, but nobody could give me a clear answer if this would work or not and if it would cause any issues. Therefore, if you can, try to avoid this option.
Step 3: Get a letter from your host site
To be able to leave and reenter the country, you will need a letter from your host site stating that you are in good standing with the company and everything is going well. This letter should be written by your supervisor or the HR person. Most of the time it will be the same person who signed your Training plan and all the other documents. The letter must include the date you travel and the route you are traveling, for example, direct flight from New York to Toronto.
Step 4: Mail everything to your visa sponsor
Now you have to mail your original DS-2019 form along with the letter to your visa sponsor to be able for them to validate everything. My suggestion is the use FedEx, so you can track your order and be sure everything is going fine. My visa sponsor also required me to send them money and a return address, so they can send the documents back to me via FedEx. Once they arrive at the sponsor it can take up to two weeks for them to validate it, so make sure you send it off in time. For me, it only took them an afternoon to process it, but if they are busier it will probably take longer.
Step 5: Go on your trip
Now that everything has been done, you can go on your trip. Enjoy your time and spend a few days away from the work you do. Make sure you take all the documents mentioned above with you on your trip, otherwise the whole thing was for nothing.
There you have a compact and simple breakdown of the process of going abroad on a J-1 Visa. Hopefully it gives you a bit of clarity which I did not find when I was searching for this information. If you have any other tips or experiences that could be helpful, please share them with us in the comments below or on social media.