Independent Travel Guidelines – 2017-18

AFS-USA travel guidelines are designed to maintain the integrity of AFS Programs and to help
participants adapt fully to their lives as exchange participants in the U.S. AFS Participants have
obligations to their host families, communities, and schools. In addition, AFS is responsible for
participants; AFS must know a participant’s whereabouts in the event of an emergency. So that
participant travel is managed within the context of these factors, AFS-USA has established the
following guidelines. Should a participant travel without complying with AFS-USA travel guidelines,
the action can be considered grounds for Early Return to the home country.

Guidelines for all types of travel

All participant travel must be in accordance with these guidelines:

  • AFS Participants will not be allowed to travel independently until after they have been on the
    program for five months or are in the final month of their program.
  • Host family must first approve travel plans.
  • If host family has approved the travel plans the participant must then get the approval of the
    Volunteer Team Support Coordinator or other designated volunteer in his or her region.
  • Travel must also be approved by the AFS-USA staff in the national office.
  • Travel does not interfere with school (unless a participant travels on a school-organized activity).
    • (With the approval of the host family, natural family, host school, and AFS-USA, students would
      be allowed to miss up to 5 days of school to attend a Belo Tour)
  • Travel does not interfere with attendance at compulsory AFS events. This includes
    school-sponsored travel.
  • Travel does not interfere with host family plans to pursue activities with a participant, especially
    holiday plans.
  • Travel does not interfere with the participant’s adaptation or integration. Travel will not be allowed
    if a participant is experiencing adaptation problems of any kind. Frequent travel does not
    encourage integration in the host family and host community. Approval for travel may be denied if
    a participant has traveled recently or on previous trips.
  • Travel does not exceed 10 days.
  • Travel does not violate AFS safety guidelines.
  • NO crossing the border into Mexico without prior AFS approval. Due to the great risks
    currently associated with crossing the Mexico border without an AFS Representative or host family
    parent, AFS-USA will enforce a strict “no tolerance” policy for any student who violates this
    guideline and crosses the Mexican border for any reason without prior AFS approval. Students who
    cross the border without written permission from the ATSC or other designated Team
    representatives are subject to an immediate early return from the AFS Program.

Types of travel

There are several categories of AFS-sanctioned travel. Formal permission from AFS-USA and a
signed travel waiver from natural parents are not required for the following types of trips:

  • Travel that is part of an activity organized by the school the AFS Participant attends, i.e. sports events, fieldtrips, school excursions etc. These activities must have school sponsored chaperones to qualify under this category.
  • Travel on an AFS-sponsored trip.
  • Travel with an AFS Volunteer who is at least 25 years of age.
  • Travel with an AFS Volunteer 21-24 years of age with Team approval.
  • Travel with the host family member who is at least 25 years of age.
  • Travel with the host family member 21- 24 years of age with Team approval.

All other types of travel are classified as Independent Travel and require formal approval from
AFS-USA and the AFS Office in the participant’s home country. Independent travel includes travel
alone; travel with the participant’s natural family, relatives or with non-AFS groups. A participant is
considered “traveling independently” whenever he or she is away from his or her host community for
a period of time that involves one or more overnight stays, or in some exceptions, an extended day
trip away from the community. “Host community” is any community which the participant routinely
travels for shopping, medical appointments, entertainment, etc. In any case, it is the responsibility of
the participant to ensure that their Liaison is informed of where they will be traveling and how to
contact them in case of an emergency.

As AFS prefers that students not miss school, trips will be offered during winter and spring breaks
as well as in June for those students who finish school early. While AFS prefers students not miss
school, we recognize the enhancement (very similar to AFS’s own bus trips 1947-1998) that Belo
trips bring to our program and acknowledge that in some cases it is entirely appropriate for students
to take part even if they miss some school. Therefore, the AFS-USA National Council recently
approved an amendment to the AFS Independent Travel Policy that allows students to attend Belo
and miss up to 5 days of school with host family permission and the consent of the host school and
AFS-USA.

Steps to obtain approval for independent travel

All requests for independent travel must be made to the Team Support Coordinator or designated
volunteer at least three weeks prior to the participant’s proposed departure date. All of the following
steps must be taken before AFS can give its approval for an Independent Travel request. Only after
approval has been gained, should the participant begin making any definite travel plans:

  1. The participant must first obtain approval for independent travel from host family, Team Support
    Coordinator or designated volunteer and AFS Staff. (If the participant is going to miss any school
    for a trip with Belo Tours, the participant must also obtain approval from the school.) The
    participant should inform host-family and volunteers the dates and destinations of the proposed
    travel as well as the purpose of the trip. In all cases of participant travel, the participant must
    provide emergency contact information to an AFS Volunteer or staff person. This contact
    information should include

    • The participant’s travel plans and itinerary
    • Accommodations
    • How the participant can be contacted in case of emergency.

    If host family and Support Coordinator or designated volunteer do not grant permission,
    then the participant will not be allowed to go on the trip.

  2. If host family and volunteers approve the participant’s request for travel, volunteers must confirm
    the plans with AFS-USA.
  3. Natural parent permission is required for all Independent Travel. The participant is responsible
    for contacting the Natural Family to inform them of the travel request. The natural family must
    then make a formal request to the AFS Office in the participant’s home country for a Travel Waiver. A Travel Waiver releases AFS-USA from any costs, arrangements, or responsibility for
    any actions to or by the participant during the travel period. Participants are not released from
    the terms and conditions of the AFS Participation Agreement during travel.
  4. The AFS Office in the participant’s home country will forward a signed copy of the Travel Waiver
    to AFS-USA. Participants may not travel until the signed waiver has arrived in the National
    Service Center. When the preceding three steps have been completed, the participant is free to
    make travel arrangements. A participant may not make travel arrangements until these steps are
    completed and the travel is approved by all parties.

If you have any questions regarding visits or travel policy, please contact the National Service
Center at 1-800-876-2377

Participant travel outside the U.S.

U.S. Reentry Documents. Participants (with J-1 visa) who would like to go on vacation with their
host parents out of the U.S. must make sure they have the following travel documents: valid
passport, endorsed DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor J-1 Status), multiple-entry
J-1 visa stamp, and I-94 Arrival/Departure Card. See important details below re: Verifying documents
for foreign participants traveling outside the U.S.

Entry documents for countries to be visited. It is the responsibility of participants to contact the
consular offices in the U.S. or consult the consular website of the country(ies) they are to visit and
make sure that they have the proper visa and documentation to be admitted to that country.

Travel to Canada and Mexico. Please be advised that a visa may be required for a hosted
participant to travel to Canada or Mexico. It is the participant’s responsibility to determine whether
a visa is necessary and to obtain one. Contact the local Canadian or Mexican consulate for further
information or consult the following websites:

Canada and Mexico also require minors entering their countries to present a Parental Consent Form.
This is a notarized letter of permission signed by either or both natural parents (not present at the
crossing) giving the participant permission to travel without them. Photo or fax copies will not be
accepted, the form with original parental signature/s and notary seal is required. The Parental
Consent Form should not be sent to AFS as it is not an AFS requirement, but rather the natural
parents should send the form directly to the participant. Not all border officials demand to see the
form, nevertheless, it is a requirement and therefore it is important that minor visitors are able to
present it upon demand. In order to avoid additional border processing or delays, it is necessary for
host parents and student to be well informed of the immigration requirements for country/ies to be
visited.

Automatic Revalidation of U.S. Visa. For participants with an expired J-1 visa stamp in their
passports and valid I-94 cards, their visas will be considered automatically revalidated when they
re-enter the U.S. from Canada or Mexico as long as ALL of the following are true, they: 1) have been in Canada or Mexico for less than 30 days, 2) have a current I-94 card stating valid status, 3) have
an expired J-1 visa in the passport, 4) are in possession of an endorsed DS-2019 form, 5) do not apply
for a U.S. visa while in Canada or Mexico, and 6) are not from one of the countries currently
considered by the U.S. federal government to be state sponsors of terrorism.

For automatic revalidation to apply, participants must be careful NOT to surrender their I-94 card
when leaving the U.S. They have to present the I-94 card along with their valid passport, expired
visa, and DS-2019, when they reenter the U.S. For details, refer to the following website under the
section entitled Re-entry into the U.S. — Important information at
http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/without/without_1260.html. For the complete ruling see:
http://travel.state.gov/visa/laws/telegrams/telegrams_1441.html

In the case of a Sponsored Program participant (YES, FLEX and CB scholarship recipients), the
documentation is the same as above except that the Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visiting
(J-1) Status (DS-2019) can only be endorsed by the US Department of State. (See Verifying
Documents for Sponsored Programs Participants Traveling Outside the U.S. section for a description
of the signature process).

Verifying documents for foreign participants traveling outside the U.S.

  1. Participant must verify that his or her passport is valid. Check the front of the passport to
    determine the expiration date. An expired passport cannot be used for international travel. The
    passport must first be renewed at the consulate with jurisdiction over the participant’s state or
    city of residence.
  2. Verify that the participant’s J-1 visa is valid. The J-1 visa appears as a holographic stamp on the
    passport. Also check that the visa allows “multiple entries”. An expired or “single entry” visa
    cannot be used to re-enter the United States. (See exceptions – Automatic Revalidation of U.S.
    visa).
  3. Make sure that the white I-94 Arrival/Departure Card is stapled to the passport. The I-94 card
    should be surrendered when departing the U.S., but a new card with new admission number will
    need to be completed upon re-entry to the United States, except in the case of Automatic
    Revalidation. The SEVIS ID number (printed at the top right of the DS-2019) will not change.
    Canadian or Mexican nationals returning to their home country should surrender their I-94 card
    as they enter their country, and obtain a new I-94 card the next time they enter the United States.
  4. The participant must ensure that the Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status
    (DS-2019) has been endorsed by The Aternative Responsible Officer in the AFS National Service
    Center prior to traveling outside the US. The participant should mail the Certificate of Eligibility
    (DS-2019) to the attention of the Travel and Logistics Coordinator at least three weeks before
    the intended travel. The Alternative Responsible Officer will endorse the form, which states that
    a participant is in good standing with the program and will return the form by mail to the
    participant. If the participant wishes for the form to be returned by overnight or any
    other type of courier service, they must include a prepaid mailing envelope for this
    purpose. Forms received without pre-paid courier envelopes will be sent back by regular
    mail. (Please note, the signature required on the Certificate of Eligibility (DS-2019) is that of the
    “Responsible Officer.”#See also Travel Checklist.

Verifying documents for sponsored programs participants traveling outside the U.S.

  1. 1. Participant must verify that his or her passport is valid. Check the front of the passport to determine the expiration date. An expired passport cannot be used for international travel. The
    passport must first be renewed at the consulate with jurisdiction over the participant’s state or
    city of residence.
  2. Verify that the participant’s J-1 visa is valid. The J-1 visa appears as a holographic stamp on the
    passport. Also check that the visa allows “multiple entries”. An expired or “single entry” visa
    cannot be used to re-enter the United States. (See exceptions – Automatic Revalidation of U.S.
    visa).
  3. Make sure that the white I-94 Arrival/Departure Card is stapled to the passport. The I-94 card
    should be surrendered when departing the U.S., but a new card with new admission number will
    need to be completed upon re-entry to the United States, except in the case of Automatic
    Revalidation. The SEVIS ID number (printed at the top right of the DS-2019) will not change.
    Canadian or Mexican nationals returning to their home country should surrender their I-94 card
    as they enter their country, and obtain a new I-94 card the next time they enter the United States.

As stated in the Participants Traveling Outside the U.S. section above, if a Sponsored Programs
participant (YES, FLEX or CB) travels anywhere outside of the United States, he or she must gain
prior permission from the US Department of State, as well as endorsement of his/her Certificate of
Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status (DS2019 form) by the US Department of State officer. To
do this, please contact the Travel and Logistics Coordinator who will confirm permission for travel
with the YES, FLEX, or CB Sponsored Programs Specialist. This process must begin at least three
weeks prior to the intended travel.

The Sponsored Programs staff will secure the necessary approval from the Department of State
Program Officer, and will provide directions for where to send the DS2019 for endorsement at the
US Department of State.

Note: the original DS2019 form must be sent via courier (UPS, FedEx, etc) when going to the US
Department of State, as all standard postal service documents are delayed by weeks in their internal
screening processes. Students must also include a pre-paid mailing envelope for return. Any forms
received without prepaid courier envelopes, will be sent back by regular mail, and we cannot
guarantee how quickly they will be returned.

All participants must verify that they have an “I-94 Card” stapled into their passport. When a
participant takes a trip outside the US, this card will be taken on departure from the country and a
new “I-94 Card” will be issued by U.S. Immigration upon his or her return. All participants must
verify that they have an entry visa, if needed, for the country being visited. They must check with the
nearest consulate of the country being visited to determine whether an entry visa is required for the
participant. This will depend on the country of citizenship of the participant. The address and phone
number of the consulate can be obtained through your local travel agency. Some visas take as long
as nine weeks to obtain, so it is important to inquire well in advance about visa requirements.