Travel During Your Au Pair Program and Extension Period
Traveling in the United States
Do you want to stand on the sunny beaches of California, explore historical sites in Washington D.C. or go on a ski trip in Colorado? You can! During your au pair year, you are welcome to travel throughout the United States as you please. Be sure to discuss your vacation dates with your host family early on in your program year to make the most of your time off. Any independent travel you do during your year is your responsibility and will be at your own expense. You will need to take your valid DS-2019 Form and an unexpired I-94 card with you to travel to Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
During your first program year you should be able to travel internationally and return to the U.S. without any problem as long as:
- You have a valid unexpired passport
- Your J-1 visa is marked with an "M" under "Entries"in your passport. This means you are allowed multiple entries to the U.S.
- Your J-1 Visa is not expired
- Your DS-2019 form is still valid and is signed in the bottom right "Travel Validation by Responsible Officer" section.
- You check the visa requirements of the country you are traveling to and secure any necessary visas
- You take your passport, DS-2019 form and I-94 card with you
International Travel During Your Extension Year
Once your extension is approved, InterExchange Au Pair USA will issue a new DS-2019 Form reflecting your new extended program dates. This form represents your legal status to remain in the USA as an au pair with your host family. Although your DS-2019 Form will be updated, the J-1 Visa in your passport will have expired at the end of your first 12-month program period. This means you are allowed to remain in the USA for the duration of your extended program, but if you travel outside the USA, you will not be allowed to re-enter even with a valid DS-2019 Form. The only exception would be if you travel to countries that participate in automatic visa revalidation.
While it might be possible to apply for a new J-1 Visa back in your home country, there is no guarantee that the visa will be granted. If your second visa is denied, you will not be able to return to the USA. We strongly discourage you from attempting to secure a new J-1 Visa and invite you to contact us if you have any questions.
Automatic Visa Revalidation
Although your J-1 Visa will have expired at the end of your first year as an au pair, you should still (see below for exceptions) be allowed to travel to Canada, Mexico or one of the Caribbean Islands* and re-enter the United States during your extension period, though this decision is ultimately subject to the discretion of the individual immigration officer at the U.S. border.
As long as you travel in these regions for fewer than 30 days, have a valid DS-2019 Form and an unexpired I-94 card with you, you should be eligible for automatic visa revalidation at the U.S. border upon re-entering the United States to finish your extended au pair program year.
You will not be eligible for automatic visa revalidation if any of the following are true:
- You have applied for a Visa Status change.
- You applied for a Visa Status change while in the USA and were denied.
- You have left the program and your DS-2019 Form has been terminated.
- You were outside the USA for more than 30 days.
- You are citizen of Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan or Syria.
You will not be able to travel to any country that does not participate in the automatic visa revalidation system. You are also not able to visit any country that does not participate in the visa revalidation system if you travel through a visa revalidation country and back to the USA. For example, you cannot travel from Canada (visa revalidation) to Germany (non-visa revalidation) back to Canada. If you do, U.S. immigration will not let you return to the USA. If you choose to travel to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean Islands, keep in mind these important rules.
*Caribbean Islands include:
Anguilla, Antigua, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Barbuda, Bermuda, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Marie-Galante, Martinique, Miquelon, Montserrat, Saba, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Christopher, Saint Eustatius, Saint Kitts-Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Maarten/Saint Martin, Saint Pierre, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, and other British, French and Netherlands territory or possessions bordering on the Caribbean Sea
Travel at the End of Your Program: The 30 Day Travel Period
At the end of your au pair program, you will have a travel period of up to 30 days. Both your DS-2019 Form and J-1 Visa are expired during this time and you are no longer eligible for automatic visa revalidation. If you leave the USA at all during this travel period, you will not be allowed to re-enter the USA and will responsible for paying for your own plane ticket home from where you are visiting.
Additional Rules For Traveling
- Always keep your passport up-to-date. You must have at least six months remaining on your passport before it expires in order to re-enter the USA.
- You may need a visa to enter the country that you are planning to travel to. Your U.S. J-1 Visa does not give you the ability to enter any country except the United States. To see if you need a visa you will need to contact the country’s embassy in the United States before you travel. For example, before you travel to Canada, you will need to contact the Canadian Embassy in the United States and ask them if you need a visa to visit Canada.
- When you travel you will need to take all of your original documents with you. Photocopies are not valid travel documentation.
- If you lost your passport during your first year and need a replacement, you will not be able to travel internationally and return to the U.S., as your replacement passport will not have a J-1 Visa in it. If you are from a visa waiver country and re-enter the U.S. on a tourist visa, you will not be able to legally fulfill your au pair duties.
- The decision regarding whether you are allowed back into the United States is not under InterExchange’s control. While au pairs have rarely had problems in the past, there is always a small chance you will not be allowed back into the U.S. You will need to take this into consideration when making your decision about whether or not to travel. According to the U.S. Department of State, extension au pairs can travel to Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean under the automatic visa revalidation system. However, airlines reserve the right to deny boarding to an au pair whose visa is expired. The U.S. government heavily fines airlines if they do not check for valid visas. Again, the chances of a problem are very small, but always keep it in mind when deciding to travel.