AFS-USA travel guidelines are designed to maintain the integrity of AFS Programs and to help students adapt fully to their lives as exchange students in the U.S. AFS Participants have obligations to their host families, communities, and schools. In addition, AFS is responsible for students; AFS must know a student's whereabouts in the event of an emergency. So that student and family travel is managed within the context of these factors, AFS-USA has established the following guidelines.
- Unauthorized student travel away from the host family or host community is strictly prohibited and can result in Program Termination - Early Return.
- Some types of travel do not require special permission and some types require permission from AFS, in the form of a Travel Waiver. The table below outlines the most common situations and what is required.
- Even if a Travel Waiver is not required, the host family should always notify their Liaison or Area Support Coordinator of any overnight stays outside of the host community.
Situation Travel Waiver Required Maximum Length School Absence Permitted Additional Restrictions/Conditions 1 Spending the night with a local friend of the student or host family within the host community No 4 days No Prudent Parent Policy applies for a stay of up to 4 days. Longer stays requires host family screening 2 Travel with host parents or host family household member who is at least 25 years of age (21-24 with AFS Support Coordinator permission) No Subject to school guidelines Yes, as long as it complies with school guidelines and visa requirements None 3 Travel with AFS volunteer who is at least 25 years of age (21-24 with AFS Support Coordinator permission) No Subject to school guidelines Yes, as long as it complies with school guidelines and visa requirements None 4 Required/official school trip (required as condition of being in a school group such as choir or band and with school chaperones) No Subject to school guidelines Yes, as long as it complies with school guidelines and visa requirements None 5 Optional school trip (organized by someone at school such as a teacher but not an official or required trip, such as a senior trip) Yes Subject to school guidelines Yes, as long as it complies with school guidelines and visa requirements None 6 Belo Tours (optional trip; not a required AFS program activity) Yes 14 days Up to 5 days with school permission Case by case for semester students before the last month of the program 7 Travel with organized group in host community such as church or scouts Yes 10 days Up to 5 days with school permission None 8 To visit, without a host parent, a host family not in household such as aunt or grandmother Yes 10 days Up to 5 days with school permission None 9 Natural family or friends from home country come to visit the student in the host community No, if student stays in host community 10 days No Must have been on program for 5 months or in last month of program. Strongly recommend no visit prior to the last month of program. Natural family members should not plan to stay with the host family but rather are expected to arrange for their own plact to stay 10 Travel with natural family or friends (who are at least 25 years of age) from student's home country who are visiting the U.S Yes 10 days No Must have been on program for 5 months or in last month or program. Strongly recommend no visit prior to the last month of program 11 To visit friends or family member over the age of 25 from student's home country who live in the U.S Yes 10 days No Must have been on program for 5 months or in last month of program. Any exception must be approved by AFS-USA staff 12 To visit the home of the host family of another AFS'er from student's home country who is hosted in the U.S Yes 10 days No Must have been on program for 5 months or in last month of program. Any exception must be approved by AFS-USA staff. Requires permission of other AFS'ers support coordinator 13 Other travel Yes 10 days No Case by case basis
Trips that require a Travel Waiver (including Belo Tours) have these basic conditions/restrictions:
- Approval is required from: the Host Parents, AFS-USA, AFS or partner office in the student’s home country, Natural Family (who signs/submits the Travel Waiver through their home country AFS off ice), and the local AFS Support Coordinator.
- Travel may not interfere with host family plans or mandatory AFS events.
- Student must not be experiencing adaptation problems.
- Travel must not be detrimental to the student-host family relationship.
- Travel must be deemed safe by AFS-USA staff, taking into consideration mode of transportation, time of day, duration, stops, etc.
- Request should be submitted at least 3 weeks prior to the date of travel. Only after approval has been granted should the student begin making concrete travel plans.
- Students may not travel alone outside of the U.S. while on program.
- Travel must be completed at least one w eek prior to the End of Stay activity in the host community.
- If the trip is outside of the U.S., the DS-20 19 form must be signed and natural parent permission obtained prior to making final arrangements. Sponsored Program participants must also get Department of State (DoS) permission, including DS 2019 signature by DoS staff, for out-of-country t ravel. Travel outside of the country can only be with the Host Family or other authorized/organized group. Student is responsible for securing a visa if required.
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 student’s proposed departure date. All of the following steps must be taken before AFS can give its approval for an Independent Travel request. Only once approval has been gained, should the student begin making any definite travel plans:
- The student must first obtain approval for independent travel from host family, Team Support Coordinator or designated volunteer and AFS staff. The student should inform host family and volunteers of the dates and destinations of the proposed travel as well as the purpose of the trip.
- In all cases of participant travel, the student must provide emergency contact information to an AFS volunteer or staff person. This contact information should include:
- The student’s travel plans and itinerary
- How the student can be contacted in case of emergency
- If host family and Team Support Coordinator or designated volunteer do not grant permission, then the student will not be allowed to go on the trip.
- If host family and volunteers approve the student’s request for travel, volunteers must confirm the plans with AFS-USA
- Natural parent permission is required for all Independent Travel. The student 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 student’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 student during the travel period. Students are not released from the terms and conditions of the AFS Participation Agreement during travel.
- The AFS office in the student’s home country will forward a signed copy of the Travel Waiver to AFS-USA. Students may not travel until the signed waiver has been received by the National Service Center. When the preceding steps have been completed the student is free to make travel arrangements. A student may not make travel arrangements until these steps are completed and the travel is approved by all parties.
- If a student wishes to travel outside the U.S, the student should check his/her passport to ensure that s/he has a multiple-entry visa and that the visa expiration date is after the date the student intends to re-enter the U.S. A single-entry visa will not allow a student to travel to another country and return to the U.S. The student is responsible for contacting the consulate of the country to be visited to obtain any necessary visas to travel to that country. At least two weeks ahead of time, the student must send her/his DS-2019 form (a form stapled to the inside of the passport to the National Service Center to be signed)
- Please be advised that a visa maybe required for a host student to travel to Canada or Mexico. It is the student’s responsibility to determine whether a visa is necessary and to obtain one if so. Students may contact their local Canadian or Mexican consulate for further information or consult the following websites:
Embassy of Canada – click here
Embassy of Mexico – click here
- If a Sponsored Programs participant (YES or CB) travels anywhere outside of the United States, he or she must gain prior permission from the U.S. Department of State, as well as endorsement of his/ her Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visit or ( J-1) Stat us ( DS-20 19 Form) by the U.S. Department of State officer. To do this, please contact the Travel and Logistics Coordinator who will confirm permission for travel with the YES or CB Sponsored Programs Specialist and the partner country and natural parents. This process must begin at least three weeks prior to the intended travel departure date.
The Sponsored Programs staff will secure the necessary approval from the Department of State Program Officer and will provide directions for w here to send the DS-2019 for endorsement at the U.S. Department of State.
Official document titled "Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status" issued by the US Department of State (DoS) and required to enter the U.S. This document must be validated by AFS-USA (or DoS for Sponsored Programs students such as CBYX and YES) before the participant travels outside the U.S. Validation of the document is processed by AFS-USA travel staff and takes at least 2 weeks (3 weeks for Sponsored Programs students).