Note: Independent travel is not permitted while COVID restrictions are in place.
AFS-USA travel guidelines are designed to maintain the integrity of AFS Programs and to help participants 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 participants; AFS must know a participant's whereabouts in the event of an emergency. So that participant and family travel is managed within the context of these factors, AFS-USA has established the following guidelines.
Unauthorized participant 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 and the participant's parents in their home country 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.
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 participant's home country, parent(s)/guardian(s) in the home country (who signs/ submits the Travel Waiver through their home country AFS office), and the local AFS Support Coordinator.
- Travel may not interfere with host family plans or mandatory AFS events.
- Participant must not be experiencing adaptation problems.
- Travel must not be detrimental to the participant-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 participant begin making concrete travel plans.
- Travel must be completed at least one week prior to the End of Stay activity in the host community.
- If trip is outside of the U.S., the DS-2019 form must be signed and parent/guardian 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 travel.
- Travel outside of the country can only be with the Host Family or other authorized / organized group. Participant is responsible for securing a visa if required.
|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 nights||No||Prudent Parent Stays applies for a stay of up to 4 days. Longer stays requires host family screening|
|2||Travel with host parents, AFS approved host family (such as exchange friend’s family) 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||Travel Waiver required if taking public transportation alone||10 days||Up to 5 days with school permission||If the stay is longer than 4 nights the family must complete a host family application.|
|9||Friends from home country come to visit the student in the host community||No, as long as student stays in host community. The student is not permitted to stay at hotel with the friends 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. Friends should not plan to stay with the host family but rather are expected to arrange for their own place to stay|
|10||Travel with sending family from home country||No||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||Travel with 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|
|12||To visit friends 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|
|13||To visit the home of the host family of another AFS'er who is hosted in the U.S. and the student is travelling alone to the host family home||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|
|14||Other travel||Yes||10 days||No||Case by case basis|
Area Support Coordinator – AFS volunteer in charge of Support in the local team.
Host community – the immediate area in which the participant lives and goes to school.
Outside of the U.S. – places outside of the United States and its territories.
DS-2019 – 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, FLEX, 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).
Prudent Parent Policy
On occasion, host parents may need to leave a participant in the care of a friend or relative for short periods of time. This is permitted when a business trip, family emergency, or other unavoidable situation requires the temporary absence of the host family for up to four nights. In such cases, the host family may treat the participant as they would their own family member and arrange for appropriate, temporary care without first obtaining permission from AFS. However, prior to leaving their participant with another responsible adult or family, the host parents must inform their AFS liaison of: (1) the duration of the stay, and (2) complete contact information for the adult or family with whom the participant will temporarily reside. In these cases, the friend or relative who will host the participant on a temporary basis is not required to complete the AFS application process.
If the temporary absence exceeds four days and/or the host parents are unable to provide temporary care for a participant and need assistance from AFS, AFS volunteers or staff will identify a screened family for the temporary placement.