Travel During the Exchange
Since the main objective of the exchange is for the student to experience life with a U.S. family and attend a U.S. high school, travel should be viewed only as a possible ancillary benefit of the exchange experience rather than as a prime component; however, United Studies does acknowledge that travel can expose students to a greater sampling of the United States’ people and landscapes and therefore does allow students to take advantage of some travel opportunities that arise, provided that these opportunities are in accordance with United Studies’ policies.
The travel policies that follow are designed to protect the safety and well-being of the student and make the exchange experience as positive as possible for the student, host family, and host school. According to these policies, United Studies, its representatives, its partner and third party organizations, and the student’s host family or families have the authority to determine the student’s travel within the United States. The student and natural parent(s) agree to these policies prior to the start of the program. Since exchange students are in the United States on a visa that is sponsored, or arranged by, United Studies, these policies apply to the entire duration of the student’s stay in the United States, until the very end of the exchange when he or she departs for his or her home country.
United Studies students may be allowed to travel during the exchange if travel is:
- with the host family,
- on a trip sponsored by United Studies,
- on a school- or church-sponsored trip, or
- with the student’s natural parents near the end of the program
The student will not be permitted to travel:
- without a chaperone over 25 years old,
- without approval from United Studies,
- if the travel would require absence from school and the student is on an Academic or Behavioral Adjustment plan, or
- if the travel would require absence from school and the number of days the student has already been absent from school is deemed by United Studies or the school to be too high to approve additional absences.
Travel without an approved adult is not allowed under any circumstances.
All travel requires formal permission from United Studies except:
- local short-term trips with the host family that require no absence from the school, and
- activities within the host community for which the host family has granted the student permission, such as sleepovers.
Even in cases of travel not requiring formal permission from United Studies, the Area Representative should be made aware of the plans.
When planning for travel that does require formal permission from United Studies, the student must complete and submit a travel request form. No money should be invested in travel plans until United Studies has granted approval. In the event that permission to travel were denied, United Studies would not be responsible for any travel expenses already incurred.
The travel request form will require signature by:
- the student’s host parent(s);
- the student’s natural parent(s), if the trip is outside the United States;
- the student’s U.S. school, if absence from school will be required; and
- the student.
For domestic travel, permission forms should be submitted at least two weeks in advance of travel. For international travel, forms should be submitted at least six weeks in advance, though earlier is better. Submitting these forms in a timely manner is the student’s responsibility, though the student may certainly receive assistance from host parents and the Area Representative.
Traveling without written permission from the United Studies office will result in disciplinary action for the student, which could include termination of the student’s program and the cancellation of his or her visa and health insurance.
For all types of travel, the exchange student is expected to follow United Studies travel policies in addition to the rules of United Studies and the rules of his or her host parents.
Travel with the Host Family
A host family may invite a student along on a family vacation or even plan a special trip expressly for the exchange student’s benefit; however, this is at the host family’s discretion. The family should not feel obligated to offer such opportunities, and under no circumstances should the student pressure the host family to do so.
Host families who do decide to travel with an exchange student may take them anywhere within the United States as long as paperwork is submitted and approval is granted. International travel is an option, but any additional research and paperwork required would be the responsibility of the student.
Travel outside of the United States
The exchange student may only return to his or her home country before the end of the program in the event of a death or an imminent death of a close family member.
For international travel, additional research and paperwork is required. Therefore travel request forms for international travel should be completed and submitted to United Studies at least six weeks in advance of travel and before any purchases of flights or other accommodations are made.
Since border entry policies and laws are controlled by individual countries, the consulate of the destination country should be contacted to determine whether or not a visitor’s visa is needed. If so, the exchange student must obtain it at his or her own expense and submit a copy to United Studies prior to departure.
The student will also need to obtain a special “travel signature” for his or her DS-2019 or I-20 form prior to traveling. The student must then carry this form while traveling in order to show the U.S. government that he or she is eligible to return to the United Studies program. Failure to do so may result in the student being denied re-entry into the United States. To obtain this “travel signature”:
- a student with an F-1 visa must have his or her I-20 form signed by the “Designated School Official” at his or her school
- a student with a J-1 visa must ship his or her DS-2019 form via UPS, FedEx, or DHL
(not via regular U.S. Postal Service mail) to a United Studies Director. Please communicate with your area representative before mailing your DS-2019.
The exchange student must also carry his or her passport while traveling.
Visitors from Your Home Country
For the duration of the United Studies exchange program, the student is not allowed to receive visits from or travel with anyone outside of his or her immediate family. United Studies may allow visits by a student’s natural family near the end of the student’s stay (for a visit to take place before the end of the year, written permission from United Studies must be obtained). The natural family should arrange for accommodations rather than ask to stay with the student’s host family. Before a student travels with his or her natural family, he or she must submit a travel request form to United Studies.
United Studies Sponsored Trips
United Studies may offer optional trips for students during the program. Such trips would be planned by United Studies staff or by a professional touring company. The students would receive information detailing the trips offered and the costs. United Studies students not considered to be in good standing, for example students on Behavioral or Academic Probation, may not be allowed to participate in these trips. Group trips are not promised during any program.