I recently came to know that if one (on J1 visa) wishes to travel to a foreign country from US and if returning to the U.S., the residence permit / visa must be valid for at least three months exceeding the last day of the intended stay in foreign country (1,2).
This is not a small ask!
Many J1 visa holders have residence permit of one year. Let’s imagine, your research group is super efficient, you managed to get a result worth publishing in 6 months, you submit the work to a good conference and here goes another 1-2 months in review process and finally, your paper is accepted! The conference is in 2 months and you are super excited! This is the best case in research.
Oh wait! Let’s count the months, 6+~2+2 =10 months already gone by the time you will begin your travel. But now, you cannot travel to a foreign country and return back to US from there since you will only have 2 months of valid stay left on your J1 visa.
Now, one can choose to either forgo in-person visit or travel to your home country from the foreign country and get your visa renewed. So far so good! However, it can get worse if you discover that the passport is going to expire soon. Unlike B1/B2 visa, J1 visa is not issued beyond one’s passport validity. So even if you have DS 2019 for a period of 2 years, you will only get J1 visa upto the expiration date of your passport. Please note, this is the case for India. There is an additional 6 month passport validity requirement for some countries (3).
If you are on this page, I need not narrate the scary stories of visa appointments. Ideally, one should renew the passport and get the complete extension at one go if possible. Renewing passport (tatkal) in India demands appointment booking at least a month in advance (in Delhi and Blr) (4). As J1 visa application can be started only after getting the new passport, one can’t book the US visa appointment in advance. This option is rather troubleseome and has two unknown variables i.e. Passport Appointment slot and J1 Appointment slot. If you prefer to be in control or have limited time to spend in India, then you can try the option of Indian passport renewal in US.
VFS Global provides the service of passport renewal either by post or appointment. Their website explains everything clearly and there are only few points which I wanted to add here:
- I had some issues (ACCESS DENIED) when accessing VFS website through Firefox. I recommend using Google Chrome.
- Except for students, Indian Passport can only be renewed if it is due to expire within 1 year. However, if there are changes in personal details such as name, spouse name, address etc., one can apply for re issuance even if the existing passport has validity of over an year.
- Notarization of documents - This is somewhat confusing as the references I checked said that one can get the document notarized at bank however, my bank said they do not notarize utility or VISA documents. If you are at UPenn, you can get the documents notarized at Penn Book Store (5).
- After paying the fees on VFS Global and receiving email confirmation, you need to dowload courier label. This will not be provided at FedEx store. There is only one label if you opt for shipping through VFS Global. The return envelope and the return shipping label will taken care of by VFS.
- Another point which I found slightly confusing is ‘first five pages of passport and the last two pages’ – I decided to take the scan of first 7 pages starting with Page number 1 (written at the bottom of passport page).
- Read the checklist carefully before sending out your application.
That’s it. You are all set to post your passport renewal application. You can track the application status on VFS website (6).
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