Independent Travel Guidelines
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 students 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 travel is managed within the
context of these factors, AFS-USA has established the following
guidelines. Should a participant travel without complying with
AFS-USA travel guidelines, the action can be considered grounds for
early return to the home country.
All student travel must be in accordance with these
Host family and volunteers approve travel
Travel does not interfere with school (unless a
student travels on a school-organized activity).
Travel does not interfere with attendance at
compulsory AFS events. This includes school-sponsored travel.
Travel does not interfere with host family
plans to pursue activities with a student, especially holiday
Travel does not interfere with the student’s
adaptation or integration. Travel will not be allowed if a student
is experiencing adaptation problems of any kind. Frequent travel
does not encourage integration in the host family and host
community. Approval for travel may be denied if a student has
traveled recently or on previous trips.
Travel does not exceed 10 days.
Travel does not violate AFS safety guidelines.
Types of Travel
There are several categories of AFS-sanctioned
travel. Formal permission from AFS-USA and a signed travel waiver from
natural parents are not required for the following types of
Travel on a school-organized activity, i.e.
sports events, fieldtrips, school excursions etc.
Travel on an AFS-sponsored trip
Travel with AFS volunteers over 25 years of age
Travel with the host family
All other types of travel are classified as
Independent Travel and require formal approval from AFS-USA and the AFS
office in the student’s home country. Independent travel includes
travel alone, travel with the student’s natural family or relatives or
with non-AFS groups, travel anywhere outside the U.S.
Steps to Obtain Approval for Independent Travel
Students must give volunteers and staff a minimum of
two weeks’ advance notice for any independent travel. 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 and volunteers. The student
should inform host-family and volunteers the dates and
destinations of the proposed travel as well as the purpose of the
trip. In all cases of student 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, accommodations, and how the student can be
contacted in case of emergency. If host family and volunteers 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
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 arrived in the
appropriate Regional Service Center. When the preceding four steps
have been completed, the student is free to make travel
If a student wishes to travel outside the U.S.,
the student should check her/his 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 IAP-66 form (a
pink form stapled inside the student’s passport) into the
Regional Service Center to be signed by the Regional Director.
Mail the IAP-66 to: AFS Western States
310 S.W. 4th Ave. Suite 130
Portland, Oregon, 97205
Visits from Natural Families
The AFS Participation Agreement, which is signed by all AFS students
and their natural parents, states, ". . . AFS discourages visits
from relatives and friends during program participation. . . . relatives
and friends will not visit unless they have obtained prior consent from
the local or national AFS official in the hosting country."
Visits from natural family or friends from home are often not the
good idea envisaged. Through 50+ years of experience, AFS volunteers,
students, and host families have learned that natural family visits are
disruptive to the student’s exchange experience. For the student, the
arrival of someone from home interrupts integration into American life,
as relationships and cultural norms from home are resumed. For the
hosts, it interrupts their role as parents, may confuse relationships,
and imposes additional hospitality burdens. Visits take the focus from
the student and burden AFS volunteer and staff support structures.
If a natural family does visit, it should be for no more than three
to four days total. If the student wants to travel with the natural
family during this time, the host family, volunteers, and staff must
give permission before the trip is planned and the student must obtain a
If you have any questions regarding travel policy,
you may contact your Regional Service Center at 1-800-876-2377 or your
local AFS Representative.