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.

Travel Guidelines

All student travel must be in accordance with these guidelines:

  • Host family and volunteers approve travel plans.

  • 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 plans.

  • 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 trips:

  • 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:

  1. 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.

  2. If host family and volunteers approve the student’s request for travel, volunteers must confirm the plans with AFS-USA.

  3. 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.

  4. 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 arrangements.

  5. 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.

  6. Mail the IAP-66 to:  AFS Western States Regional Office
                                  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 travel waiver.

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.