Independent Travel and Belo Tour Information

Belo Tours Information

In an effort to make it possible for AFS students to experience the U.S. beyond their own American hometown and to develop a sense of belonging to a world community, AFS-USA has partnered with Belo USA Travel to develop optional trips for students. Belo USA Travel is an American travel operator based in Chicago that specializes in educational and cultural trips for international exchange students. Belo has a long history with AFS and our own experience with them, as evidenced by evaluations received from students, host families, volunteers and staff, has been excellent.

As AFS prefers that students not miss school, trips will be offered during winter and spring breaks as well as in June for those students who finish school early. While AFS prefers students not miss school, we recognize the enhancement (very similar to AFS's own bus trips 1947-1998) that Belo trips bring to our program and acknowledge that in some cases it is entirely appropriate for students to take part even if they miss some school. Therefore, the AFS USA National Council recently approved an amendment to the AFS Independent Travel Policy that allows students to attend Belo and miss up to 5 days of school with Host Family permission and the consent of the Host School and AFS-USA.

The trips designed by Belo are tailored to meet the needs of AFS students. To further expand this experience, host siblings between the ages of 15 and 18 are also invited to participate. By participating in these trips with their host siblings, exchange students will have the chance to strengthen their special bond, while also providing your children the chance to meet international students from more than 50 countries.

While we offer these trips, they are not sponsored by AFS. Therefore AFS's Independent Travel policy will be in effect and travel waivers must be submitted and approved. Students should not purchase tickets until they have approval for the trip from the host family, his or her natural family, the school if missing any days, and AFS. The trip should also not interfere with your host family's plans or mandatory AFS events. Some students on sports teams may be required to participate in practices or games during vacation periods, so this should be considered as well.

These trips are completely optional and the costs are the sole responsibility of the exchange student and his or her natural parents. Domestic travel is not included in the price of the trip so students will need to purchase round trip tickets. Host parents are not expected to pay for these optional trips. Prices range from approximately $980.00 through $2490.00 plus airfare and pocket money.

Please note that each trip is accompanied by Belo Trip Coordinators and Monitors as well as an AFS recruited chaperone.

Links and Info for Belo Tours

Belo Student Information Form

Natural Parents Authorization Form

Student Travel Waiver

Approval Signatures Needed
* Student
* Host Family
* Natural Family
* School Official (if missing school)
* AFS Volunteer: Your Support Coordinator (see Student Roster)

DO NOT purchase airline tickets prior to having all of your forms completed ane receiving offical communication from Belo to do so.

Toll Free Phone Number:

Fax Number to send Completed Authorization Form

or Email address to send Completed Authorization Form:

Travel with Host Families outside of the US

Often students want to take a vacation with their host parents or with an organized school trip outside of the country. They must take with them their passports, I-94 card and their DS2019 form which must be endorsed by AFS USA.
He or she should mail the Certificate of Eligibility (DS-2019) to:

ATTN: Sarah Tice
AFS-USA, Floor 4
120 Wall Street
New York, NY 10005

Send the DS2019 no later that 3 weeks prior to travel, to allow for return mailing. If the participant wishes for the form to be returned by overnight mail, they need to include a prepaid mailing envelope. Any forms received without pre-paid courier envelopes will be send back via regular certified mail.

It is also the students and host families responsibility to research any additional documents or requirements that may be needed with the closest local consulate. We recommend getting a notarized letter of permission from their natural parents especially when traveling to Mexico. You should obtain that directly from the natural parents.

Independent Travel

Independent Travel is when a Student wishes to travel alone. Independent Travel is anything that falls outside of these guidelines:

* Travel that is part of an activity organized by the school the AFS Participant attends, i.e. sports events, field-trips, school excursions etc.
* Travel on an AFS-sponsored trip.
* Travel with an AFS Volunteer who is at least 25 years of age.
* Travel with an AFS Volunteer 21-24 years of age with Area Team approval.
* Travel with the host family member who is at least 25 years of age.
* Travel with the host family member 21- 24 years of age with Area Team approval.

All participant travel must be in accordance with these guidelines:

* AFS Participants will not be allowed to travel independently until after they have been on the program for five months or are in the final month of their program.
* Host family must first approve travel plans.
* If host family has approved the travel plans the participant must then get the approval of the Volunteer Area Team Support Coordinator or other designated volunteer in his or her region.
* Travel must also be approved by the AFS-USA staff in the regional office.
* Travel does not interfere with school (unless a participant 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 participant, especially holiday plans.
* Travel does not interfere with the participants adaptation or integration. Travel will not be allowed if a participant 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 participant has traveled recently or on previous trips.
* Travel does not exceed 10 days.
* Travel does not violate AFS safety guidelines.
* NO crossing the border into Mexico without prior AFS approval. Due to the great risks currently associated with crossing the Mexico border without an AFS Representative or host family parent, AFS-USA will enforce a strict "no tolerance" policy for any student who violates this guideline and crosses the Mexican border for any reason without prior AFS approval. Students who cross the border without written permission from the ATSC or other designated Area Team representatives are subject to an immediate early return from the AFS Program.

Steps to obtain approval for independent travel:

All requests for independent travel must be made to the Area Team Support Coordinator (check the Student Roster for your Support Coordinators name) or designated volunteer at least two weeks prior to the participants proposed departure date.

All of the following steps must be taken before AFS can give its approval for an Independent Travel request. Only after approval has been gained, should the participant begin making any definite travel plans:

1. The participant must first obtain approval for independent travel from host family, AFS Area Team Support Coordinator or designated volunteer and AFS Staff. The participant 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 participant travel, the participant must provide emergency contact information to an AFS Volunteer or staff person. This contact information should include the participant's travel plans and itinerary, accommodations, and how the participant can be contacted in case of emergency. If host family and AFS Area Team Support Coordinator or designated volunteer do not grant permission, then the participant will not be allowed to go on the trip.

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

3. Natural parent permission is required for all Independent Travel. The participant 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 participants 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 participant during the travel period. Participants are not released from the terms and conditions of the AFS Participation Agreement during travel.

4. The AFS Office in the participant's home country will forward a signed copy of the Travel Waiver to AFS-USA. Participants may not travel until the signed waiver has arrived in the Regional Service Center. When the preceding four steps have been completed, the participant is free to make travel arrangements. A participant may not make travel arrangements until these steps are completed and the travel is approved by all parties.

Travel outside of the US with Host Family Info and Links

* Passports
* I-94 Card
* DS2019 Form (Endorsed by AFS USA)

Approvals Needed for Independednt Travel

* Host Family
* Area Team Support Coordinator (check Student Roster)
* AFS Staff (Baltimore)
* Natural Parents

Form Needed:

Travel Waiver from Natural Family