Migration to intestinal mucosa putatively depends on local activation because gastrointestinal lymphoid tissue induces expression of intestinal homing molecules, whereas skin-draining lymph nodes do not. This paradigm is difficult to reconcile with reports of intestinal T cell responses after alternative routes of immunization. We reconcile this discrepancy by demonstrating that activation within spleen results in intermediate induction of homing potential to the intestinal mucosa. We further demonstrate that memory T cells within small intestine epithelium do not routinely recirculate with memory T cells in other tissues, and we provide evidence that homing is similarly dynamic in humans after subcutaneous live yellow fever vaccine immunization. These data explain why systemic immunization routes induce local cell-mediated immunity within the intestine and indicate that this tissue must be seeded with memory T cell precursors shortly after activation.