The general rule is that most nonimmigrant foreign nationals seeking to enter the United States need to have a valid visa (i.e. visa stamp), issued at the consulate abroad. There is an exception under the automatic visa revalidation, which involves travel between the U.S. and Canada or Mexico. It allows one to travel and reenter the U.S. without the need to obtain a new U.S. visa stamp.
What Are The Requirements?
To rely on automatic visa revalidation, a nonimmigrant must meet the following conditions when applying for readmission to the United States:
If the individual has applied for and received an extension or change of nonimmigrant
status while in the United States, the Form I-94 may be attached to, or separated from,
a Form I-797, Notice of Action.
F or M classification: A valid Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant,
issued by the school at which the Department of Homeland Security has authorized
the principal nonimmigrant’s attendance.
J classification: A valid Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange
Visitor Status, issued by the authorized program sponsor showing the unexpired
period of stay.
Present a valid passport with a nonimmigrant visa, whether valid or expired, used for a prior admission to the United States. If the individual’s current passport does not contain the nonimmigrant visa, the individual must present a prior passport with a visa.
Nonimmigrant aliens (including an accompanying spouse or child) applying to be
admitted in the F or J classification may apply for readmission to the United States
after an absence of 30 days or less solely to a contiguous territory or adjacent islands:
NOTE: Adjacent islands include: Saint Pierre, Miquelon, Cuba, The Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bermuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, The Windward (Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia and St. Vincent) and Leeward Islands (Anguilla, Antigua, Guadeloupe, Nevis, St. Kitts and The British Virgin Islands), Trinidad, Martinique, Other British, French, and Netherlands territory or possessions in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea (INA, Section 101(b)(5)).
Contiguous territories include: Canada and Mexico
NOTE: A nonimmigrant who would otherwise be eligible to reenter the United States pursuant to the authority of automatic revalidation loses eligibility if, while in a contiguous territory or on an adjacent island, the nonimmigrant applied for a new visa and that visa application is pending a decision or has been denied.
Who is excluded from using the automatic visa revalidation?
As of the time of this writing, automatic visa revalidation is not available to nationals of Iran, Syria, Sudan and Cuba. Nationals of these countries must present a valid visa when making an application for any admission to the United States and may be admitted only in the nonimmigrant classification shown on the visa.
Do I have to comply with the visa requirements of the destination country?
The automatic visa revalidation rule is part of U.S. immigration law. Its scope is to facilitate reentry to the United States. This rule does not address issues related to visa requirements for entry into Canada, Mexico, or the adjacent islands. Those traveling outside of the United States need to check the visa requirements for entry to the particular destination country and make certain that all required approvals are obtained prior to departing the United States.
The automatic visa revalidation process is convenient for many foreign nationals looking to take a short vacation or brief excursions for business or pleasure. However, those wishing to remain abroad beyond the 30-day limit, or who will be applying for a new visa during their trip, must follow standard visa requirements. As always, any foreign national should consult a qualified immigration attorney with travel questions prior to departing the United States if there are any concerns or questions.
The herein content is for general informational purposes only. It should not be relied upon in making legal decisions or assessing your legal rights or risks.