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Automatic Revalidation May Allow Re-Admission to the U.S. Despite an Expired Visa

What is “Automatic Revalidation”?

Automatic revalidation is a process allowing simplified re-entry after travel abroad for certain visa holders in the U.S. even if their visa is expired – following brief trips to Canada or Mexico. These individuals may be admitted at a U.S. port-of-entry by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), if they meet certain requirements.

A nonimmigrant who has previously presented a visa for admission to the U.S. may be readmitted after brief travel: (a) in the same nonimmigrant classification as shown on an expired visa, OR (b) in a different nonimmigrant classification than shown on an expired or valid visa if a change of status occurred while the individual was in the U.S. The nonimmigrant alien’s absence from the U.S. must be limited to 30 days or less, and the individual’s travel must be limited to Mexico or Canada, unless the individual possesses a F or J nonimmigrant visa.

Nonimmigrants in F or J visa classifications may rely on automatic visa revalidation after travel to a “contiguous territory” or “adjacent islands other than Cuba” for thirty days or less. Adjacent islands include Saint Pierre, Miquelon, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, the Windward and Leeward Islands, Trinidad, Martinique, and other British, French, and Netherlands territory or possessions in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea.

Requirements to Rely on Automatic Revalidation

If you have an expired non-immigrant visa stamp in your passport and you have a valid I-94 card or I-94 print out from the I94 website stating your current status, your visa will be considered valid when you re-enter the U.S. from Canada or Mexico as long as ALL of the requirements below:

  • The visit is ONLY to Canada or Mexico and you may NOT travel to any other country (unless in F or J status);
  • You did not apply for a new U.S. visa stamp while in Canada or Mexico (VERY IMPORTANT!);
  • Your passport must be valid for at least six months from your date of re-entry to the U.S., unless your country is a member of the so-called “six-month club”;
  • You must possess your portion of the approval notice (bottom left side of the I-797) – if in H-1B status;
  • You must possess an unexpired I-94 record or admission stamp;
  • You must apply for readmission to the U.S. within the authorized period of your immigration status;
  • You must have maintained and intend to resume your non-immigrant status; AND
  • You are not from one of the countries currently considered by the US federal government to be state sponsors of terrorism (as of July 2015 this includes Iran, Syria, and Sudan).

If you will be traveling by air, you should confirm that your airline is familiar with the visa revalidation process and will issue you a boarding pass when returning to the U.S. even though you have an expired U.S. visa in your passport.

If you are unsure or have questions regarding automatic revalidation and if it may apply to you, be sure to speak with an experienced U.S. Immigration Attorney.

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