Nonimmigrants are typically barred from re-entering the United States with an expired visa. However, in some circumstances, the necessity for a valid visa is waived. The US Department of State refers to this scheme as automatic revalidation. Automatic revalidation is not the same as applying for a new visa. You cannot take advantage of automatic revalidation if you apply for a new nonimmigrant visa. We’ll go over all you need to know about automatic visa revalidation here.
What is Automatic Visa Revalidation?
If a person travels to Canada, Mexico, or the US nearby islands for less than 30 days, with the exception of Cuba, they can re-enter the US even if their visa has expired. The person requesting revalidation must also have a valid Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, which has been approved by DHS. The Contiguous Territory Rule is another name for the Automatic Visa Revalidation Rule.
The program was created by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to facilitate the revalidation and extension of nonimmigrant visas.
Who Must Reapply for and Be Reissued a Visa at a US Embassy or Consulate?
This page outlines which passengers must reapply for and be reissued visas when their existing visas expire, even if they have a valid admission stamp or paper Form I-94.
Many nonimmigrants will need to reapply and be reissued visas to reenter the United States after their existing visas expire, even if they have a valid admission stamp or paper Form I-94, because automatic revalidation only applies to certain types of passengers. On the CBP website, look for the Automatic Revalidation Fact Sheet. Temporary visitors whose nonimmigrant visas have expired but who have a valid admission stamp or paper Form I-94 must reapply for and be given nonimmigrant visas before reentering the United States if one or more of the following scenarios exist (this is not an exhaustive list):
- Nonimmigrant traveler with an expired nonimmigrant visa (but valid admission stamp or paper Form I-94):
- I applied for a new visa, which has yet to be issued;
- I applied for a fresh visa and was denied;
- Has been away from the United States for more than thirty days;
- Has traveled to a nation other than Canada, Mexico, or an adjacent island that is not covered by the automatic revalidation rules;
- Is a national of a State Sponsor of Terrorism-designated countries, such as Iran, Syria, or Sudan.
- Is in possession of an F student visa or a J exchange guest visa and has visited Cuba;
- Has possession of an M student visa and has been to a country other than Canada or Mexico.
Restrictions on Automatic Visa Revalidation
The following are not eligible for automatic revalidation:
- Students moving from a contiguous territory (e.g., Canada) to a noncontiguous territory (e.g., India) with the purpose of returning to the United States via a contiguous territory (Canada).
- Citizens of Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria.
- Students whose visas have been revoked
- Students who have applied for a visa renewal in a neighboring country are awaiting a decision (a visa has not been issued).
Certain persons will be subject to a security clearance and should expect delays of 20 business days or more. If the visa application is denied, students will be unable to re-enter the United States until they get a new visa from the US consulate or embassy in their home country.
Documents Required for Re-Entry Under Automatic Revalidation When Traveling from a Contiguous Territory
- Form I-94, either electronic or paper, is valid for an unexpired period of entry or extension of stay, or for the duration of status (D/S).
- A current Form I-20 or DS-2019 is endorsed for readmission by an ISSS advisor.
- Valid passport for at least six months beyond the date of re-entry into the United States
- Proof of full-time enrolment is strongly desired but not required.
- Proof of financial support is highly requested but not essential.
- Required entrance documentation (for example, a visitor’s visa) for the country they are visiting.
Documents needed for F-2 and J-2 dependents:
- Active Form I-20 or DS-2019 signed by a FIT immigration advisor within six months of the re-entry date.
- Valid passport for at least six months beyond the date of re-entry into the United States
How Do I Request Automatic Visa Revalidation?
There is no special application process for automatic revalidation. You do not need to submit any forms to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You also do not need to visit a US Embassy or submit any supporting documentation. These are the procedures you must follow if you are applying for a new visa while outside the US.
However, if you are already in the US and your visa is about to expire or has expired but you are still in the grace period, you can apply for visa revalidation.
#1. Travel outside of the United States
The first step is to leave the country and travel to Canada, Mexico, or the US’s neighboring islands. You must be cautious, however, as Canada or some of the neighboring islands may demand a visa to allow you to enter the country. So, if you require a visa for Canada, make sure you apply first.
The countdown begins once you depart the United States. You can only stay for 30 days. You can either stay and see the other countries or islands, or you can simply cross the border and try to reenter.
#2. Present the relevant documents at the US port of entry.
When you arrive at a US port of entry from Canada, Mexico, or the adjacent islands, you must have the following documents:
- A valid passport and a nonimmigrant visa from the United States. The visa may still be valid or expired. If you have a new passport but no visa, you must bring your old passport with you.
- A valid Form I-94 that has not expired.
- Form I-797, Notice of Action, if you got an extension or change of status while in the United States.
- If you are on an F-1 or M-1 visa, you must have your Form I-20, and Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrants, which were provided by the school or institution you are studying.
- If you are on a J-1 visa, you must have your DS-2019, and Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status, issued by your program sponsors.
- So, if you have dependents, such as a spouse or children, who are also seeking automatic revalidation, you must present the same paperwork for them as well.
The authorities at the US port of entry will then review your documents and information. They will pay close attention and inquire if you followed the law and your visa requirements while in the United States. To improve your prospects of re-entry, your criminal record must be clean. If you have been sentenced to prison or committed a crime, your chances of receiving automatic revalidation are slim.
#3. Wait for CBP officers’ decision.
The officers will make a decision after considering all relevant facts. It is up to this CBP personnel to allow you to enter or not. They have the authority and are authorized to determine if you are fit to re-enter the United States. Just because you have all of the required paperwork does not guarantee that you will be approved for automatic visa revalidation.
You may enter the US if CBP agents approve your visa revalidation. Your nonimmigrant visa is now valid for the same term as your prior one. So, if your visa was only valid for two years, your revalidation is valid for another two years.
Do Visa Waiver Program Participants Qualify for Automatic Visa Revalidation?
You only need to go through the automatic visa revalidation process if you have a nonimmigrant visa. If you are in the US because you qualify for the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), you do not need to do this. You cannot automatically prolong the validity of your VWP. However, if you leave the country and return, it will be counted against the time you are allowed to stay with a VWP.
What Can I Do If My Revalidation Is Denied?
If CBP agents decline your visa revalidation, you will be unable to enter the US again. You can stay in a foreign country (Canada, Mexico, or the adjacent islands) until you return to your home country.
Once in your home country, you can apply for a nonimmigrant visa to the United States. In this instance, you will have to go through the application procedure again, including submitting forms, obtaining supporting documents, attending a visa interview at a US Embassy, and waiting for processing. You can return to the US only after obtaining a valid visa.
Tips and Considerations for Automatic Visa Revalidation
When gathering documentation for automatic visa revalidation, pay particular attention to Form I-94. A paper Form I-94 will be required for visa revalidation. If you arrived in the United States before April 30, 2013, you will have received a paper Form I-94. This is the one you must show CBP officers while requesting automatic revalidation.
If you entered the US after April 30, 2013, the US authorities will have handed you an electronic Form I-94. When you return to the United States for visa revalidation, CBP officials will be able to electronically verify your status. However, it is strongly advised that you print a copy of the electronic Form I-94 and keep it with you at all times.
Furthermore, you can only apply for automatic visa revalidation if you enter the US by sea or air. It is not recommended that you try to enter the US for revalidation through a land port of entry. It is therefore preferable for you to purchase an aircraft ticket to Canada, Mexico, or the surrounding islands rather than attempt to enter through land and have your revalidation denied.
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