Normally, re-entry to the United States is prohibited for travelers holding an expired visa. However, in limited circumstances, re-entry after travel to Mexico, Canada and (sometimes) to Caribbean islands will be allowed through the automatic visa revalidation program. The automatic visa revalidation program is offered by the US Department of Homeland Security and the US Customs and Border Protection for certain holders of nonimmigrant visas (like a student F-1 visa) that have expired allowing re-entry after limited travel.
In general, according to the CIB's information page here, a person is eligible for automatic visa revalidation provided the following conditions are met:
- The underlying authorization for the current status continues to be valid for the Form I-129 for non-immigrant workers and Form I-20 for students in F status
- The person's absence from the United States is 30 days or less
- The person did not visit any countries other than Mexico or Canada in that period -- certain travelers on an F-1 student visa or J-1 exchange visitor visa are allowed to visit adjacent islands to the United States (i.e., the Caribbean except for Cuba)
- The person does not have a pending or rejected application for a new visa
- The person is not a citizen of one of the countries designated by the United States as a state sponsor of terrorism
If a person does not meet all of these requirements, then the nonimmigrant will need to reapply for a visa in order to reenter the US.
What Should I Do to Ensure Re-Entry Under Automatic Visa Revalidation?
Any persons holding nonimmigrant visas should, first and foremost, be very aware of when their visa expires. It may be wise to put off travel until the visa is renewed (if possible). Otherwise, here are some important steps to ensure reentry:
- Before departing, make sure you have a valid admission stamp or paper Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record, endorsed by Department of Homeland Security
- If your Form I-94 is electronic, make a printed copy
- Carry all your immigrant documents (even if you might not need them)
- Do NOT overstay your travel -- if you remain outside the US for more than 30 days, automatic visa revalidation will not apply; be careful about travel delays caused by weather and other unforeseen circumstances; there are no "hardship" exceptions
- Do NOT visit countries -- even briefly -- other than Canada, Mexico and certain Caribbean islands -- verify with Customs and DHS that your travel destination is included in the automatic visa revalidation program
- If you are on a M-1 Visa (vocational non-academic student), do NOT visit anywhere other than Mexico and Canada -- M-1 visa holder cannot use the automatic visa revalidation if they travel to any of the Caribbean islands
- Do NOT visit Cuba
- Do NOT apply for a new visa while traveling
Contact Yekrangi & Associates Today
For more information, contact the Orange County Immigration Attorneys at Yekrangi & Associates today. You are not alone and we will fight for you. Yekrangi & Associates works to meet a higher standard. Our first goal is your satisfaction. Contact us at (949) 478-4963 to schedule a consultation or complete our convenient “Get Your Consultation” form here. We are located in Irvine, California.