Automatic Visa Revalidation
Department of State (DOS) regulations permit certain non-immigrants to re-enter the United States after a 30-day or less visit to Canada or Mexico without having to obtain a new visa prior to re-entry. This is called automatic visa revalidation. F and J non-immigrants also benefit from automatic revalidation when re-entering from the adjacent islands, except Cuba. Individuals seeking to benefit from this provision must retain their I-94 when leaving the U.S. as it is essential for re-entry. In addition, all other travel documents relevant to the particular status (passport, DS-2019 for J-1s, I-797 for H-1Bs etc.) must be carried and properly endorsed, if an endorsement is required (on form DS-2019).
Certain individuals may not benefit from this provision. First, citizens of “state sponsors of terrorism” as designated by the Department of State will no longer be eligible for automatic revalidation. They will need to have a valid visa in their passport in order to re-enter. Currently, the countries on the DOS list are: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, North Korea and Cuba.
In addition, anyone who is visiting Canada or Mexico in order to apply for a new visa may no longer benefit from automatic revalidation. Many individuals schedule an appointment with a U.S. consulate in Canada or Mexico in order to obtain a new visa so as to facilitate future travel overseas. In the past, they could re-enter the U.S. with a valid I-94 even if the visa were denied. Now, those who choose to apply for a new visa in Canada or Mexico and are denied the visa may not return to the U.S. They would have to travel to their home country and apply for a visa there. The risk of denial is higher for those who must prove their ties to their home country in order to get a visa (such as those in F or J status) than it is for those who do not have to prove ties (such as those in H status), but there is always a risk of denial for any visa applicant. Those considering applying for a visa in Canada or Mexico should take this into account when making their plans.
For more information regarding automatic revalidation, please see the following links: