A nonimmigrant who has previously presented a visa for admission to the United States may sometimes be readmitted in the same nonimmigrant classification as shown on an expired visa or 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 United States. To avail him- or herself of admission under automatic visa revalidation, the nonimmigrant’s absence from the United States must be limited to 30 days or less, and the individual’s travel must be limited tocertain geographic locations. Also, automatic visa revalidation is applied differently depending on the individual’s nonimmigrant visa classification, and certain nationals are not eligible.
Most nonimmigrants may rely on automatic visa revalidation for readmission to the U.S. after travel to a “contiguous territory” (Canada or Mexico). Nonimmigrants in the F or J classification may rely on automatic visa revalidation after travel to a “contiguous territory” or “adjacent islands other than Cuba.” 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 Dutch territory or possessions in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea. At a minimum, in order to be eligible for this benefit, the nonimmigrant must present a valid passport, a visa stamp in the passport showing an unexpired period of initial or extended authorized stay, and either an expired nonimmigrant visa in any classification or a current, valid nonimmigrant visa in any classification. Prior to CBP’s elimination of the I-94, a valid I-94 card was required. Presumably, an I-94 printout is now also required. In addition, the individual may want to present evidence of the 30-day–or-less absence, in the form of an airline ticket, hotel bill, or other documentation.
Nonimmigrants (including an accompanying spouse or child) applying to be admitted in F, M, or J classification must also present either (as applicable) a valid Form I-20 issued by the school at which DHS has authorized the principal nonimmigrant’s attendance, or a valid Form DS-2019 issued by the authorized program sponsor showing the unexpired period of stay.
Under automatic visa revalidation, an expired visa will be considered automatically extended to the date of application for readmission. Further, an expired visa or a valid visa may be converted as necessary to a changed classification. However, a nonimmigrant who would otherwise be eligible to reenter the U.S. pursuant to 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.
Canadian citizens are visa exempt, except Canadian E or K nonimmigrants. If, however, a Canadian citizen is admitted as a nonimmigrant that does not require a visa and then changes status to E while in the United States, the Canadian citizen may not rely on automatic visa revalidation. In such circumstances, the person must have been admitted at least once after presentation of a visa to qualify for automatic visa revalidation. In other words, the individual must apply for an E visa, enter as an E visa holder, and the subsequently avail him- or herself of automatic visa readmission.
Finally, nationals of Iran, Syria, Sudan, and Cuba are not eligible for automatic revalidation of a visa.
If you believe you are eligible for automatic visa revalidation, consult with your immigration lawyer before your departure to ensure that other issues will not prevent your readmission to the U.S.