A provision of law known as “automatic visa revalidation” allows foreign nationals to re-enter the United States after a brief visit in Canada or Mexico (for persons in J and F status: Canada, Mexico and islands in the Caribbean except Cuba) even though the US visa has expired, or the current visa does not match the current status in the US.

Persons seeking to return to the US under the automatic visa revalidation provision must:

  • Be seeking re-entry to the US from a visit of less than 30 days in Canada or Mexico (for J-1 exchange visitors and F-1 students, automatic revalidation also applies to islands in the Caribbean except Cuba). The automatic visa revalidation benefit is not available if the visit exceeds 30 days, or if the visit includes countries other than those countries listed above.
  • Be in possession of a valid, unexpired I-94 record. Depending on your circumstances, this may be:
    • a printout of the electronic I-94 record from the Customs and Border Protection website;
    • the small, white card stapled into your passport if your last entry was at a land border; or
    • if your status changed or extended while you were in the U.S., the card attached to the bottom right corner of your I-797 Approval Notice.
    • Persons planning to take advantage of automatic visa revalidation must not allow the airline (or anyone else) to remove the I-94 from their passport when they depart the US.
  • Be in possession of a valid DS-2019 (J exchange visitors), I-20 (F students) or I-797 (H-1B temporary workers), and intend to resume the same status upon return to the US.
  • Be in possession of a valid passport.
  • Not have in any way violated immigration status while in the United States.
  • Not have made an application for a new visa at a US consulate. Applying for a visa disqualifies a person from automatic visa revalidation benefits.
  • Not be a national of a country designated by the US government as a state sponsor of terrorism (currently Iran, Syria, Sudan, and North Korea).

Individuals meeting these criteria may re-enter the United States even though their visa has expired. If their status changed while in the US (for example, from F-1 to H-1B), they may be readmitted in their current status even though the old visa does not match the current status.

The specific legal authority for the automatic visa revalidation provision is found at 22 CFR 41.112(d).