Automatic Visa Re-Validation
Special provisions for return travel from Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean Islands:
Generally, you must have a valid visa to return to the U.S. from abroad. However, there is a special provision called Automatic Visa Revalidation [22 CFR 41.112 (d); 8 CFR 214.1 (b) (1-4)] that applies to travel within the Northern Hemisphere; if you are in F-1 or J-1 status and your F-1 or J-1 visa is expired, you may nevertheless return to the U.S. from a trip to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean Islands even with an expired visa, provided that you meet all the following conditions:
- your passport is valid
- you have a valid I-20 or DS-2019 with a valid travel signature
- you have an expired F-1 or J-1 visa
- you only go to Canada, Mexico, and/or the Caribbean islands (except Cuba) and do not stay outside the U.S. for more than 30 days
- you do not apply for a new U.S. visa while abroad (otherwise you have to wait for it to be approved and use it to reenter)
- you keep your I-94 card or printout when you depart the U.S. (i.e., don’t give it up)
- you are not a citizen of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan, North Korea, or Cuba
Note: Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are U.S. territories and thus an F-1 or J-1 student does not need a visa to travel to those locations from within the U.S., or to return to the U.S. from those locations.
For F-1 students: If you changed status while in the U.S. (e.g. H-4 to F-1) using Form I-539 and thus never had an F-1 visa, you can use automatic visa revalidation provision, provided the same conditions above apply. You would need to carry the documents listed above in addition to your previous visa and a Change of Status Approval Notice (Form I-797). It is recommended that you also request a letter from the International Student Advisor that explains your eligibility to re-enter under this provision.