The automatic visa revalidation rule allows a nonimmigrant in the U.S. to use an expired visa to apply for reentry to the U.S. in the same nonimmigrant visa status they were maintaining. In this case, the expired visa, which may be of a different type from the status the person will resume, is considered temporarily extended. For instance, an H-1B worker may use an expired F-1 visa to reenter the U.S. through automatic visa revalidation as long as the revalidation criteria are met.
To qualify for automatic visa revalidation, all of the following requirements must be met:
- An E, H, O, P, or TN nonimmigrant visited only Canada or Mexico on the trip or a J-1 or J-2 nonimmigrant visited only Canada, Mexico, or an adjacent Caribbean island, including Saint Pierre, Miquelon, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, the Windward and Leeward Islands, Trinidad, Martinique, and other British, French, and Netherlands territories or possessions in or bordering the Caribbean Sea;
- The duration of the trip was 30 days or less;
- The expired visa has not been cancelled;
- Prior to the trip, the person had been maintaining the same nonimmigrant status in the U.S. they intend to resume upon being readmitted to the U.S.;
- The person will still have time remaining on the Form DS-2019 (J statuses) or Form I-797A/I-797B (E, H, O, P, and TN statuses) upon reentry to the U.S.; and
- The person has not applied for a new visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate during the trip.
If the above conditions are met, the individual should be allowed to reenter the U.S. without obtaining a new visa by presenting these documents at a U.S. port of entry:
- Valid original Form DS-2019 with FSIS travel validation (J statuses) or valid Form I-797A/I-797B (E, H, O, P, and TN statuses);
- Any expired nonimmigrant visa that has not been cancelled;
- Valid Form I-94 admission record;
- Passport valid for at least six months beyond the Form DS-2019/I-797 end date; and
- Evidence of financial support (J statuses) or employment confirmation letter (E, H, O, P, and TN statuses).
If a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer at the U.S. port of entry does not understand the auto-revalidation rule, the person may refer the officer to 22 CFR 41.112(d), which is the governing federal regulation.
Please note that although a federal regulation authorizes the use of automatic visa revalidation, airlines may not allow individuals with expired visas to board flights into the U.S. Airline representatives may not know about auto-revalidation and assume a valid visa is always required for U.S. entry. If an airline boards a person who does not actually qualify for auto-revalidation, the airline may incur hefty fines. To avoid these fines, many airlines broadly require all non-U.S. citizens/permanent residents to present valid visas before they can board U.S.-bound flights.
Automatic visa revalidation is not possible if the person:
- Has applied for and been denied a visa while on the trip;
- Is a citizen of a country on the U.S. Department of State’s list of State Sponsors of Terrorism;
- Has been on the trip longer than 30 days;
- Has traveled to other countries that would make him/her ineligible for revalidation; or
- Requires a waiver of inadmissibility because they have a “212(d)(3)” notation on the visa.
If automatic visa revalidation is not an option due to any of the above reasons, then the person must apply for the proper visa from a U.S. embassy or consulate to reenter the U.S. Be aware, though, that some U.S. consulates will not accept third-party nationals’ visa applications, so the individual should check with the specific U.S. embassy/consulate before departing on the trip. For instance, U.S. consulates in Mexico have placed restrictions on visa application eligibility for non-Mexican citizens who are not residents of Mexico. If a non-Mexican resident travels to Mexico and then finds they cannot qualify for automatic visa revalidation, it will be very difficult to obtain a visa to return to the U.S. For more information on Mexico’s restrictions, see the U.S. Embassy in Mexico’s website.