Many people believe that once their visa expires, they must apply for a new visa or leave the United States. However, if you meet some conditions and qualify, you may be eligible for an automatic visa reactivation.
What is the Automatic Visa Revalidation?
If you are traveling to Canada, Mexico, or any of the contiguous islands of the U.S. except Cuba for less than 30 days, you may be eligible to re-enter the U.S. even if your visa has already expired. To be eligible for revalidation, you must have a valid I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record) endorsed by DHS. Automatic visa revalidation is also known as the contiguous area rule.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) developed this program to facilitate the revalidation and extension of nonimmigrant visas.
Contiguous islands and territories of the United States are as follows:
|Bermuda||Bonaire||British Virgin Islands|
|Saint Eustatius||Saint Kitts-Nevis||Saint Lucia|
|Saint Maarten||Saint Martin||Saint Pierre|
|Tobago||Turks and Caicos Islands||Other British, French, and Dutch territories or possessions bordering the Caribbean Sea|
A revalidated visa allows you to remain in the United States for the duration of the extension. The revalidated visa is valid for the same period as the original valid visa. Automatic revalidation gives you the same visa as before. This process does not allow you to apply for a new visa or change of status. Also, you must follow the same visa rules as before.
What are the Eligibility Criteria for the Automatic Visa Revalidation?
To qualify for an automatic visa reassessment, you must
- You must have a U.S. nonimmigrant visa that has expired.
- You must have traveled to Canada, Mexico, or an island bordering the United States.
- The trip must be 30 days or less.
- Must have a valid entry stamp on Form I-94.
- Must have proof of current status, such as Form I-129 for nonimmigrants or Form I-20 for
- students on F-1 visas.
- Must not have a new visa application pending or denied.
- The applicant must not be from a country that supports terrorism. These countries are:
- The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea).
Automatic Visa Revalidation Ineligibilities
You are not eligible for automatic visa review if you:
- You have an expired Form I-94.
- You have applied for a new visa but it has not yet been issued.
- You have applied for a new visa and have been denied.
- You have not been in the U.S. for more than 30 days.
- You have traveled to a country other than Canada, Mexico, or a neighboring island.
- You are from a country that is designated as a terrorist country.
- If you have an F-1 or J-1 student visa and have traveled to Cuba.
- If you have an M-1 visa and have traveled to a country other than Canada and Mexico.
How to apply for Automatic Visa Revalidation?
There is no specific application process to qualify for automatic resubmission. You do not need to send any documents to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You also do not have to appear at the U.S. Embassy or submit any documentation. These procedures are required if you are in your own country outside the United States when you apply for a new visa.
However, if you are already in the U.S. and your visa is about to expire, or if it has already expired but you are still within the grace period, you may apply for an extension of your visa.
Travel outside the United States
The first step is to travel outside the United States to Canada, Mexico and islands bordering the United States. However, it should be noted that a visa may be required to enter Canada and the neighboring islands. So if you need a visa for Canada, make sure you apply for it first.
Once you leave the US, the countdown begins. You can only stay up to 30 days and no longer. You can stay and visit another country or island, or you can go directly across the border and try to re-enter.
Show the required documents at the US port of entry
If you are traveling from Canada, Mexico, or a neighboring island to a U.S. port of entry, you must have the following documents with you
- A valid passport in which a U.S. nonimmigrant visa has been issued. The visa may be valid or expired. If you have a new passport without a visa, please bring your old passport with the U.S. visa on it.
- A valid, unexpired Form I-94 is required.
- If you received an extension or change of status while in the U.S., you must bring Form I-797, Notice of Action.
- If you are an F-1 or M-1 visa holder, you must bring Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrants, issued by the school or institution you are attending.
- If you are a J-1 visa holder, please bring your DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status) issued by the program sponsor.
- If you have dependents, such as a spouse or children, who are subject to automatic review, you must bring the same documents for them.
The U.S. immigration officer will review your documents and information. In particular, they will ask you if you have complied with the law and visa requirements while in the United States. To increase your chances of reentry, your criminal record must be clean. If you have been in jail or committed a crime before, your chances of automatic re-entry are much lower.
Wait for the decision of the CBP officers
After reviewing all available information, the appropriate officer will make a decision. It is at the discretion of these CBP officers whether or not to allow you to enter the country. They have the authority and may determine if you are fit to re-enter the United States. Just because all of your documents are in order does not mean you will be approved for automatic visa review.
If the CBP officer approves the reactivation of your visa, you will be allowed to enter the United States. Your nonimmigrant visa will be valid for the same period as your previous visa. That is, if your visa was only valid for two years, the revalidation will give you an additional two years of validity.
Do Visa Waiver Program Citizens Qualify for Automatic Visa Revalidation?
Nonimmigrant visa holders must go through the automatic visa renewal process. If you are in the U.S. under Visa Waiver Program (VWP) status, you do not have to go through this process. You cannot automatically extend the expiration date of your VWP, but if you travel outside the U.S. and re-enter the U.S., you will be counted toward your authorized length of stay under the VWP.
What Can I Do If My Revalidation is Denied?
If the CBP officer refuses to revalidate your visa, you will not be allowed to re-enter the United States. You may remain in a foreign country (Canada, Mexico, or a neighboring island) until you return to your home country.
After you return to your home country, you may reapply for a U.S. nonimmigrant visa. In this case, you will have to go through the application process again, including submitting your application, obtaining supporting documents, a visa interview at the U.S. Embassy, and waiting for processing. Only after you have a valid visa can you travel back to the United States.
Tips and Considerations for the Automatic Visa Revalidation
When gathering documents for an automatic visa reconsideration, you must pay close attention to the Form I-94. A paper Form I-94 is required for visa reconsideration, and if you entered the U.S. before April 30, 2013, U.S. authorities provided you with a paper Form I-94. If you entered the U.S. before April 30, 2013, U.S. authorities provided you with a paper Form I-94, which you must present to a CBP officer when you apply for an automatic reconsideration.
However, if you entered the U.S. on or after April 30, 2013, U.S. authorities should have given you an electronic Form I-94. If you wish to re-enter the U.S. to apply for a new visa, CBP officers can verify your status electronically. However, it is strongly recommended that you print a copy of the electronic Form I-94 and carry it with you.
In addition, you may apply for automatic visa reactivation only if you are entering the United States by sea or air. It is not advisable to enter the U.S. by land and apply for revalidation. Therefore, it is better to buy a ticket to Canada, Mexico or one of the neighboring islands than to enter by land and refuse revalidation.