The “Automatic Visa Revalidation” Rule Explained

A nonimmigrant alien who has previously presented a visa for admission to the US may be readmitted (a) in the same nonimmigrant classification as shown on an expired visa, or (b) 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 US. The nonimmigrant alien’s absence from the US must be limited to 30 days or less, and the individual’s travel must be limited to certain geographic locations.

 

Admission under this procedure is called “automatic visa revalidation” (also known as the “Contiguous Territory Rule”). Automatic visa revalidation is applied differently depending on the individual’s nonimmigrant visa classification.

 

Most nonimmigrants may rely on automatic visa revalidation to apply for readmission after travel to a “contiguous territory” (Canada or Mexico). Nonimmigrants in 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 Netherlands territory or possessions in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea.

 

To rely on automatic visa revalidation, a nonimmigrant alien must meet the following conditions:

  1. Form I-94 showing an unexpired period of initial or extended authorized stay.
  2. If the individual has applied for and received an extension or change of nonimmigrant status while in the US, a Form I-797, Notice of Action.
  3. Nonimmigrant aliens (including spouse or children) applying to be admitted in F, M, or J classification must also present one of the following documents as applicable:
    • F / M classification: A valid Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant, issued by the school at which the Department of Homeland Security has authorized the principal nonimmigrant’s attendance.
    • J classification: A valid Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status, issued by the authorized program sponsor showing the unexpired period of stay.
  4. A valid passport with a nonimmigrant visa, whether valid or expired, used for a prior admission to the US. If the individual’s current passport does not contain the nonimmigrant visa, the individual must present a prior passport with a visa. An expired nonimmigrant visa includes (1) a visa that is no longer valid because of the passage of time and (2) a visa that is no longer valid because the maximum number of entries has been used.
  5. Apply for readmission to the US after an absence of 30 days or less solely to a contiguous territory (Canada or Mexico). Nonimmigrant aliens applying to be admitted in F or J classification may apply for readmission to the US after an absence of 30 days or less solely to a contiguous territory or adjacent islands other than Cuba.
  6. Apply for readmission without having applied for a visa while outside of the US. A nonimmigrant who, while in a contiguous territory or on an adjacent island, applied for a new visa, and that visa application is pending or has been denied, is no longer eligible to be readmitted under without a valid visa.

 

Customs and Border Protection will admit nonimmigrant aliens who meet the above requirements for automatic visa revalidation. The admission will be in the same nonimmigrant classification as shown on the valid Form I-94 that is presented.

 

Exceptions

 

1. Visa Waiver Program

Persons admitted to the US under the VWP may only be readmitted for the balance of the original Visa Waiver Program admission.

 

2. Nationals of Iran, Syria, Sudan, and Cuba

Nationals of the countries listed above are not eligible for automatic revalidation of a visa.  Such individuals must present a valid visa when making an application for any admission to the United States and may be admitted only in the nonimmigrant classification shown on the visa.