Under certain circumstances, a foreign national with an expired nonimmigrant visa may travel outside of the United States and reenter without first obtaining a new visa stamp from the consulate abroad. Normally, foreign nationals are not permitted to enter the US with expired nonimmigrant visas. However, many non-immigrants who are in valid visa status do not have a current visa stamp in their passport because a visa stamp is not necessary unless one seeks to travel abroad and reenter the US.
This provision of the immigration law is known as automatic revalidation, which presumes a visa to be automatically revalidated on that date the foreign national crossed the US border provided that the person’s non-immigrant status is still valid. Foreign national visitors holding non-immigrant visas that have expired may travel abroad and return to the US under the automatic revalidation provision if they meet certain criteria.
- The travel abroad must have been a trip to contiguous territory such as Canada, Mexico, or an adjacent island.
- The person must have a valid, unexpired Form I-94 Arrival-Departure Record.
- The person must not have been outside of the United States for more 30 days.
A foreign national does not qualify for automatic revalidation if any one of the following circumstances is present:
- The person has already applied for a new visa but not yet received it.
- The person has applied for a new visa but it was denied.
- The person was outside of US for more than 30 days.
- The person traveled to a non-contiguous country.
- The person is a national of a country that has been designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, including Sudan, Syria, Iran, and Cuba.
- The person traveled to Cuba and has an F student visa or a J exchange visitor visa.
- The person traveled to a location outside the US other than Canada and Mexico, and has an M student visa.
A thorough understanding of the automatic revalidation provision can come in very handy, especially to a nonimmigrant visa holder who plans to take a short trip across the Mexican or Canadian border, such as on a short ship cruise vacation for example.