I need to travel to Canada or Mexico, but my visa expired

August 01, 2022
Courtney Wachal

The U.S. State Department has been working to rectify consular backlogs that occurred during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, until the backlog has been resolved, getting a visa stamping appointment at a U.S. consulate is proving difficult, making it a challenge to travel and return to the U.S.

If you need to travel to Mexico, Canada or adjacent islands for business or pleasure and have an expired visa stamp in your passport, you may have the option of automatic visa revalidation.

What is automatic visa revalidation?

Automatic visa revalidation is run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to allow “certain temporary visitors holding expired nonimmigrant visas who seek to return to the U.S. may be admitted at a U.S. port of entry.”

Do I quality for automatic visa revalidation?

In order to qualify for automatic visa revalidation, the following must apply:

  • You departed the U.S. for Canada, Mexico, or the adjacent islands for thirty days or less; AND
  • You have a valid (unexpired) admission stamp or paper I-94 Arrival/Departure Record

However, if you fall into one of the below categories, automatic visa revalidation isn’t an option for you. This means that you will have to obtain a visa at a U.S. consulate to be eligible to return to the United States.

If one of the following situations applies to you, then you are ineligible for automatic visa revalidation:

  • Applied for a new visa that has not yet been issued
  • Applied for a new visa and was denied
  • Have been outside the U.S. for more than 30 days
  • Have traveled to a country OTHER than Canada, Mexico, or an adjacent island which is not part of the automatic visa revalidation program
  • Are a national of a State Sponsor Terrorism designated country, including Iran, Syria, and Sudan
  • Are in possession of an F student visa or a J exchange visitor visa and has traveled to Cuba
  • Is in possession of an M student visa and has traveled to a location outside of the U.S. other than Canada or Mexico.

How Does it work?

After returning to the U.S. from Mexico, Canada, or specific adjacent islands, CBP officers at the port of entry will issue you a single-entry visa, as long as you:

  • Are a nonimmigrant who traveled to Canada, Mexico, or the adjacent islands for 30 days or less; and
  • You have either a) a valid (unexpired) admission stamp or b) a valid, paper I-94

If you meet these criteria, CBP should allow you to re-enter the U.S. without a valid visa stamp.

Does automatic visa revalidation mean I don’t have to go the consulate in the future?

No, automatic visa revalidation only allows you to reenter the U.S. for a single trip and cannot be used to re-enter the U.S. from any other country. This means that once you are able to get a consular appointment, you should still go through the visa stamping process to obtain an updated visa with the requisite validity dates.

If you need to travel to Canada, Mexico, or adjacent islands and have an expired visa stamp in your passport and want to know if this is an option for you, please contact our attorneys to assist you.

The material contained in this alert does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only. An attorney-client relationship is not presumed or intended by receipt or review of this presentation. The information provided should never replace informed counsel when specific immigration-related guidance is needed.

© 2023 Minsky, McCormick & Hallagan, P.C. All rights reserved. Information may not be reproduced, displayed, modified, or distributed without the express prior written permission of Minsky, McCormick & Hallagan, P.C.

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