Trips to Canada or Mexico and Visa Revalidation

May I apply to re-enter the U.S. with an expired visa stamp after a brief visit to Canada or Mexico?

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) regulations provide that if certain requirements are met, an expired visa stamp may be automatically revalidated to permit a foreign national to return to the U.S. after a brief visit solely to a contiguous territory. This provision of law – also known as the automatic visa revalidation or 30-day rule – permits the inspecting officer at the U.S. border to take the following action:

(1) Automatically extend the visa stamp validity to the date of application for readmission; or
(2) Convert the category of the visa stamp to the relevant visa classification needed by the applicant to return to the U.S. and extend the validity of that visa stamp to the date of application for readmission if the visa stamp is expired.

The requirements that must be met for this regulation to apply are the following:

  1. The applicant must present an expired or unexpired nonimmigrant visa stamp;
  2. The applicant’s period of authorized stay reflected on Form I-94 must be unexpired. For applicants with an electronic I-94a hard copy is recommended but not required as CBP has access to the electronic record. Applicants issued a paper I-94 card must be in possession of the unexpired card. In addition, if the applicant is in F, M or J status, he/she must also be in possession of a current and properly endorsed Form I-20 or DS-2019 that was issued by the applicable school or exchange program sponsor which shows an unexpired period of stay;
  3. The applicant must be applying for readmission to the U.S. after an absence which does not exceed 30 days and which has solely been in a contiguous territory;
  4. The applicant must have maintained proper status prior to his/her departure from the U.S. and intend to resume that nonimmigrant status upon readmission to the U.S.;
  5. The applicant must be in possession of a valid passport;
  6. The applicant cannot require authorization for admission under INA 212(d)(3) (i.e., requires a waiver due to a ground of inadmissibility); and
  7. The applicant did not apply for a new visa while abroad.

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In order to use this provision of law, does it matter where I am from?

Yes, this provision cannot be utilized by nationals/citizens of countries that the U.S. currently identifies as State Sponsors of Terrorism. At this time (July 2014), individuals who are nationals/citizens of Cuba, Iran, Sudan or Syria cannot benefit from this provision of law.

What happens if I am denied a visa at the U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate in Mexico or Canada?

Returning to the U.S. under the automatic visa revalidation provision after applying for a visa stamp at a U.S. Embassy or a U.S. Consulate in Mexico or Canada is not permitted.

In general, if your visa stamp application at a U.S. Embassy or a U.S. Consulate in Mexico or Canada is denied you will not be able to re-enter the U.S. It is important to fully understand the U.S. Embassy’s or U.S. Consulate’s basis for denial and determine whether additional documentation or information may assist in securing an approval on a subsequent application for the visa stamp. Consultation with an attorney is highly recommended.

If my visa stamp application is denied at the U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate in Mexico or Canada, can I use the Visa Waiver Program (or a BCC or B-1/B-2 visa ) to return to the U.S.?

In general, this is not recommended. It is strongly advised that you seek guidance from legal counsel before making a decision to return to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) or utilizing a BCC or a B-1/B-2 visa. It is important to understand that VWP entrants may not change status in the U.S. and that VWP, BCC or B-1/B-2 visa entrants cannot work in the U.S. Further, it is quite possible that your application for re-entry to the U.S. pursuant to the VWP, a BCC or a B-1/B-2 visa stamp after a visa stamp application denial could be refused.

I am not a national or citizen of Mexico or Canada. Am I eligible to apply for a U.S. visa in Canada or Mexico?

It is recommended that individuals apply for a visa stamp at a U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate in their home country. However, the U.S. Embassy or a U.S. Consulate in Mexico or Canada may accept visa applications from third-country nationals but the types of visa applications that may be accepted are limited. Limitations include, but are not limited to, applications for an initial visa stamp at the U.S. Embassy or a U.S. Consulate in Mexico (only process renewals if a prior visa in the same category was issued in the applicant’s home country), applications where the applicant has violated his/her U.S. immigration status, applications where the applicant has stayed in the U.S. beyond their authorized period of stay, as well as applications being sought by individuals who are nationals or citizens of a country that the U.S. government currently designates as State Sponsors of Terrorism. Additionally, it is important to note that a U.S. Embassy or a U.S. Consulate in Canada or Mexico has the discretion to refuse a third-country national’s visa application and require the individual to travel back to their home country to apply for the visa stamp.

Do I need a visa to enter Canada or Mexico?

Depending on your nationality or citizenship, you may require a visa to travel to Mexico and/or Canada. Prior to any trip to Mexico or Canada, it is strongly recommended that you contact the Embassy or Consulate General of Mexico or Canada to understand the visa requirements for traveling to those countries. It is also important to understand how long you will be permitted to remain in that country if you plan to attempt to renew a U.S. visa stamp at a U.S. Embassy or a U.S. Consulate in Mexico or Canada. In the event that your U.S. visa stamp application is delayed, you may not be able to return to the U.S. immediately and you must abide by the Canadian or Mexican visa’s terms.

How do I make an appointment to apply for a visa in Mexico or Canada?

Please visit the following website for detailed information: https://ais.usvisa-info.com/. Please also review the following link under FAQs for individuals on our website: International Travel Requirements and Advisories.

If my visa stamp application at the U.S. Embassy or a U.S. Consulate in Canada or Mexico is delayed due to administrative processing, may I return to the U.S. and wait for notification of the approval?

Returning to the U.S. under the automatic visa revalidation provision after applying for a visa stamp at a U.S. Embassy or a U.S. Consulate in Mexico or Canada is not permitted.

In the event that you still hold a valid visa stamp in the correct category within your passport, it may be possible to return to the U.S. to await notification from the U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate that the visa may be issued. This, however, will depend on whether the U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate is willing to return your passport to you without cancelling your current visa stamp. If they return your passport, do not cancel your existing visa, and advise you that you may return to the U.S. to wait for further notification on the visa application status, you may choose to rely on this direction. Please note that in the event the visa stamp application is being delayed due to a security clearance issue, the U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate may retain your passport or return your passport but cancel your existing visa as current U.S. policy seeks to prevent such visa applicants from returning to the U.S. until after the security clearance has been received.