Automatic Visa Revalidation Experience for F1, J1, H1B Visa (A Complete Guide)

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Are you a nonimmigrant in the U.S with an expired U.S visa? If so, in this guide you will learn how to travel in and out of the U.S with an expired U.S visa using the automatic visa revalidation rule.

You will also learn 6 best travel tips to follow when traveling using the Automatic Visa Revalidation Rule. So make sure to read this guide through to the end as you’re going to find this information very helpful.

What is Automatic Visa Revalidation?

The Automatic Visa Revalidation Rule is a U.S immigration policy that allows certain nonimmigrants to re-enter the U.S after traveling to Canada or Mexico for a period of 30 days or less with an expired U.S visa.

Automatic visa Revalidation Countries

If you are a nonimmigrant in an F or J visa status, you’re also allowed to visit adjacent Islands in the Caribbean, Canada and Mexico for a period of 30 days or less and be able to re-enter the U.S with an expired F or J visa.

These adjacent Islands in the Caribbean include countries such as Jamaica, the Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, the Dominican Republic, San Pierre, and Trinidad, just to mention a few. For a full list of countries defined as adjacent Islands, you can use search engines to get more.

U.S nonimmigrant travelers who seek to use the Automatic Visa Revalidation Rule must have in their possession an unexpired admission stamp or paper form I-94 at the time they seek to re-enter the U.S.

Automatic Revalidation and Change of Status

The Automatic Visa Revalidation Rule is also applicable to nonimmigrants in the US who have changed their status but have not obtained a new U.S visa for the new status.

For example, if you successfully changed your F1 status to an H1B status but have not obtained an H1B visa;

  • you’ll be able to re-enter the US with an expired F1 visa to be admitted into the H1B status or
  • you could re-enter the US with your current F1 visa into an H1B status.

Who is eligible for Automatic Visa Revalidation?

Let’s talk about some required documents you must have in order to be eligible to re-enter the U.S using the Automatic Visa Revalidation.

  • As mentioned earlier, you need to present a valid admission stamp or in the case of someone who entered the U.S at a land border crossing, you need to present a valid paper Form I-94. This admission stamp or paper form I-94 must show that your duration of stay in the U.S is unexpired.
  • You must have a valid passport and an expired U.S visa, and it is okay if your current passport does not contain your expired U.S visa.
  • For nonimmigrants in the F and J status, you must provide a valid Form I-20 or valid form DS-2019, respectively.
  • Most importantly, you must have been absent from the U.S for a period of 30 days or less while visiting Canada or Mexico, and if you happen to be an F or J visa holder, you can also visit adjacent Islands, as discussed previously.
  • In the case that you’ve been approved for change of status but have not obtained a new visa for the new status, you must present a Form I-797, Notice of Approval at the time of your re-entry into the US.
  • You must have been in good standing and had maintained your U.S status at the time of your departure from the U.S.

Who is NOT eligible for Automatic Visa Revalidation?

Let’s talk about the category of nonimmigrants who are not allowed to use the automatic Visa Revalidation rule.

  1. Nonimmigrants from countries listed as state sponsors of terrorism.

Nonimmigrants travelers from countries listed as State Sponsors of Terrorism are not allowed to use the automatic visa revalidation. The United States Department of State maintains an updated list of countries listed as State Sponsors of Terrorism.

  1. Nonimmigrants who traveled outside of Canada or Mexico or an Adjacent Island during the 30-day absence from the US.

For example, a nonimmigrant traveler with an expired H1B visa holder who travels to Canada and then travels to Europe and comes back to Canada and tries to re-enter the U.S would not be able to use the Automatic Visa Revalidation Rule.

  1. Nonimmigrant Who Applies for a U.S Visa during the 30-Day Absence

Applying for a U.S visa in Canada, Mexico, or an Adjacent Island country during your 30-day absence from the U.S immediately disqualifies you from using the automatic visa revalidation rule to re-enter the U.S.

In the event that you apply for a U.S visa during your 30-day absence and your visa is rejected, you would have to obtain a valid visa to re-enter the U.S.

Travel Tips when Using Automatic Visa Revalidation

Let now look at the six best travel tips to follow when traveling using the Automatic Visa Revalidation. These tips here are for educational purposes only.

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Tip 1: Print out an article from the Department of Homeland Security’s website that explains the Automatic Visa Revalidation rule.

You always want to have this print out in your possession any time you encounter a U.S Customs official or an airline representative. You will get more information from the Homeland Security’s web page that explains the automatic visa revalidation.

You will found it easier to explain the Automatic Visa Revalidation rule to an airline representative who is not familiar with the rule by simply providing a print out from the Homeland securities web page that explains the automatic Visa revalidation.

Tip 2: Contact the airline you’re going to be flying and ask them if they have any restrictions against passengers who plan to use the automatic Visa Revalidation rule.

Some Airlines might have very strict policies that prevent anyone with an expired visa from even attempting to board a flight to the U.S, so you need to be aware of this information before planning your trip to depart the U.S.

Tip 3: If you happen to have a paper form I-94, you must not surrender your I-94 to any airline representative who asks you to.

This is because during your re-entry to the U.S, a Customs official will need to see your paper from I-94 in order to admit you back into the U.S.

Tip 4: Nonimmigrants who may have applied for a change of status and have been approved for a change of status but have not obtained a visa for the new visa status.

If you’ve been approved for a change of status but have not obtained a new visa for your new status, you need to make sure to be in possession of your form. I-797 Notice of Approval during your re-entry to the US.

Tip 5: Nonimmigrants should obtain a valid Travel Signature if you’re in an F and J status.

If you are in the F or J status, you should contact your designated school official (DSO) and obtain a travel signature prior to your departure from the U.S.

Note: Depending on your enrollment status, your travel signature may be valid for 1 year (for full-time students) or 6 months (for students on post-completion OPT).

Tip 6: Be polite and courteous when interacting with an airline official or U.S Customs Officer who may not be familiar with the Automatic Visa Revalidation Rule.

If you happen to come across an airline official or U.S Customs Officer who’s not familiar with this rule, you should politely ask to speak with a supervisor or someone more experienced who may be familiar with the automatic visa revalidation rule.

When you make your travel itinerary to return to the U.S using the automatic Visa revalidation rule, you should leave more time in your schedule for clearing customs and immigration.

This way you could exercise patience when dealing with airline representatives and customs officers and not panic about missing your flight.

Frequently asked question on Automatic Visa Revalidation Experience

Below is one commonly and frequently asked question which nonimmigrants travelers do ask:

Question: What can I expect at the U.S Port of Entry when using the automatic revalidation rule?

Answer: Re-entering the U.S Port of Entry using automatic revalidation is very similar to the entry experience of someone with a valid U.S visa.

The U.S Customs and Border Patrol Officer at the Primary Inspection booth would inspect your travel documents and would request you provide any other documents required for your visa to be revalidated.

Be prepared to answer questions about your trip and your nonimmigrant status.

If your primary inspection is successful, your passport will be stamped, indicating a visa revalidation date of the current date.

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DISCLAIMER: This guide and content is designed for general information only and is NOT legal advice. The information presented in this guide should not be construed to be formal legal advice. If you need legal advice, you may contact a licensed attorney.