NOTE: This information specifically deals with reentering the U.S. from Mexico or Canada WITH AN EXPIRED VISA.
If your visa is valid, you may use the normal procedures for reentry to the U.S. Individuals who are unlawfully present in the U.S. (e.g., out of status) and have an expired or canceled visa cannot go "visa shopping" in Mexico or Canada! The use of the automatic extension of visa for trips of 30 days or less into Mexico or Canada (i.e., which allows you to use the I-94 card for reentry instead of your visa) is NOT allowed if you are unlawfully present (e.g., out of status) or have committed a visa overstay. You MUST return home to obtain your visa! If you attempt to reenter the U.S. from Mexico or Canada under these conditions you may be denied readmission to the U.S. or later accused of using visa fraud if you are accidentally granted admission. For more information on this matter, please read Immigration Alerts and Reentry from Mexico & Canada.
Information for the Student Description of Automatic Extension of Visa Under certain circumstances, an F-1 student may reenter the U.S. with an expired visa provided that the F-1 student:
- Applies for readmission to the U.S. after an absence not exceeding 30 days in Canada, Mexico, or adjacent islands in the Caribbean, except Cuba.
- Has maintained and intends to resume status as an F-1 student.
- Presents (or is the accompanying spouse or child of an alien who presents) a valid Form I-94 and the current I-20 endorsed for travel on page 3.
- Possesses a valid passport (unless exempt from passport requirements).
- Applies for reentry to the U.S. by the program completion date listed on the I-20.
Under certain circumstances, an F-1 student may reenter the U.S. with an expired visa provided that the F-1 student: This process is technically called "automatic extension of visa". This that the Immigration & Naturalization Service (INS) treats your expired visa as if it were extended to the date of your reentry. The automatic extension of your visa does not extend your visa for future use. Travel to all other countries will still require a new visa.
Students Who Do Not Have an F-1 Visa and Changed Their Status in the United States
A person who entered the U.S. in a classification other than F-1 student and later changed his or her status to F-1 student may also reenter the U.S. with this process. In this situation, the F-1 student only needs to meet the above conditions whether the original visa is expired or un-expired [22 CFR 41.112(d)(ii)]. Note: A student whose visa has been canceled is not eligible.
New Passports Not Containing the Visa
Individuals carrying passports issued from within the U.S. to replace the passport that contains their original nonimmigrant visa MUST have the old passport in their possession. Citizens of countries that keep the old passport upon issuance of a new one are, therefore, at a disadvantage when traveling to contiguous territories (i.e., Mexico, Canada, and adjacent islands in the Caribbean, except Cuba)
Steps To Follow
- Check to see if you meet the above requirements.
- Obtain a travel endorsement for the back of your I-20.
- Be sure to return to the U.S. by the reentry e on the backside (page 4) of your I-20.
- Be sure your passport is valid. If your current passport does not contain the visa you used to enter the U.S., bring the old passport that does contain the visa.
- Keep the I-94 card in your possession. Do not surrender it at the time of your departure from the U.S. This is an essential document for reentering the United States.
- Take a photocopy(s) of the front and back of your I-94 card to give to the airline or any other officials who may ask you for your I-94 card at departure.
The U.S. Code of Federal Regulations
The following is the actual text of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) pertaining to the automatic extension of visa:
An additional reference is found in 22 CFR 41.112(d).