Coming back to the US from Canada
or Mexico with your old visa

"Automatic Visa Revalidation"

This information has been prepared for the general information of clients of The Law Offices of Jay I. Solomon.  It is accurate as of October, 2007.  Always seek legal advice concerning the particulars of your situation.

In certain circumstances, you can come back to the U.S. from Canada or Mexico using your current I-94 and an expired visa - even if it is in a different category.

Conditions for Automatic Visa Revalidation - in general, if

  • You are visiting Canada or Mexico for less than 30 days, and
  • Have not traveled through any other country, and
  • Have not applied for a U.S. visa while in Canada or Mexico, and
  • Have a valid visa in your passport - even if it is expired, and even if it was issued in a different category (so long as it wasn't canceled), and
  • Have a valid form I-94 (or an Automated I-94 - see below
  • Are not from Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan or Syria, and
  • are otherwise admissible to the United States

then you can apply to reenter the U.S. using your passport, your old or expired visa, and your I-94.

If you entered the U.S. using an F-1 (student) visa and changed your status to H-1b, you can visit Canada and return to the U.S. as an H-1b, even though you don't have an H-1b visa - and even if your F-1 visa has expired!

You will still need to satisfy the officer at the border that you are admissible to the United States - just as you would if you had a visa in your current status.  And it is of course important that you not give up your form I-94 when you leave the U.S. for Canada or Mexico.

Your I-94 is the original white card you used the last time you entered the U.S. stamped with an admission date and indicating your status at the time, together with any extensions/changes which would have been received when you extended or changed status.


  • Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months
  • If you have renewed your passport, and your visa is in your old passport, travel with both
  • Make sure you have your I-94 and extension documents
  • If you are a student, travel with your I-20 in addition to your I-94
  • Make sure you have a visa stamp - and that it has not been canceled.  An expired visa is "okay" - a canceled visa is not
  • Travel with proof of your current status - for instance, if you are an H-1b, a letter from your employer and current pay stubs
  • Be aware that a visa can be canceled automatically if, for example, you remained in the U.S. past the date to which you were admitted
  • Be aware that you can still be refused admission if there is a question about your admissibility - for instance if you have been convicted of  a crime or are found to have violated your status.

    BE AWARE -not all inspecting officers will be aware of this rule - particularly at smaller posts.  If there is a question when you come back, ask to see the supervisor.

Why this works

The State Department has a regulation which provides that in the circumstances described above:

(i) The validity of an expired nonimmigrant visa ... may be considered to be automatically extended to the date of application for readmission; and

(ii) In cases where the original nonimmigrant classification of an alien has been changed by DHS to another nonimmigrant classification, the validity of an expired or unexpired nonimmigrant visa may be considered to be automatically extended to the date of application for readmission, and the visa may be converted as necessary to that changed classification.

A copy of the State Department regulations and the accompanying NOTE from the State Department Foreign Affairs Manual is provided in case you want to print it out and bring it with you when you travel.

US Customs and Border Protection Fact Sheet on automatic revalidation, which is posted on their web site.

WARNING:  Automatic Visa Revalidation is NOT available if you have applied for a visa while in Canada or Mexico, and the visa has been refused.  Refer to the list of conditions above.

Visa Revalidation with Electronic I-94


I-94 Automation - Most I-94 records are now created and maintained electronically by CBP for those wh arrived by air or sea.  If you were not issued a paper I-94 check to make sure you have an electronic record, and print it.  If you were issued a paper I-94, you must use it for visa revalidation.  Otherwise, your I-94 will be verified electronically, and the electronic record wil be used to revalidate an expired visa - provided you meet all the conditions for visa revalidation.   I-94 Automation & Visa Revalidation