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INS Restricts Automatic Visa Revalidation Return from Canada, Mexico, and adjacent islands

On April 1, 2002 new INS regulations took effect restricting “automatic revalidation of visas” for individuals who travel to Canada, Mexico, or the islands of the West Indies.

Under the old regulations, a person could travel to Canada, Mexico, or adjacent islands for a period of less than 30 days with an expired U.S. visa stamp and reenter the US using that expired visa stamp along with a valid nonimmigrant document (i.e. a valid I-20, IAP-66 or I-797)

As of April 1, the new regulations canceled automatic revalidation for two classes of individuals:

1. all individuals traveling on passports issued by Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, North Korea and Cuba

2. all individuals who visit a US Consulate in Canada, Mexico, or adjacent islands and submit an application there for a new nonimmigrant visa

Please note that under this second provision, if you travel to Canada, for example, with an expired visa stamp in your passport and apply for a new visa at a US consulate, you will only able to return to the United States if your new visa is granted. If your visa application is denied, you will not be able to return to the United States. In the event of visa denial in Canada (or in Mexico or the adjacent island), you will have to travel to another US embassy or consulate, probably in your home country, to apply for a new visa there. This second provision of the new regulations thus ends a very popular, convenient and risk-free strategy for obtaining a nonimmigrant US visa stamp.

Automatic revalidation will remain in effect after April 1, however, for individuals who do not apply for US visas while they are in Canada, Mexico, or the West Indies (except for those traveling on passports issued by the seven countries listed above, for whom automatic revalidation is canceled in all circumstances). Thus, (unless you are from one of the seven countries listed) you will still be able to travel to these adjacent territories with an expired visa and return using the expired visa and your valid I-20, IAP-66 or I-797 if you do NOT apply for a new US visa while you are there.

The Department of State describes these new regulations as an effort to provide “greater security of screening of visa applications.” The regulations took effect on April 1, without prior public comment. There is, however, a public comment period that ends on May 6, 2002. Comments received by the Department of State in this period may possibly lead to revision of the new regulations.

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