There is a special provision called automatic visa revalidation which allows F and J students with an expired entry visa to briefly visit Canada, Mexico and the adjacent islands (except Cuba) and return to the United States. Please note: this rule does not relate to entering Canada, Mexico and adjacent islands. Students must contact the individual country to inquire about entry requirements. The following rules apply to automatic visa revalidation:
You must carry your valid I-20 or DS-2019 with valid travel signature and your passport (valid at least six months into the future and containing your expired visa stamp)
The time outside the United States must not exceed 30 days and may be spent only in Canada, Mexico or adjacent islands (except Cuba)
You must have maintained status while in the United States and intend to resume that status when you return to the United States
You must retain your valid I-94 card in the passport and present it upon re-entry into the United States
There are two exceptions to this benefit. First, citizens of "state sponsors of terrorism" as designated by the Department of State (DOS) are not eligible for the automatic revalidation of visa benefit. The most current list is available on the DOS website. Second, an individual who applies for a new visa while visiting Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean is not permitted to return to the United States under the provisions of automatic revalidation.
Adjacent islands include Saint Pierre, Miquelon, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, the Windward and Leeward Islands, Trinidad, Martinique, and other British, French, and Netherlands territory or possessions in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea.
If you are traveling to Mexico or the Caribbean by cruise ship, you should contact the cruise line before purchasing the cruise package to confirm they will recognize automatic revalidation and allow you to travel outside the United States without a valid F-1 or J-1 visa.
Please note: if you have changed your status from within the United States (for example, you changed from H-1B to F-1), and have a valid or expired visa from your previous nonimmigrant classification in your passport, you may use it to re-enter the United States as long as you meet all the other requirements for automatic revalidation.
If you plan to take advantage of automatic revalidation, we recommend printing and carrying the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Automatic Revalidation Fact Sheet in case the border officer who greets you upon re-entry is not familiar with the details of the rule.
For more information, please review the Revised Regulation on Automatic Revalidation.