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U.S. State Department Changes

Automatic Revalidation of Visa Rules

U.S. State Department changes Automatic Revalidation of Visa Rules Effective April 1, 2002. New rules go into effect regarding the U.S. State Department's Automatic Revalidation of Visa benefits (the formal regulatory citation is 22 Code of Federal Regulations 41.112(d)).

Under U.S. law, most immigrants must have valid Nonimmigrant Visas in their possession when they travel to, and apply for admission to, the U.S.. For many years, the U.S. State Department permitted nonimmigrants who were lawfully present in the U.S. to travel to contiguous territory (meaning Canada, Mexico, and, in the case of "F" Students and "J" Exchange Visitors, the adjacent islands other than Cuba) without having to obtain a new Nonimmigrant Visa before seeking readmission to the U.S., provided that they were returning to the U.S. from a visit of 30 days or less in contiguous territory.

So, for instance, an F-1 Student who had changed status in the U.S. to, say H-1B, could travel to Canada and return to the U.S. to resume H-1B status without first having to obtain an H-1B Visa at a U.S. Consulate in Canada. The Automatic Revalidation of Visa rule treats the F-1 Visa as automatically revalidated for the limited purpose of permitting the nonimmigrant to seek to reenter the U.S. in H-1B status - regardless of whether or not the F-1 Visa was still valid.

The changes that took effect on April 1, 2002 are as follows:

  • Citizens of "state sponsors of terrorism" will no longer be eligible for the automatic revalidation of visa benefit. The most recent (2000) State Department Patterns of Global Terrorism report lists the following countries as state sponsors of terrorism: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Liby, Sudan, North Korea, and Cuba.
  • Nonimmigrants who choose to apply for a new Visa while in contiguous territory must obtain the visa sought in order to return to the U.S. Until this rule change, nonimmigrants present in the U.S. were able to apply, essentially risk-free, for a U.S. Nonimmigrant Visa in Canada or Mexico. If they were refused a Visa, they could avail themselves of the Automatic Revalidation of Visa provision and still apply to reenter the U.S.
  • Under the rule, any nonimmigrant who chooses to apply for a new Visa while in contiguous territory will no longer be eligible for the Automatic Revalidation benefit during the course of that trip, but will be required to wait until the Visa is granted to reenter the U.S. Arguably, this change could also affect persons, whose visa applications are not denied but are continued or otherwise remain pending, from reentering the U.S. under the Automatic Revalidation Provision.

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