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Automatic Extension of F-1 & J-1 Student Visa Validity

Automatic extension of visa validity falls under the DHS code at 22CFR41.112(d). In brief, the provision allows students and scholars to travel to a contiguous territory or adjacent island and return to the U.S. using an expired visa or an older, different visa for those who have changed status in the U.S., provided the visit does not exceed 30 days. Contiguous territory refers to Canada and Mexico. The term "adjacent islands" means 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 (except Cuba).

Two major changes to automatic revalidation took effect on April 1, 2002. The two changes are:

  1. Citizens of states that sponsor terrorism cannot use the "automatic revalidation" provisions at all. The DOS has identified seven ineligible countries; they are: Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria.

  2. If a person applies for a visa of any kind at a U.S. embassy or consulate while visiting Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean, that person is not permitted to return to the U.S. under the "automatic revalidation" provisions.

Students and scholars should understand that as long as you hold a valid I-20 or valid DS-2019, you can remain in the U.S. if your visa stamp has expired. This regulatory change does not impede your ability to continue and complete your programs of study. International travel, however, is a personal choice, and this change may prompt persons to think carefully about their travel plans.

If you decide to travel using the automatic extension of visa provision, you must:

  1. Be in possession of a Form I-94 and in the case of an F or J student or exchange visitor, a current I-20 or DS 2019.
  2. Not be abroad for more than 30 days and the travel must be limited to contiguous territory (Mexico or Canada) or adjacent islands.
  3. Maintain, and intend to resume, nonimmigrant status.
  4. Apply for readmission within the authorized period of initial admission.
  5. Be in possession of a valid passport.
  6. Not be required to apply for authorization for admission under INA212(d)(3).
  7. Have a country of citizenship that is not Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, North Korea or Cuba.
  8. Not be traveling to contiguous territories to apply for a new visa.