Automatic visa revalidation, or “AVR,” refers to a process which allows temporary visitors who hold an expired nonimmigrant visa to re-enter into the U.S., without needing to obtain an entirely new visa. AVR applies in situations involving valid nonimmigrant status, but the visa itself has expired. Revalidation also allows the visa holder to travel outside of the U.S. for a short period of time, generally not to exceed thirty days. This is intended to minimize the risk that they will not be able to re-enter the country upon their return.
It is important to note that automatic visa revalidation is not the same as obtaining a visa extension, or filing for a new visa. Visa holders are generally approved for temporary visa extensions if they provide sufficient reason as to why they need to do so. Extensions may not be applied for by those traveling on the visa waiver program.
Visa Revalidation can be an attractive option for those with nonimmigrant status. This is because it allows the nonimmigrant to re-enter the U.S., without going through the reapplication process. Additionally, revalidation is relatively inexpensive when compared to other options, such as traveling to their home country in order to apply for a new visa.
What Are the Eligibility Requirements for Automatic Visa Revalidation?
Automatic visa revalidation is reserved for specific classes of visa holders. Thus, not every type of visa is eligible for AVR. In order to be considered eligible for automatic visa revalidation, the following requirements must be met:
- The nonimmigrant visa holder must have a valid and unexpired Form I-94: Arrival-Departure Record;
- Form I-94 must be endorsed by the Department of Homeland Security;
- The visa holder’s nonimmigrant status must be valid, even if visa itself has expired;
- The visa holder also must have a valid passport. Please note that the passport must be valid for at least 6 months after the day you enter or re-enter the United States. As such, it is important to keep your passport current at all times; and
- For F and J nonimmigrant classifications, travel outside of the U.S. must be for thirty days or less, and is limited to Mexico, Canada, or an adjacent island. It is important to note that Cuba is not included in the list of adjacent islands.
It is important to note that previously revalidation was allowed for the visa classifications E, H, I, L, O, and P. However, as of 2011, visa revalidation has been discontinued for these classes. These new procedures effectively restrict AVR to situations in which the visa holder is traveling to Mexico or Canada for no more than thirty days, and is not seeking a new visa.
AVR is not available if the nonimmigrant:
- Has applied for a new visa which has not yet been issued, or was denied;
- Has traveled outside of the U.S. for longer than thirty days;
- Has traveled to a country other than Mexico, Canada, or one of the adjacent islands listed in the AVR provisions;
- Is a national of any country designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, as determined by the United States;
- Possesses an F or J visa and traveled to Cuba;
- Possesses an M student visa and has traveled to a destination outside of the United States, other than Canada or Mexico; and/or
- Has obtained a visa under the Visa Waiver Program.
If any of these criteria are met, the nonimmigrant will be required to reapply for a new visa. Visas can be reissued at a U.S. Embassy, or at a Consulate located in the nonimmigrant’s home country.
Most significantly, revalidation is not available to those who have reapplied for a new visa but have had their application denied. Because of this, it is advised that you only apply for a new visa if you are certain that it will be granted.
What Should I Know About Visa Extensions?
As previously mentioned, automatic visa revalidation is a very different process from a nonimmigrant visa extension. Because of this, it may be helpful to further discuss visa extensions in order to understand exactly how the two differ from each other. In order to be eligible for a visa extension, the following criteria must be met:
- Admittance into the United States with your nonimmigrant visa must be lawful;
- The nonimmigrant visa must be currently valid;
- You must demonstrate no crimes were committed that would disqualify you from a visa extension;
- The application for a visa extension must be submitted before your stay expires; and
- Your passport must be valid for your entire stay.
If a visa extension application is denied, it may still be possible to appeal the application. In order to do so, you will need to contact the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) for the steps that must be completed. Another option is to file for permanent status, instead of simply filing for a visa extension.
What Are Some Helpful Tips Regarding Automatic Visa Revalidation?
The following is a list of recommendations and helpful tips when it comes to automatic visa revalidation:
- Always Know the Current Law: Although it may seem obvious, you should always keep up to date with the current law regarding automatic visa revalidation. The law can be found at 8 C.F.R. Section 214.1. and 22 Section C.F.R. 41.112.;
- Ensure Travel Documents Have a Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) Admission Stamp: Travelers used to have to carry their Form I-94 with them, however that is not the case today. The U.S. CBP has now streamlined the admissions process for travelers by automating the Form I-94 through a CBP admission stamp that is placed on the traveler’s documentation. It is important to make sure that you receive this stamp before travelling. You may wish to carry a helpful updated fact sheet concerning I-94 forms, which can be found here;
- Don’t Try and Cheat the System: Although it may seem obvious, you cannot travel to Canada and Mexico and then make a round trip to another place in the world, such as China or Europe. If you are caught doing this, you will likely be denied re-entry to the United States under the AVR rule;
- Do Not Apply for a New Visa: As noted above, you should not apply for a new visa, if you are wishing to re-enter the United States using the AVR rule. Once again, if your application for a new visa is denied, you will not be able to re-enter using the AVR rule; and
- Travel by Air if Possible: Airports, especially major airports, have the best trained Customs and Border Protection officers. This means that travelling through major United States airports will often result in less problems for those re-entering the United States using the AVR rule. However, you should always leave yourself an ample amount of time at the airport, should any issues arise.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Automatic Visa Renewal?
As can be seen, the automatic visa renewal process can be complicated to understand. However, the process has been streamlined in recent years, in an effort to make the process easier on travelers. Consulting with an experienced and local immigration lawyer will be helpful in determining your eligibility for automatic visa renewal.
Additionally, an experienced immigration lawyer will be able to answer any question you may have concerning automatic visa renewal. Finally, an attorney can help guide you through the entire automatic visa revalidation process, and ensure that you meet all of the necessary requirements.