For holders of F and J visa classes who have expired visa stamps in their passports, certain expired visa stamps are considered valid for travel only and solely to "contiguous territory and adjacent islands." Contiguous territories include Canada and Mexico, and adjacent islands are those located in the Caribbean (excluding Cuba). You do not need a new visa stamp to reenter the U.S. after this type of travel. HOWEVER, this exception applies only as indicated below and ALL CRITERIA must be met. Furthermore, this exception may change as the political relationships between the U.S. and other countries change. Always check on the current status of these provisions before you travel.
Criteria for the provisions listed above:
- The time outside the United States MUST be for less than 30 days, and you must travel only into contiguous territory or adjacent islands. Travel to a third country from Canada, Mexico or an adjacent island is not permitted.
- You must have in hand and present to the immigration officer a valid unexpired visa document (i.e., I-20, DS-2019, I-797 approval notice).
- You must have in hand and present to the immigration officer a valid unexpired passport.
- You must have maintained F and/or J status and must intend to resume this class when you reenter the U.S.
- You must have a valid I-94 card and apply for reentry before the end of the authorized stay.
- You must not be considered inadmissible to the U.S. under Section 212(a) or 212(d)(3)(A) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
- In other words, if either of the aforementioned notations appears on your expired visa stamp, you are not eligible for readmission. "J" visa holders - please do not confuse these two notations with Section 212(e) that indicates you are subject to the two-year home residence requirement. The Section 212(e) notation on your visa stamp does not affect your eligibility.
NOTE: If traveling to Canada, Mexico or one of the adjacent islands, you certainly must check beforehand as to whether you need a visa stamp to enter those territories.
Each of us needs to recognize that being permitted into any country other than our country of citizenship or country of lawful permanent residence is a privilege - NOT A RIGHT. Thus, any time a foreign national chooses to travel abroad knowing she/he will need a new visa stamp to reenter, there IS NO GUARANTEE that 1) the new visa stamp will be issued, or 2) that you will be readmitted at the port of entry. Traveling abroad always carries some degree of risk, and the best thing you can do to insure that you encounter no problems is to carry valid documents with you at all times (including proof of funding if ever asked) and to abide by the laws and regulations governing your non-immigrant status.
Please also consult our website entry on "Overseas Travel and Inside the US" or contact our International Student Advisor if you have any questions.