In general, a nonimmigrant visa holder must present a valid, unexpired visa each time he/she enters the U.S. However, an exception to this rule exists for J or F nonimmigrants who travel for less than 30 days to Canada, Mexico, or "adjacent islands other than Cuba." The visas of such individuals are considered to be "extended" to the date of reentry, eliminating the need to obtain a new visa before reentering the U.S.
This benefit is only available to a J or F nonimmigrant who:
- has an I-94 valid for duration of status (D/S);
- has a valid form I-20 or DS-2019, excluding grace period and signed for travel;
- is applying to reenter the U.S. after an absence not exceeding 30 days in Canada, Mexico, or adjacent islands in the Caribbean other than Cuba;
- has maintained and intends to resume nonimmigrant status;
- has a valid passport;
- has not applied for a new visa during this particular trip; and
- is not a citizen or national of a country that has been designated as a "state sponsor of terrorism," which includes, as of January 1, 2010, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan and Syria.
Even though a national of a country other than those listed above may be eligible for reentry under the automatic extension of visa validity provision, aliens involved in work or study listed on the Technology Alert List may encounter delays upon attempting reentry. Although they technically do not need a new visa, they may be subject to security or other clearances before being permitted to reenter.
Remember that traveling on an expired visa carries some degree of risk, and travelers may be denied reentry to the U.S. and asked to return to their home countries.