Special Visa Procedures

TCN visa processing in Canada or Mexico
Individuals who are not resident in the consular district (known as "third-country nationals," or "TCNs") must have an appointment in order to be served. Appointments can be booked over the Internet. There is a fee for this service, so the individual should have credit card information ready when he or she logs on. The Department of State asks that people not call an individual post directly to request an appointment.
It is also possible to book an appointment by phone. From the United States, call 1-900-443-3131; from Canada, call 1-900-451-2778. These are toll calls which will be charged by the minute on the caller's telephone bill. If the caller wishes to charge the cost of the call to a credit card (rather than having the telephone bill charged), he or she may call 1-888-840-0032 to schedule an appointment. The telephone system requires a touch-tone phone.

Automatic extension of visa validity at the port of entry

Generally, an alien must present a valid, unexpired visa in the category for which application for admission is being made, each time he or she enters the United States (unless exempt from the visa requirement). If an alien's nonimmigrant visa expires while he or she is in the United States, or if an alien changes his or her nonimmigrant status in the United States, the next time they travel abroad, they must obtain a new visa in the proper category in order to be readmitted to the United States.
An exception to this rule exists for nonimmigrants who travel for less than 30 days solely to Canada, Mexico or "adjacent islands in the Caribbean other than Cuba." The visas of such aliens are considered to be "extended" to the date of reentry, eliminating the need to obtain a new visa at a U.S. consulate before that particular reentry. This benefit also applies to nonimmigrants who have changed nonimmigrant status in the United States, whose visa is still in the category in which they had entered the United States. In that case, the visa is considered "converted" to the proper visa category as well as "extended" to allow reentry.
An individual whose visa is in an expired passport or a different kind of passport can also benefit from this provision, provided both passports were issued by the same country, and the individual actually carries the other passport that contains his or her original nonimmigrant visa at the time of reentry. Citizens of countries that keep the old passport upon issuance of a new one are therefore at a disadvantage when traveling to contiguous territories.

Aliens who are ineligible for the automatic revalidation benefit

The following individuals are ineligible for the "automatic revalidation of visa" benefit:
  • Individuals whose visas have ever been cancelled under I.N.A. § 222(g)
  • Citizens or nationals of state sponsors of terrorism
  • Individuals who apply for a U.S. visa while in contiguous territory
No automatic revalidation if visa is ever canceled under INA § 222(g)
The automatic extension of visa benefit is not available to individuals who have ever had a visa cancelled under the visa cancellation provisions of I.N.A. § 222(g). These individuals must obtain new visas in their home countries.

Citizens or nationals of state sponsors of terrorism

Citizens or nationals of "state sponsors of terrorism" are not eligible for the automatic revalidation of visa benefit.

Aliens who apply for a U.S. visa while in contiguous territory

Individuals who choose to apply for a new U.S. visa while in contiguous territory become ineligible for return to the U.S. under the automatic revalidation provision during the course of that trip.
Although the automatic revalidation benefit is meant to relieve someone of having to obtain a visa, many individuals choose to apply for a visa anyway, to facilitate future entries to the U.S. after travel to non-contiguous territory. Effective April 1, 2002, any nonimmigrant (not just someone from the countries listed above) who chooses to apply for a new visa while in a contiguous territory will no longer be eligible for the "automatic revalidation" benefit during the course of that trip, but would rather have to wait until the visa is granted in order to reenter the United States. This would clearly prevent someone whose visa application is denied from then reentering the U.S. under the automatic revalidation provision, but the broad language has also been read to prevent individuals whose visa application is still pending from using the automatic revalidation provision to reenter the U.S. before the visa application is decided.

Eligibility for automatic extension of validity at ports of entry

The automatic extension of validity at ports of entry benefit is only available to a nonimmigrant who:
  • has a Form I-94 valid for an unexpired period of admission or extension of stay, or for duration of status (D/S)
  • has a current Form I-20 endorsed for reentry
  • is applying for readmission after an absence not exceeding 30 days solely in Canada or Mexico or, adjacent islands in the Caribbean other than Cuba
  • has maintained and intends to resume nonimmigrant status
  • is applying for readmission within the authorized period of initial admission or extension of stay
  • has a valid passport
  • has not applied for a new visa during this particular trip
  • is not inadmissible as a nonimmigrant underI.N.A. § 212
  • has never had a visa canceled under I.N.A. § 222(g)
  • is not a citizen or national of a country that has been designated as a "state sponsor of terrorism"

Definition of "adjacent islands"

The I.N.A. defines "adjacent islands" as:
...Saint Pierre, Miquelon, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, (Cuba*), Jamaica, the Windward and Leeward Islands, Trinidad, Martinique, and other British, French, and Netherlands territories or possessions in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea.
I.N.A. § 101 (b)(5); 22 C.F.R. § 41.112 (d)(2)(ii)
* Important note: although Cuba is referenced in the statute, DOS regulations at 22 C.F.R. § 41.112 (d)(2)(ii) exclude Cuba from the list of acceptable "adjacent islands." Travelers to Cuba cannot take advantage of the automatic revalidation benefit.