Traveling with a US Visa

Many students and scholars take the opportunity to travel home—or to another country—during their time in the US. While you can make plans to depart the US at any time, you need to make certain that you have the appropriate documentation to return to the US to resume your activities. The information below will help facilitate your return to the US.

Check Your Visa(s)

The visa in your passport, listing your immigration status, permits you to re-enter the US. It does not grant permission to enter a third country (a country that is not the US or your home country). If you are traveling to a third country, you may need a visa to enter that country.

Please bear in mind that the ISSO can only advise on re-entry to the US; we cannot advise on visas going to third countries. We recommend that you contact the embassy or consulate of the country you will be traveling to and ask for specific information about visa requirements for citizens from your home country.

Returning from Canada, Mexico, or Adjacent Islands with an Expired US Visa

F and J nonimmigrants who travel to Canada, Mexico, or the adjacent islands (except for Cuba) may return to the US using an expired US visa. This rule is known as Automatic Visa Revalidation. To successfully use Automatic Visa Revalidation, travelers must have previously entered the US in a nonimmigrant visa category, and must be maintaining valid nonimmigrant status.

For all other visa categories, Automatic Visa Revalidation does not apply. All other visa categories must have a valid and current US visa stamp in order to re-enter the US.

If you have questions about safely re-entering the US from Canada, Mexico, or the adjacent islands using Automatic Visa Revalidation, please consult with the ISSO before you depart Boston.

Please see the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement website for a complete list of the adjacent islands.

Exceptions to the Automatic Visa Revalidation Rule

  • Individuals who apply for a new visa stamp: If you plan to apply for a nonimmigrant visa stamp at a US embassy or consulate in a contiguous territory (Canada, Mexico, or the adjacent islands), you will not be eligible to return to the US under Automatic Visa Revalidation. Instead, you must wait for the new visa to be approved and then return to the US under the new visa. If your visa application is denied, you will be required to travel elsewhere (most likely to your home country) to apply again for a US visa stamp before you may return to the US.
  • Scholars in H-1B status can use Automatic Visa Revalidation for travel to Canada, Mexico, and US territories only: H-1B employees with expired visas should pay particular attention to their travel itineraries to ensure that they will travel only to Canada, Mexico, or a US-owned territory. H-1B employees cannot use Automatic Visa Revalidation for travel to any other location.
  • Citizens of certain countries are not eligible for Automatic Visa Revalidation: If you are a citizen of a country identified by the Department of State as a state that sponsors terrorism, you are not eligible for Automatic Visa Revalidation. Currently, this list includes Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, and Cuba. The countries included on this list are subject to change, and you can find an updated list on the Department of State’s website.
  • Citizens of Mexico and adjacent islands: Citizens of Mexico and countries of the adjacent islands are not eligible for Automatic Visa Revalidation when traveling to their home country. Citizens of Mexico and the adjacent islands can use Automatic Visa Revalidation when traveling to Canada.

Maintaining Status during Cruise Trips

If you plan to take a cruise, please bear in mind that the cruise ship may cross international borders. You should make certain to carry the same appropriate documentation as if you were returning from an international trip. Although some cruise companies require only copies of immigration documents, US immigration policies requires that you present original documents.