International Students Guide - Travel to Canada or Mexico

2. Travel to Canada or Mexico

For travel to Canada or Mexico, first check to see if a tourist visa will be required to enter either country. Information on Canadian tourist visas is available in the Office of International Student and Scholar Services. You will need to have your passport, visa documents (I-94 card and I-20), and UTS student ID card with you when you travel, and be certain that your I-20 has an authorizing signature no older than May 2003.

Last year, The U.S. Department of State announced new rules for non-immigrants who use the "automatic revalidation of visa" benefit [22 CFR 41.112(d)] to re-enter the United States after a 30-day or less visit to a "contiguous territory" (Canada, Mexico, and, in the case of F and J non-immigrants, the "adjacent islands other than Cuba") without having to obtain a new visa prior to re-entry.

First, citizens of "state sponsors of terrorism" (as designated in the State Department's annual "Patterns of Global Terrorism" report) are no longer eligible for the automatic revalidation of visa benefit. Section 306 of the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Reform Act of 2002 lists the following countries as state sponsors of terrorism: Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, North Korea, and Cuba.. This means that a person who is a citizen of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, North Korea, or Cuba in the United States in any non-immigrant classification can only enter Canada and return to the United States IF he or she has an unexpired multiple-entry U.S. visa in the passport for his or her current status.

The second change affects individuals who choose to apply for a new U.S. visa while in Canada or Mexico. Under the new rule, ANY non-immigrant (not just someone from the 7 countries listed above) who chooses to apply for a new visa while in Canada or Mexico will no longer be eligible for the "automatic revalidation" benefit during the course of that trip, but will have to wait until the visa is approved in order to re-enter the United States. If the U.S. visa application is denied, that individual will not be permitted to re-enter the United States, and will instead have to return to his or her home country. See Section 8 of this article, "Applying for a New U.S. Visa at a Consulate Abroad" for additional information on the visa application process.

However, non-immigrants traveling to Canada or Mexico for less than thirty days and returning to the United States (other than citizens of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, North Korea, and Cuba) who do not intend to apply for a new U.S. visa can still make use of the automatic revalidation benefit, and re-enter on their expired U.S. visas, as long as they have a valid, unexpired passport, their I-94 card, and a valid and signed SEVIS I-20.

SPECIAL NOTE ABOUT I-94 DEPARTURE CARDS: F-1 students with expired U.S. visas who are traveling to Canada, Mexico or adjacent islands for up to 30 days, who will not be applying for a new U.S. visa while there, AND who will be resuming their studies upon their return should NEVER surrender their I-94 card. Canadian or Mexican nationals returning to their home country should surrender their I-94 card as they enter their country, and obtain a new I-94 card the next time they enter the United States. Canadian nationals should be sure to carry with them their financial documentation that verifies the information on their I-20 when getting ready to return to the United States.