A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration attorney and counsel. Contact Info: 732-632-9888, http://www.1visa1.com/ (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

Monday, May 19, 2014

Can a visitor travel to Canada or Mexico with a U.S. B-1 or B-2 visa?

Many foreign visitors entered the United States with a temporary Visitor Visa such as B-1 and B-2 visa. The B-1 visa is issued to visitors who come here for business reasons such as attending a convention, meeting a customer, negotiating a contract, etc.  The B-2 visa is issued to visitors who visit the U.S. for personal reasons such as sightseeing, visiting relatives, etc.  While they are in the United States, many visitors are also interested in visiting the adjacent countries such as Canada and Mexico.  At the same time, they also wonder if they could re-enter the United States after such visits.

Fortunately, the current U.S. immigration policy makes it very convenient for visitors to travel to Canada and Mexico with a valid B-1 or B-1 visa.  Generally speaking, a B-1 or B-2 visitor is allowed to visit Canada or Mexico for up to 30 days and re-enter the U.S.  One requirement is that the visitor must return to the U.S. before the end of the authorized period of stay as noted in the Form I-94.  The Form I-94 is issued when a foreign visitor enters the U.S. It used to be issued as a white paper form to visitors at the port of entry. Beginning April 30, 2013, the paper version of the I-94 form was replaced by an online version.

For instance, if you came to the U.S. on June 10 on a B-1 Visitor Visa, and was authorized to stay until December 10 in the Form I-94.  You then decided to visit Canada or Mexico.  You applied for a visa to enter these countries (note: visitors from many countries may enter Mexico without a visa) on November 10. Although these countries may allow you to stay for more than 30 days, you must return and depart the U.S. on or before December 10 to avoid "overstaying" your B-1 visa status.  

The process of allowing certain holders of U.S. nonimmigrant visas to return is called "automatic revalidation" of visa.  In the above situation, if the visitor would like to stay longer in the U.S. or an adjacent country, he or she may apply for an extension of his / her B-1 status with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. But such application should be submitted as early as possible.

However, it should be noted that nationals of Iran, Syria, Sudan and Cuba with expired or single-entry visas are not eligible for automatic revalidation.

It is also important to note that automatic revalidation only applies to temporary travel to the adjacent countries of the U.S.  If you travel to other countries such as England or Brazil, then return to the U.S., your entry will be considered a "new entry".   What are the differences? Well, basically the immigration officers of the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) will scrutinize your entry more rigorously.  More questions will be asked. For example, you may be required to present evidence that you have an intention to return to your country of citizenship.  Further, if you committed a crime or performed other illegal acts while you were away, you would likely be denied re-entry.

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