Iowa Immigration Law Blog: When a Visa is NOT Needed


A foreign national entering the U.S. usually must present a visa issued by a U.S. consulate at the point of entry. But not always. Here are some exceptions:

  • Visa Waiver Program (aka “ESTA”): Nationals of designated countries may enter for up to 90 days for business or pleasure by simply showing a valid machine-readable passport and registering under the ESTA program before entry (
  • Canadians: No visa is required for a Canadian citizen to enter the U.S. except for E (treaty investors or traders) and K (fiancé/e) entries. A valid passport is required.
  • Automatic visa re-validation: Except for nationals of Iran, Syria, Sudan and Cuba, if a person has once obtained a visa and entered the U.S., she may travel to Canada or Mexico for less than 30 days and re-enter without a new visa being issued in certain circumstances.
    • She must have an I-94 with time remaining on it after the re-entry. This can be from the original entry or from a change of status;
    • F, M and J entrants must have a valid documents showing continued status (I-20 for F or M, or DS-2019 for J)
    • She must have a passport with a nonimmigrant visa in it (which can be expired) that was used for a prior entry.
    • She must have a passport valid for the current entry (the one with the visa in it could be expired)
  • F or J entrants may also use visa re-validation from adjacent islands (Saint Pierre, Miquelon, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, the Windward and Leeward Islands, Trinidad, Martinique, and other British, French and Netherlands territory or possessions in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea – sounds like fun!!)

Thanks to the AILA CBP Liaison Committee for a detailed update on automatic visa re-validation.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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