Center for International Programs

International Student Services

Applying for a Visa in Canada or Mexico

The U.S. Department of State announced new rules for non-immigrants who choose to apply for a new visa while in "contiguous territory" (Canada or Mexico). The new rules took effect April 1, 2002.


F-1 and J-1 students may still travel to Canada or Mexico for stays of thirty days or less and re-enter the United States on their expired U.S. visas (called Automatic Revalidation). However, some individuals use a trip to Canada or Mexico as an opportunity to apply for a U.S. visa, to facilitate future entries to the United States after travel abroad. Under the new rule, any non-immigrant 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.  They will have to wait until the visa is approved in order to re-enter the United States. So, if you travel to Canada, for example, with an expired visa stamp in your passport and apply for a new visa at a US consulate you will only be able to return to the United States if your new visa is granted. If your visa application is denied you will not be able to return to the United States.

It is very important for international students to understand the risks that are now involved in applying for a U.S. visa in Canada or Mexico. In the event of visa denial you will have to travel to another US embassy or consulate, probably one in your home country, to apply for a new visa there.

In addition, citizens of the following countries are no longer eligible for the Automatic Revalidation of visa benefit: Iran, Libya, Sudan, Syria, North Korea and Cuba. This means that a person who is a citizen of these countries can only enter Canada or Mexico and return to the United States if they have an unexpired multiple entry visa in their current status.

Like any U.S. visa interview, expect to show evidence that your ties to your home country are stronger than your ties to the U.S., that you have sufficient financial resources to support your studies and living expenses, and that you are maintaining satisfactory academic progress at your school. It is a good idea to have a copy of your SJU transcript with you. Also, be prepared to be asked why you are applying for a new visa in Canada rather than in your home country, why you have chosen your specific field of study, and how that field of study will be useful in your home country.

It is also important to remember that before going to the U.S. consulate in Canada to apply for a visa you must schedule an appointment.

As always, come to the Center for International Programs prior to any trip abroad to get a travel signature and discuss your plans.