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I am an Iranian citizen. I stayed in Canada for 8 months and got a student F1 visa to come to the US to attend graduate school beginning September 2008. At that time, when I was entering the US, the US officer at the US Port of Entry told me since I lived in Canada for a while, if I want to visit Canada for a duration less than a month I do not have to apply for the visa to come back to the US. Now, I am graduated but am still a post-doctoral research fellow at the same school and with my F1 visa. Recently I have been issued Canadian Permanent Residency and I need to land in Canada within the next 2 months.

Currently I have one year commitment to work for the University and I need to return to the US shortly after landing in Canada. My question is that whether I still need to apply for a visa to come back to the US or if I do not need a visa since I have previously lived in Canada?

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Welcome to travel.SE. Is your F1 visa still valid? –  Karlson Jan 24 at 18:16
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2 Answers

The thing you are talking about is called Automatic Revalidation, where people with valid non-immigrant status with I-94 can visit Canada or Mexico (or in the case of F and J status, also Carribean and adjacent islands) for up to 30 days, and re-enter the U.S. and continue their existing non-immigrant status as long as the I-94 is still valid, even if their visa is expired or is single-use and already used.

However, nationals of Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria cannot use it. So you are out of luck.

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I'm Iranian and residing in US with single entrance F-1 visa. I agree that Automatic Revalidation is what the officer has suggested, but it does not work for Iranians now. I think they added those exceptions recently. So it was possible before and not anymore. Not sure about 2008 though! –  Mohammad Moghimi Jan 25 at 3:16
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This page seems to be a reliable guide to what you need to do in order to leave and re-enter the US. The key thing would seem to be to have a valid F1 visa, be enrolled in a course (I presume the post-doc counts) and carry the necessary documents, signed appropriately. Your university can probably help too. it's very unlikely you are the first person to have done this.

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This is not correct. Non-immigrants from most countries can indeed go to Canada for less than 30 days and re-enter the U.S. without a valid visa if they have a valid I-94. –  user102008 Jan 25 at 0:46
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