I'm planning to get on a cruise from USA (Los Angeles) to Mexico (Ensenada). I currently have a single entrance visa (student) meaning I need to apply for US visa again to come back.

My question is if I do not get off the cruise in Mexico and come back to US, will I have a visa problem? In other words, does the cruise ship move in the US territorial waters or does it exit USA?

  • There is often a border checkpoint in cruise terminals. It's possible that all passengers would be treated as coming from outside the country, even if they did not actually leave the ship. I doubt the ship can call in a Mexican port and remain in US territorial waters or that this matters in any way. – Relaxed Nov 13 '13 at 8:43
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    Just as a matter of common sense if the ship leaves US and goes to Mexico how can it not leave the US territorial waters? – Karlson Nov 13 '13 at 13:08
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    In small harbors, cruise ships often remain off-shore and offer excursions with smaller boats. If the destination was close to a border, the ship could conceivably remain in another country. Far-fetched, but ultimately it doesn't matter. – Relaxed Nov 13 '13 at 14:15
  • @Annoyed 12 nautical miles is pretty far to remain off-shore. – Karlson Nov 13 '13 at 14:22
  • @Karlson Being 12 nautical miles away doesn't bring the ship in another country's territorial waters so it's not relevant here (remember that the starting point of this amusing discussion is whether or not the ship would leave US waters, not enter Mexican ones; if she's approaching Mexico from the open seas, she would already have left US waters long ago). That's why I imagined a situation close to a border, where the limit wouldn't be 12 nautical miles but, absent any treaty or historical agreement, halfway between the two countries, either some distance along the coast or across a strait. – Relaxed Nov 13 '13 at 14:43

Given the location of Ensenada within Mexico you will be entering territorial waters of Mexico. In which case you will be going through immigration on your way back to the US, so if you have a single entry visa and currently in the United States you will likely not be admitted back into the country unless you have a travel docs

For more details you can take a look at requirements and recommendations from cruise lines like Princess. You may want to check if you will be able to get back in with an Advance Parole form

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    This seems accurate but why is everybody so focused on the territorial waters? The fact that the cruise allows you to embark and disembark in a foreign country seems much more important… – Relaxed Nov 13 '13 at 18:33
  • It is, however, entering territorial waters of another country raises the possibility of landing, so instead of checking whether or not you have entered another country it's more likely to be assumed that you have, whether or not you have a stamp in your passport for this. – Karlson Nov 13 '13 at 18:45
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    But what about ships going from Washington state to Alaska? And from Texas to Florida? Or to Puerto Rico? Does it matter if a ship crossed into Mexico or Canada? Went along the US coast or in international waters? Went too close to some island or other? I have no idea about US practices, but I think it would make sense to process ships based on the ports they called in, whatever the details of the route. (I would upvote your answer btw, especially for all the useful links, but I have used up my quota for today). – Relaxed Nov 13 '13 at 20:14

As long as your I-94 is still valid, you can go on a visit to Canada or Mexico for less than 30 days and return to the U.S. and continue your existing status under the I-94, even if you no longer have a valid visa. This is called Automatic Revalidation. See here and here for more information.

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    That does not work for me. Nationals of Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria are not eligible for automatic revalidation of an expired visa. :( – Mohammad Moghimi Nov 17 '13 at 7:20
  • @MohammadMoghimi: bummer :( – user102008 Nov 19 '13 at 9:16
  • Yeah. I had a pretty good deal. Two night in 4 star hotel vegas + Carnival Cruise to Ensenada for two for only 149$!!! – Mohammad Moghimi Nov 19 '13 at 23:53

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