Although this question may seem simple enough to answer, in many cases individuals may be mistaken or unsure when their legal immigration status in the United States expires. A common answer might be “When my visa expires”, which may be true in some circumstances, but it’s not always the answer. It is important for any foreign national in the United States with temporary nonimmigrant status to understand how the period of admission to the United States is determined.
Travelers to the United States can – and understandably – simply consult the visa stamped in their passport to try to determine how long they can stay. This is not advised and is legally wrong. A visa is simply a document issued by a US Consulate/Embassy overseas, which allows a person to travel to a US port of entry to enter the United States. Think of a visa as a house key: it can help you open the door and get into the house, but once you’re in the house, the key has nothing to do with you staying inside. interior.
Admission and immigration status in the United States is governed by a document known as the I-94, Arrival-Departure Record. An I-94 may be issued either: 1) by US Customs and Border Protection at a port of entry to a person seeking entry into the United States from abroad; Where 2) by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to a person seeking a change of status or extension of status from within the United States
In the first scenario, the I-94 takes the form of an electronic record captured by CBP and made available to the traveler online upon admission to the United States; those admitted to the United States with temporary nonimmigrant status can access their I-94 online at any time after entry by entering basic biographical information found on their passport. The online Form I-94 will show the traveler’s date of entry, nonimmigrant admission class/category, and the date until which they were admitted. This date determines the length of time the individual can legally remain in the United States, subject to any subsequent changes or extensions of status that may be granted after admission. The online I-94 (which can be printed out to have a hard copy on hand) serves as legally acceptable proof of one’s legal immigration status.
Another important issue to keep in mind regarding Form I-94s issued by CBP is that, although the admission period may frequently correspond to the visa expiry date in the traveler’s passport, there are several situations in which the actual admission period will be shorter as the validity of the visa. As a common example, for people of many nationalities, US embassies will issue a B-1/B-2 visitor visa valid for 10 years. However, when presented with this visa to seek entry into the United States at a port of entry, CBP will limit the actual admission period to a maximum of 6 months. Therefore, a traveler who simply looks at the visa expiration date may assume that they are permitted to stay in the United States for 10 years as a visitor, when in fact their immigration status would expire after 6 months. .
Another common pitfall occurs when the traveler’s passport expires before the visa and/or underlying application expires. Take, for example, a person who is the beneficiary of an approved H-1B visa application filed on their behalf by a U.S. employer that has a validity period of 3 years, from October 1, 2022 to September 30, 2025. This person can use this approved petition to obtain an H-1B visa from a U.S. Consulate/Embassy, and in many cases this visa will be valid for the same period – until September 30, 2025. If at the time of seek entry into the United States, that of this individual passport expires before September 30, 2025, CBP will limit the period of admission to passport expiration date. If the traveler is unaware of this practice, they may operate on the assumption that their immigration status is valid until September 30, 2025, when in fact it would expire before that date.
This can cause many people to unknowingly lose their status and can have significant repercussions for both the foreign national and their employer if the person remains employed beyond the expiration of their legal status. Therefore, it is essential that each person traveling to the United States on a temporary nonimmigrant visa access their I-94 online as soon as possible after entry, to ensure that they are aware of their period. of admission and to verify that the conditions of his admission are correct (CBP frequently makes errors in the I-94 process, admitting individuals in the wrong category/classification or for the wrong period, and the more these errors are discovered earlier, the easier they are to correct).
For Forms I-94 issued by USCIS, upon approval of an individual’s request to change or extend nonimmigrant status, USCIS will issue a Notice of Approval (Form I-797 ), which will include, at the bottom, a detachable portion of a new I-94 indicating the classification/status for which the person has been approved and the corresponding validity period. A common source of confusion is that the CBP I-94 online retrieval tool does not not reflect any subsequent changes or extensions of status that may be granted by USCIS. In other words, if someone applied for and was granted a change or extension of status after entering the United States, the USCIS-issued I-94 prevails, not the I-94. online that may have been issued by CBP. at the time of first entry.