Knowing the Difference Between I-94 Date Versus Visa Expiration Date

Understanding how long you can stay in the United States on a visitor/business visa or some other visa classification is a frequent source of confusion. This can lead to unintended overstays and other immigration violations which will result in grave consequences. Part of the common confusion is that visa recipients will probably see two different dates on the two documents associated with a U.S. entry as shown on the visa and the Form I-94. These dates may mean very different things.

The Meaning of the Expiration Date in the U.S. Nonimmigrant Visa

A U.S. nonimmigrant visa which is more likely obtained at the U.S. consulate or embassy outside of the U.S will contain an expiration date. That date might be several months or years into the future. That expiration date on a visa is quite convenient as it provides ample time to make travel plans and enter the U.S. at a different time before the visa expiration date even if the visa holder did not depart the country as soon as he or she was expected to travel.

In fact, an applicant might even receive a multiple entry visa which can be used more than once. This is often the case with the B-2 tourist visa. It allows for people to enter the U.S several times over the years (up to ten years), until the visa has expired or is canceled. Why would a visa be canceled? Maybe because the terms of the visa were violated such as:

  • Staying in the U.S. longer than was allowed
  • A crime was committed while in the U.S
  • The visa holder worked without authorization while in the U.S

The important thing is to realize that a visa holder is not authorized to stay in the U.S until the date the visa expires. A lot of people misunderstand that staying through the whole period of the validity of a visa can result in getting deported from the U.S and can be banned from entering the U.S. for several years.

What Does the Expiration Date on an I-94 Means

Every time a foreigner enters the U.S. and goes through a port of entry whether the airport, land border or sea port a Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record will be issued. A few years ago, all U.S. visitors received a paper card stapled in their passports. Today, however, this form has been automated and can be accessed and printed out from the Customs & Border Protection (CBP) webpage. The date shown on the Form I-94 is the last date a visitor can remain in the U.S.

The departure date is pivotal:

  • A visitor is allowed to stay in the U.S. only until the expiration date, regardless of whatever date is written on the Form I-94. For example, if a foreigner entered on a B-2 Tourist visa, the expiration date will likely be six months.
  • If a visa recipient entered on an H-1B or other work visa, it might be a year or more until the visa expires.
  • If a foreigner entered on a student visa, a D/S will be issued on the Form I-90. That stands for “duration of status” and it means authorization to stay in the U.S is given until the studies are completed as long as the terms on the visa are not violated.

What Happens if a Person Overstays the Time Allowed on the Form I-94

The moment someone stays past the expiration date shown on the I-94, the visa will be canceled automatically and that person is considered to be out of status. Overstaying in the U.S brings trouble with immigration authorities and consequences that follow such as:

  • Ineligibility to apply for a U.S. Green Card
  • You can also be detained by U.S. immigration authorities
  • Placed into deportation proceedings
  • Removed from the U.S and barred for many years to come

Visit with an Immigration Attorney

If you have overstayed in the U.S. and are being detained by U.S. immigration agents call Gambacorta Law Office at 847 908 4913. Our attorneys and team will gladly help you figure a way out.