Status Expiration, I-94, Visa Stamp: What Does It All Mean?
Entering the United States on a visa can be a confusing process. You may not be sure if you are here in legal status. Here are explanations of a few terms that can help clarify your situation.
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Immigration StatusYour immigration status is the legal category under which you were admitted (e.g., H-1B, L-1, O-1, P-1, TN, F-1, B). Each category has specific requirements you must meet in order for it to be granted.
Visa StampWhen you are admitted into the United States, you will be issued a visa stamp in your passport. The visa stamp allows you to seek admission to the United States in the particular category.
Your visa stamp will show your entry date, immigration status, and status expiration date.
In some cases, such as an F-1 or J-1 student, your status expiration will be shown as "D/S". This means Duration of Status, which is based on your form I-20 or DS-2019. Your status will expire when that document expires.
Visa Expiration vs. Status ExpirationIt's important to note that your visa expiration date might be different from your status expiration date. Your status expiration is typically determined by your I-94 record.
Your visa allows you to enter the country, but it may expire while you are still legally in the United States. Status does not end when the visa expires; it ends on your status expiration date.
However, if you have an expired visa and leave the country, you will need a valid (unexpired) visa to re-enter the United States.
I-94I-94 is the electronic record of your admission to the United States. It notes your visa classification and your allowed stay.
If you are in the United States in valid nonimmigrant work status and request a change of status or extension of stay, an approval notice will be mailed to your petitioning employer and attorney. This notice will contain a detachable I-94 card at the bottom. This card is evidence of your status validity and work authorization.
If you are abroad or requested that your approval be processed for consular notification, your approval notice will not contain the I-94 card. USCIS will additionally notify the appropriate US Embassy or Consulate of your approval, and you will need to apply for the visa at a consular post abroad to enter the United States and activate your new status.
If you stay in the United States beyond your I-94 authorized stay, you begin to accrue unlawful status. Thus, it is very important to keep track of this date.