When does my Visa Expire?

Sometimes understanding the difference between the Visa expiration date and the length of time you have permission to remain in the United States can be confusing. These are very different terms.

  • A U.S. visa in his/her passport gives a foreign citizen permission to apply to enter the United States. A visa by itself doesn’t authorize entry to the U.S.  A visa simply indicates that your application has been reviewed by a consular officer at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate, and that the officer determined you’re eligible to travel to a U.S. port-of-entry for a specific purpose. The port-of-entry can be an airport, a seaport or a land border crossing.
  • At the port-of-entry, a U.S. immigration officer of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) decides whether to allow you to enter and how long you can stay for any particular visit, as part of the Admission process. Only the U.S. immigration officer has the authority to permit you to enter the United States.

My visa is Valid for 10 Years. Can I stay here until then?

No. This period is only the length of time you are permitted to travel, using that visa, to a United States port-of-entry, like an airport or a border post. To understand this better, lets start with what the visa expiration date actually means. This date is shown on the visa usually right next to the visa issuance date. The time between visa issuance and expiration date is called your visa validity. In this case, your visa is indeed valid for 10 years.

Depending on your nationality, visas can be issued from a single entry (application) up to multiple/unlimited entries.

  • A visa issued for a single entry (denoted on the visa under “Entries” with the number 1) is valid, or can be used from the date it is issued until the date it expires to travel to a U.S. port-of-entry one time.
  • A visa issued for multiple entries (denoted under “entries” with a certain number (2, 3, etc.) or “M” for multiple/unlimited entries) is valid, or can be used from the date it is issued until the date it expires to travel to the U.S. port-of-entry as many times as your visa states, provided that:
    • Applying for a new visa is not necessary if your visa has not expired and you have not exceeded the number of entries permitted on your visa.
    • Multiple uses of a visa must be for the same purpose of travel allowable on the type of visa you have.

It is important to note that, a visa or your 10-year-visa does not guarantee entry to the United States. Additionally, the visa expiration date shown on your visa does not reflect how long you are authorized to stay within the United States. Entry and the length of authorized stay within the United States are decided when you show up at the U.S airport or other port-of-entry each time you travel by a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer. This extra step is used by the U.S Government to be able to change their mind about your presence in the U.S just before you enter. A good example is where a mother applies for and is granted a 10-year-visa to attend for her son’s graduation but she fails to make it due to a sickness. If that mother, comes to the U.S more than 8 months after the graduation ceremony, the CBP officer reserves the right to turn her back. Or admit her (let her in).

Most people do not realize that there are circumstances which can serve to void or cancel the period of visa validity. If you overstay the end date of your authorized stay, as provided by the CBP officer at a port-of-entry, or United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), your visa will automatically void or cancel unless;

  • You have filed an application in a timely manner for an extension of stay or a change of status;
  • That application is pending and not frivolous;

If you have applied for adjustment of status to become a permanent resident (LPR, also called green card holder), you should contact USCIS regarding obtaining Advance Parole before leaving the United States.

Admission to the United States and your Duration of Stay

Upon arriving at a port of entry, the CBP official will determine the length of your visit.

On the admission stamp, the CBP officer records either an admitted-until X date or “D/S” (duration of status). If your admission stamp (also known as I-94) contains a specific date, then that is the date by which you must leave the United State. If you have D/S on your admission stamp, you may remain in the United States as long as you continue your course of studies, remain in your exchange program, or qualifying employment. The admitted-until date or D/S notation, shown on your admission stamp or Form I-94 is the official record of your authorized length of stay in the United States. Therefore, you cannot use the visa expiration date in determining or referring to your permitted length of stay in the United States.  Using the earlier example, if the mother had travelled in time for her son’s graduation, the immigration officer would most likely admit her until 3 to 6 months.    More information about international visitor admission can be found here.

Yes, you may Extend your Stay

If you came to the United States on a nonimmigrant visa and you want to extend your stay you must apply with USCIS before your authorized stay, denoted on your admission stamp or paper Form I-94, expires. It is recommended you apply well in advance of your expiration date. To learn more select USCIS, How Do I Extend My Stay?.

Important Note: Providing permission to enter and/or remain in the United States. to persons holding a nonimmigrant visa is not the responsibility of the Department of State, and therefore Visa Services is unable assist you in this regard. All inquiries must be directed to USCIS.

What if I Decide to Stay Longer and am Out-of-Status with the Department of Homeland Security?

  • You should carefully consider the dates of your authorized stay and make sure you are following the procedures. Failure to do so will cause you to be out-of-status.

Staying beyond the period of time authorized, by the Department of Homeland Security, and out-of-status in the United States, is a violation of U.S. immigration laws, and may cause you to be ineligible for a visa in the future for return travel to the United States. If you overstay the end date of your authorized stay, as provided by the CBP officer at a port-of-entry, or United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), your visa will generally be automatically be voided or cancelled, as explained above.

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