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I-94 Expiration Dates: What You Need to Know
Almost every immigration-related document issued by the U.S. comes with an expiration date, after which it becomes invalid. The same is the case with I-94. Visa beneficiaries should have complete clarity regarding the expiration and renewal of these documents so they don’t incur immigration violations, which can result in severe consequences.
In the case of Form I-94, many people get confused because there are two documents required for entering the U.S., Form I-94 itself and a visa. Dates mentioned in each of these documents signify different things. In this article, we’ll help you get some clarity on it.
What Is the I-94?
Form I-94 is a document issued to nonimmigrants entering the United States by land, water, or air. After examining your passport and visa, Customs Border officials will issue either a passport admission stamp or a white card known as Form I-94, or Arrival/Departure Record. This serves as proof your visit to the U.S. is legal.
Before April 2013, every visitor received a paper card appended to their passport. After this, the process was automated, and electronic documents were issued along with paper ones. But even before 2013, the CBP maintained all of this data in electronic format, which you can access here. You can access your past five years of arrival/departure data from the database.
Does the I-94 Expire?
Just like other immigration-related documents, Form I-94 expires. Among the information printed on the I-94, there will be a date listed, which is not your date of entry. This is your departure date and is the last date you are allowed to stay in the U.S., irrespective of whatever is mentioned in your visa.
I-94 Expiration Date
When figuring out the expiration date of Form I-94, it’s important to note that this date is not the one printed on your visa. It’s also important to know the difference between the two.
The date printed on I-94 is the official record of your entry and the authorized length of your stay. The visa date, on the other hand, is the last date that you are allowed to enter the U.S. Your visa might be valid for one or two years. But if your Form I-94 expires six months from the date of your entry, you’re required to leave within six months. This depends on the type of visa you carry and the purpose of your visit.
H1B Visa I-94 Expiration
The H1B visa is granted to temporary workers from a foreign country. At the time of entry, they are given Form I-94 as well. You have to leave the U.S. before your Form I-94 expires irrespective of what is mentioned in your I-797. Since your visa is sponsored by your company, it’s better to get in touch with them on this matter.
Student Visa I-94 Expiration
Foreign students coming into the U.S. are issued either an F-1 or J-1 visa. Usually, these types of visas are valid for several years. So the I-94 departure date is significantly different for foreign students. Instead of departure date, their Form I-94 contains “D/S,” which stands for “duration of status.” This means, as a foreign student, you are allowed to stay in the United States as long as you maintain your visa status.
For example, if you maintain a valid I-20 and take a full course load, you will be able to maintain your student visa for the entire duration of your program, and D/S will follow accordingly.
Treaty Traders who are issued E-1 visa class receive I-94s, which are valid for two years, and the expiration date on their I-94s will supersede the one mentioned on their visa. This applies to E-2 Treaty Investors as well.
A new I-94 number will be issued to you each time you exit and re-enter the U.S. Along with that, you will have your 11-digit admission number printed on your I-94 as well.
Tourism and Business Visa Expiration
Nonimmigrants who are classified as tourists or business travelers typically have visas with an extended period, which in some cases can be as high as 10 years. When they enter the U.S., they are issued Form I-94 too, but this has a maximum duration of six months.
This means any tourist or business traveler cannot stay in the U.S. for more than six months at a stretch. They have to leave within six months and re-enter. They may even receive an additional period of stay, but under no circumstances should they abuse the system.
What Happens If You Stay Past the Expiration Date
In most cases, if you stay in the U.S. after your I-94 has expired, your visa status will be considered “out of status,” and you will be deported immediately. Additionally, you will not be able to apply for a green card or change your status, even if you are eligible to do so. Since any time you stay after your I-94 has expired is considered “unlawful presence,” you will face criminal charges and court proceedings.
After you leave the United States, you cannot use your canceled visa for re-entering the U.S. and have to apply for a new one. But this time, the process is not going to be smooth, and the chances your application will be rejected are high.
In such cases, it’s best to get in touch with your employer (if you’re an H1B visa holder), your university (if you’re on a student visa), and your home country’s embassy to sort things out at the earliest.
Rectifying Errors in Your I-94 Records
Many people complain of mismatches between their Form I-94 in paper format and electronic format. This is because the record-keeping is a manual process done by hand. Thus, there are chances of errors. Secondly, I-94 does not monitor your status changes or extensions. So, it will not reflect any changes made while you are in the U.S.
If you find any errors in the CBP database, go to your nearest CBP office and submit a request to make corrections. Alternatively, you can visit one of the 70 Deferred Inspection Sites located throughout the U.S. They can review and correct several records, including biometric and typographical errors.
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In conclusion, the main role of Form I-94 is to keep a log of your arrival and departure in the United States. You will be asked for it when leaving the U.S. It is also required when filing other immigration-related forms. So keep it safe for the entire period of stay in the U.S. Always prioritize the expiration date on your I-94 over your visa. In case of any confusion, get in touch with an attorney or higher authority.