Working Visa Canada

I-94 Or Visa: How Long Can I Stay?

I just entered the US. I have a visitors visa that says it is good for 10 years, but at the airport they stapled a card in my passport that says I was admitted for 6 months. How long can I actually stay in the US: 6 months or 10 years?

I cant tell you how often we get asked this question, but it has to be at least a dozen times a month. The lack of knowledge or misunderstanding about the role of a visa and the I-94 card has been a major factor for many foreign nationals that have fallen out of status in the United States. Why is this? And what is the difference between the visa and the I-94 card.

The simple answer: A visa allows a person to appear at the gate (a port of entry) and ask to be let in, and the I-94 card is your actual admission ticket, telling you how long you can stay and what you can do while you are here.

The long answer: Very few foreign nationals are aware that their stay in the US is controlled by the I-94 card issued to them at the time of entry, and not by their visa. This lack of understanding has landed many in trouble. It is the I-94 card that says how long you can stay in the US, and in what status you were admitted. Just to make sure you clearly understand this, lets look at another example: a citizen of China who wishes to enter the US as an H-1B professional can get a visa that is only valid for 3 months, however, they can be admitted for the length of the approved petition, typically 3 years. This means that the individual must travel to the US within 3 months of being issued the visa, but once he or she enters the US they would be able to stay for up to 3 years. He or she would only need to depart the US at the end of the specified period or the date specified in his I-94 card.

Now that we have a general overview of the I-94 and the visa lets look at the specifics of the process.

What is an I-94 card?

An I-94 card, also known as the Arrival/Departure Record, is a small white or green colored card given to all nonimmigrants when they enter the US. The I-94 card serves as evidence that a nonimmigrant has entered the country legally. It is stamped with a date indicating how long the nonimmigrant may stay for that particular trip. It is this date and not the expiration date of the visa that controls how long a nonimmigrant may legally remain in the US. A new I-94 card with a new date is issued each time the nonimmigrant legally enters the US. Note that because of special rules in place between the US and Canada, Canadian visitors are not normally issued I-94 cards.

When you enter the US as a nonimmigrant, a US Immigration Inspector will examine your passport and visa, question you on the reason for your visit, and, if satisfied that you qualify for the nonimmigrant status you are seeking and will abide by the US immigration rules, give you a small white card, the Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record). As we stated above, it is this record -- not your visa that tells you (in the lower right-hand corner) when you must leave the United States.

It is on this card that the Immigration Inspector will write either a date or "D/S" (duration of status). If you have "duration of status" you may remain in the U.S. as long as you are in the same job or attending the same school. You will complete this form and submit it to the Immigration Inspector when you arrive at the airport, seaport, land border crossing point, or other port of entry. Citizens of the countries on the US Visa Waiver Program list, who are entering the United States for a short stay and who are not US citizens or Permanent US Residents, must fill out form I-94W instead of the I-94.

You have to be very certain that all the information in your I-94 Card is correct, and that your name, date of birth, and country of citizenship match the information in your passport. The I-94 card will be stapled in your passport, normally on the page opposite your visa.

What is the purpose of I-94 card:

The I-94 Card serves as the registration form for foreign nationals admitted to the US as nonimmigrants. This document is created by US Immigration when the foreign national is inspected upon arrival at a US port of entry. The Immigration Inspector will endorse the I-94 with the date of arrival, place of arrival, status granted (i.e., F, J, H, L, etc.), and length of authorized stay. The foreign national keeps the I-94 Card as their official record of admission and permission to remain in the US.

Difference between I-94 and Visa:

It is extremely important that you clearly understand the difference between your visa and I-94 card. The major differences between the I-94 and visa are discussed in the complete article.

There's lot more to discuss, so readout the complete article Here...

About the Author:
VisaPro.Com offers more than 100 online immigration services which include work visas like H-1B, H-2B; employment based green card, K-1, K-3 etc. Contact VisaPro if you have any questions regarding your Visa, or need help in filing. Our experienced attorneys will be happy to assist you.


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