You have been working or studying in the United States, and one day you are thumbing through your passport and see the visa stamp date in your passport and you realize that date is today! What should you do?
In many countries, the Visa expiration date controls when you must legally leave the country, but as usual, in America the answer is more complicated. Here, the I-94 document issued at the port of entry (or the I-797 issued if you have a visa extension) states how long you can stay. The I-94 date and the visa date are often not the same.
What if I haven’t left by the date on the I-94?
If your visa is valid but you are still in the country after the date on your I-94, it is considered to be an “unlawful presence.” Depending on the length of the unlawful presence, you could be barred from readmission for three or ten years, so be sure to keep track of the I-94 date.
What if I am not doing what my visa says I am here to do? For example, I came on a F-1 student visa but I’m working, or an H-1B visa and I’m not working?
In that case, you are considered to be “Out of Status.” You aren’t considered to be an unlawful presence yet, but you will be if an immigration judge or DHS official finds you to be out of status. You aren’t in trouble yet, but you will be if you don’t take action.
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