Visa vs. I-94

Foreign nationals often think that they are allowed to stay in the United States as long as their visas remain valid. It is a common mistake that results in an overstay.

A visa is issued by a Consular Officer at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy. It indicates, among other things, the type of purpose of your travel, the length of time you are allowed to travel to a port-of-entry in the U.S., and whether the visa is issued for a single entry or multiple entries. Once you are issued a visa, you should check to make sure that all the information is accurate, i.e. that there is no misspellings or typographical errors on the visa. It is important to note that the issued visa provides no guarantee that you will be allowed to enter the U.S. You will still need to apply for admission with a CBP (Customs and Border Protection) Officer at the port-of-entry (such as an airport).

CBP Officers determine the length of time you are allowed to stay within the United States. Each time a foreign traveler enters the U.S., the traveler is issued an I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, that indicates the length of authorized period of stay. Before April 30, 2013, I-94 record is issued in a paper format and is usually attached to the traveler’s passport. After April 30, 2013, I-94 record is electronically issued and travelers are encouraged to retrieve their I-94 records by going to If the I-94 record contain incorrect information, the subject of the record should visit a local CBP Deferred Inspection Site to have the admission information corrected.

If you stay inside the U.S. beyond the date you are allowed to stay, your visa will automatically cancel unless you have a pending, non-frivolous, and timely-filed application to extend the stay or change the status.

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