Form I-94 is the arrival/departure record that visitors to the United States receive at a border entry crossing. When you enter the country via air, you receive a card to fill in which you must hand to a border control officer on the ground. This system has undergone an upgrade and is now completely electronic. Information is retrievable at the official I-94 U.S Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website. Here is everything you need to know about I-94 expiration dates.
Digital I-94 & Entry Conditions
Every visitor who is a non-citizen receives an I-94. International travelers visiting the United States can apply for this in advance as well. The I-94 admission number/record is proof of legal visitor status.
A lot of entry-related confusion has abounded among travelers. This is especially true ever since the electronic system was implemented. For example, just because you did not receive a physical I-94 at the border entry point, doesn’t mean you do not have one. In the past, immigration officers at the port of entry recorded either a date or “D/S” (duration of status) on I-94 cards. The officer also recorded the “class of admission”, which corresponded to the visa class you entered.
This information is still recorded and the only difference is that it is now digital. This info is available on the I-94 website as well. The I-94 is still issued manually at land crossings and is also issued manually when you file for an extended stay with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
If your I-94 has a date, then you can stay in the U.S. until that date. The last allowed date includes the day you depart on. If you are seeking entry as a tourist or H/L class worker, you are most likely going to receive a similar departure date.
Some temporary workers, students, and exchange program participants can enter the U.S. for the “duration of status” of their visa class. What this means is that they can stay in the United States as long as they legally maintain their status.
I-94 Expiration Date
The I-94 date is not the same as your visa expiration date. In fact, both, serve entirely different purposes, so it is important to know the differences between the two. Your I-94 date is the official record of the authorized length of stay that you have. This means that, while you may hold a multiple exit/re-entry visa which is valid for 10 years, your I-94 record may only indicate a validity period of 6 months. In a case like this, you will need to depart after 6 months. Alternatively, you will have to apply for an extension in order to stay longer.
The visa expiration date is the last date that you can seek entry into the United States. This allows you to use a window period during which you can book your travel to the country. This means you can enter the United States on the last date of entry possible (the expiration date). If you do this, you will still receive a legally authorized length of stay.
Your visa can also expire while the issued I-94 expiration date record allows you an authorized stay in the United States.
As a rule of thumb, remember that your I-94 expiration date is what you should go by when determining the authorized length of stay in the United States. If you stay past your I-94 expiration date then you become “out of status.” In this case, your visa is automatically cancelled. An overstay can also become “unlawful presence.” This can lead to more problems, including arrest and deportation by U.S. authorities.
I-94 and Student Visas
Foreign national students are usually issued a visa (F-1 or J-1) for periods that can be several years long. While their issued visas have an expiration date specified, the I-94 would usually indicate the expiration of “D/S.” This stands for “duration of status.” This means the student can stay in the US as long as they maintain their visa status. The requirements for maintaining visa status can differ for the various visa categories. Other documentation and procedures may apply as well.
Consider this student example. Imagine an F-1 student who takes on a full course load. They also maintain a valid I-20 among other requirements, which allows them to maintain their legitimate student visa status for the length of their studies.
Foreign nationals who enter the United States as Treaty Traders (E-1 visa class) or Treaty Investors (E-2 visa class) will likely receive I-94s that are valid for two calendar years. This I-94 record of expiration will supersede the issued visa’s expiration.
Tourism and Business Visas
Non-U.S. citizens and non-immigrants who travel for tourism or business purposes may receive visas that extend far beyond the authorized length of stay for each visit. B-1/B-2 visas can be for up to 10 years. However, entry will typically be for a maximum duration of only six months for each trip. The individual would then need to exit and re-enter the country. They may even receive an additional period of stay. However, as explained above, if the individual abuses this system and the pattern of stay is inconsistent with the visa class, they may have their visa revoked. They may also be denied entry permission.
Apply for New I-94
You can apply for a new I-94 (for land border crossings only – not sea/air) by going to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website page and first entering your travel document info. Note that you will need to show up at a port of entry within 7 days of filing the online application. At the port of entry, you will submit your biometrics and complete your interview.
Am I Eligible to Extend My Stay?
If you were admitted on any of the following categories, you cannot extend your stay in the U.S. once your I-94 expires:
C (Alien in Transit)
K-1/K-2 (Fiance(e) or Dependent of Fiance(e)
S (Witness or Information beyond a total of 3 years)
TWOV (Transit Without Visa)
WT/WB (Visa Waiver Program)
Difference Between I-94 Expiration and Visa Expiration Date
The visa date is the last day you are allowed to enter into the country while the I-94 date is the documented entry and length of stay you are allowed. In many instances, the I-94 date expiration comes before the visa expiration date. It’s imperative to not stay in the U.S. past the I-94 expiration date otherwise you are out of status and your visa is canceled at that point.
Entry Information Errors
The I-94 date record is ultimately a human process, even if it is digital. As such, mistakes can still happen. It is advisable to visit the official I-94 website and retrieve your I-94 record after arrival to confirm the length of your authorized stay. If you notice a mistake, then go to the nearest Customs & Border Protection (CBP) office, which you can find in an international airport. An alternative is to visit one of over 70 Deferred Inspection Sites in the United States.
Staff at Deferred Inspection Sites can review and correct several issues. These include I-94 entry records. They also include errors in biometric information and improper non-immigrant classification.
The Next Steps…
Taking action before your I-94 expires is the first area to address. You may be eligible to change your status to a different nonimmigrant visa depending on your qualifications. The best way to pinpoint the next steps is to schedule a consultation with a VisaNation Law Group attorney.