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Visa Vs. Arrival/Departure Record (I-94): What is The Difference?

154258_travellers.jpgAs an Austin immigration lawyer, I have often noticed the confusion caused by the expiration date on a U.S. visa versus the expiration date on the small white card called the arrival/departure record (I-94). People are often confused by the different dates on the visa and the I-94 and some have even jeopardized their immigration cases due to misinformation.

For most foreign nationals who seek entry into the United States, their journey often begins when the foreign national visits his or her local U.S. Embassy to apply for a U.S. Visa. Visas are given for different lengths of time, but the most common visa, the B visa is often given for 10 years at a time. The foreign national goes through the visa application process, pays proper fees, and gets a U.S. visa from the embassy in their home country.

Once the foreign national has his or her visa, upon entry to the United States, the foreign national is given an I-94. The I-94 is the length of time you have permission to remain in the United States.

So what is the difference between the visa expiration date and the length of time expiration date as listed on your I-94?

The visa expiration date, known as the “visa validity date” is the length of time you are permitted to travel to a port-of-entry in the United States. The expiration date is often shown on the visa along with the visa issuance date and post where the visa was issued.

The I-94, or length of time expiration date, is amount of time you can remain in the United States for that particular visit. A new “length of time” is given every time you enter the United States. The length of the authorized stay within the U.S. is determined by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer each time you travel into the United States. The date or duration of travel is recorded on the right-hand side of the I-94 arrival/departure record.

For Visa Waiver foreign nationals, who are not required to get a visa to travel to the United States, a stamp is placed on the foreign national’s passport stating the length of time that the Visa Waiver individual can remain the United States.

As an Austin immigration attorney, I feel that it is very important for people to understand the important distinction between a visa (often given for long periods of time) and an authorized period of stay found on the arrival/departure record (I-94). Confusing the dates on these important documents may prevent you from complying with U.S. Immigration laws and could potentially have serious negative consequences.


Here at the Lyttle Law Firm, PLLC, our experienced Austin immigration attorney can help you with your immigration needs. We offer one-hour consultations that can help you find the best solution for your U.S. immigration concerns. Call us at (512) 329-2770.