US Visa vs Status – H1B, F1, L1B Visa Expired- I-94 Valid. Legal Stay?

In Immigration| Visas by Kumar62 Comments

I have seen many of our readers asking questions in our Q & A forum like

  • My H1B Visa expired, but my I-94 is valid. Am I in legal status in US ?
  • My F1 Visa expired, but my I-20 is valid and I am enrolled. Is my F1 status valid ?
  • L1B Visa expired, but I-94 still valid, Can I stay in US Legally ?
  • H1B visa has expired and I have to travel for India ? What should I do ?
  • H1B is expiring and I should travel for business. What are my options ?

This article will focus on clarifying the differences between US visa and Status. Also, we will address some of the common questions around the visa expiry.

What is a Visa?  What is US Visa ?

Visa is basically an entry document that you need to show at the port of entry of any country.  In terms of US visa, it is a piece of paper glued in your passport by the US Consulate Office, with your name and details like the type of US visa, expiry date,  photo, etc.  This piece of paper (Visa) stamped/glued in your passport should be produced at the Port of entry, when you enter United States either by land, sea or Air. The key thing is, it has to be valid for you to enter United States.

How do you get US Visa ?  F1 Visa, H1B Visa, L1 Visa ?

To get US Visa, you will need to apply for it in your home country at any US Consulate General offices. You will need to carry all the supporting documents for a visa interview based on the type of visa you are applying it. It could include documents sent by your employer for H1B or L1 visa, documents sent by school in America for F1 or J1 visa, your personal documents related to your financial status and eligibility, etc. The Visa Officer at US consulate general would review your documents and information provided and grant US visa based on his discretion. He has the sole authority to give you or deny your visa.

What is ‘Status’ or immigration Status in US ?  What does ‘Status’ mean in Immigration context ?

When you enter America by showing your Visa in passport and other documents, as needed, the CBP officer at Port of entry stamps your passport and I-94 ( if by sea or air no physical I-94 card)  with Admission Stamp and annotation indicating your Immigration Status in US and Validity of the same.  Below are some examples

  • If your admission stamp says F1, it means that you are entering America on F1 Visa status. In the ‘until’ field, if it says D/S – it means Duration of Status. What D/S means is that as long as you maintain your current immigration status in US, you can stay in America.  We will talk more below on how to maintain it.
  • If your admission stamp says H1B, you will be in US on H1B Visa status. The until field would indicate until what date you can stay in US, provided you maintain your status.I94-F1 VisaI94-H1B Visa

What is maintaining your Visa Status or maintaining Status in US mean ?

Maintaining your visa status means that you are not violating any of the immigration rules that are tied to your visa status. For instance, if you are on F1 visa, you should be enrolled full time at a school and have a 3.0 GPA. Also on F1 visa, you can only work 20 hours on campus during regular semesters and not be engaged in off-campus employment.  Similar to F1 visa, each visa has a set of immigration regulations and you have to following them. If you violate any of the immigration rules tied to a visa status, you will be out of status. If you are out-of-status, your immigration status is illegal and you can be barred from entering in future, if you exceed grace period. Essentially, if you do NOT maintain status, you are staying illegally in America.

Now that we know these terms,

What is the actual relation or difference between US Visa vs. Status ?

  • Visa is an entry document issued by US consulate abroad and you need a valid visa to enter America or return back to America after any travel
  • Status is something you get when you enter America using a valid US Visa. Your status is indicated on your admission stamp done at the Port of Entry. It could be anything like  F1, H1B, L1, etc. based on your reason for entry and it will indicate the validity of the status. Your status is only valid, if you maintain it properly by following all the immigration rules as mentioned above.

Phew !  Now that we know what is the relation, lets get to the most commonly asked questions around the US Visa validity and Status.

F1 Visa expired, but my I-20 is valid and I am enrolled full time. Is my F1 status valid?

Yes, your status is valid, provided you are maintaining your immigration status.  Your F1 Visa stamp in your passport is only good to enter America. Its significance ends there, you do not have to worry about the expiry of the F1 visa. It only plays role, if you would like to re-enter America after traveling to your home country for vacation or holidays.

My L1B, H1B, H4, F1 Visa expired, but I-94 still valid, Can I stay in US Legally ?

Yes, as long as you are maintain your status and your I-94 is valid, your status in US is legal. You need to ensure that your immigration documents (like I-20 for F1 students) that are tied to your status are valid too.

H1B, L1 Visa stamp in passport expired – I have to travel to home country like India. Can I re-enter ? What should I do ?

Your visa stamp in passport has expired. What it means that you cannot use it to re-enter America after you travel to home country.  Your visa stamp has to be valid, when you enter US. You should apply for getting H1B or L1 Visa stamping done in your home country like India at a US consulate office. Some people travel to other countries to get this visa stamping done, depending on their situation and preference.

Does that clarify Visa Vs Status in USA ?

Did I miss anything ? Any thoughts to add ?

 

Image Courtesy : http://www.iso.rochester.edu/travel/arrive/i94.html

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Comments ( 62 )

  1. Ravi

    When is an H1-B visa out of status,

    Case 1: As per my understanding if you quit the job and if employer decides to revoke your H1 status then its out of status IMO. How long does the H1 revoke process takes usually and is it a normal process that once you leave company they revoke the visa?

    Case 2: if you get an RFE and it’s rejected then you are out of status, Please correct me if my understanding is wrong

  2. Nimi

    Hi Saurabh,

    My H1B petition got approved just last week and I am in India currently. My Husband is in USA on H1B. Can I go for H4 stamping and travel on H4 visa . Will this effect my H1B petition.

    Also when my husband applied for H1B he did not include spouse name in his petition. For me now to go for H4 stamping does he need to add spouse name in H1B or can I carry his I797 and I129 for stamping. Could you answer as soon as possible

    Thanks

  3. Ashwin

    Hello,

    I am on a L1B visa with my wife and son in L2. Our I-94 expires in May 2017, while our visa expiry is in June 2017.

    As my son’s school closes for summer vacation only in mid June, I was wondering what options do I have to stay for an extra month legally and not to miss my son’s classes. I guess I-94 expiry is what matters which is in May and not June.

    I heard that visa can be extended (not sure about I-94) from the US but then it would be difficult to go back to India if it is not extended from India. Is that true

  4. Sujay

    Hi ,

    I got H1B in the lottery this year , but its in RFE stage ,we have h1b receipt number.My h4 Visa expired on sept 19th 2016(8 days back).do I need to apply h4 e tention now or am I eligible to stay here ? please give me a clarity on this..thanks in advance …

    1. administrator
      Saurabh

      Sujay,

      If H-1 was applied w/ COS, then you can stay for up to 240 days beyond I-94 expiration date of H-1 denial date (whichever is earlier). If H-1 is approved w/o COS, then also you need to leave US.

      1. Sujay

        Hi surabh,

        Thank you so much for the info..my doubt if H1approved also I need to leave US?

        It means I need to go to india for stamping ?can you please clarity on this ….

        1. administrator
          Saurabh

          Sujay,

          You have to see if H-1 is approved w/ COS or w/o COS. If former, no need to leave US immediately. You can delay stamping until next trip outside US. If latter, you need to get the visa stamped first before starting to work on H-1 (or file a separate COS).

  5. Anna

    Anna

    Hi I came in USA with J1 visa by the program Work and Travel and I was working for three months. I changed my status from J1 to F1 and I am a full time student now.
    After a year and half I would like to go back in my country and visit my family,
    but the change of status was received while I was in the USA so I don’t actually have a F1 visa stamp in my passport. Will this cause any problem during returning back to USA?

  6. Vijay

    Hi
    I am working in US for last 3 months . I need to go back to India on an emergency.My current H1B visa is expiring on Sep 30 2016 and employer is not intersted in H1B extention.
    Question : Can i still come back to US through a new employer with the same H1B quota(without going into the lottery process) after the visa expiry ?
    Response is highly appreciated.
    Thanks
    Vijay

    1. administrator
      Saurabh

      Vijay,

      Yes, cap-exempt petition can be filed even after the current visa has expired, and doesn’t need to go through the lottery.

      1. Vijay Vakkayil

        Thank you very much for your response. This is a very good tip for me. Can you also tell me how difficult is to get the Visa if we re-request it . Will the visa expiration be a stumbling block in the path of Visa renewal (for eg: if we are trying to renew the visa after some 6 months through another employer ?)

        Thanks

        Vijay

        1. administrator
          Saurabh

          Vijay Vakkayil,

          You are eligible for cap-exempt petition within 6 years of original end date. So until Sep 30, 2022 in your case. The petition would still be subject to regular rules and checks, but it won’t be impacted by the fact that your old petition has already expired.

  7. Samrat

    Hi Saurabhn

    I m in Damn dilemma in choosing one of the below options.

    I have been working on one of the Top IT service based companies and got the below offfers.Please suggest me one best.

    – Accept the nomination for the L 1 B visa and travel to US.(I heard the Rehection rate is High)
    – Look for NON-US like Australia/UK.

    Note: MY Intension is to save money

    Pleaase suggest

  8. Nithi

    Hi,

    Can we work on I-94 after the L1 visa petition expired and with a valid I-94. The date on I-94 is given 2 years more than the petiiton end date .

    Thanks
    Nithi

      1. Suman Sambareddy

        Hi Saurabh,

        X employer applied for my H1B extension and approved for 3 years along with I94 (Till 2017) and after a year i transferred to Y employer and approved for only 1 year. Now Y employer is applied for extension again and rejected.
        Can i work in USA with Y Employer by using X employer valid I94 ?

        1. administrator
          Saurabh

          Suman Sambareddy,

          Is X’s I-94 number still the current I-94 number? In other words, have you left US since X’s extension petition was approved? If you have not left US, then you can join X if they are willing to hire you again.

        2. prinka garg

          Hi,

          Me and husband are on L2 visa and our visa expired one year ago but we are now living on i94 which is till aug2018 but recently my husband’s company they moved my husband’s location and ask us to file for location change in petition but since our visa is expire already we cant file a location change so company suggested us to file L1b visa extension and we filed in april and now today we got a RFE on that. so my question is if our L2 visa extension rejected is their any option we can still live or there is not an option ? (our i94 is still valid till aug2018)

  9. Karan Kanojiya

    hi
    one of my candidate is having a stamp of US-Immigration on his passport which says CLASS-C 1, and UNIT-V IDPP
    what is the meaning of this stamp,
    pls advise.
    Thank You

  10. Sadie

    Hello,
    I am currently a student with an F1 visa that will expire in late March. I was planning on going home to visit my family for a month in December and coming back early January. Will the United States let me re-enter the country when my visa is set to expire in March? I am worried that my visa must be good for more than three months when I re-enter.

  11. purab

    Hi, I recently came back from US (3 months back). I was there for 4.4 years on L1b. Now my visa is expired and my employer is ready to file another New L1B . Is it ok to do so ? Will it be rejected by USCIS ?

  12. phoog

    D/S means Duration of Status, not Duration of Stay. This makes sense, since admitting someone for “duration of stay” would mean that they can stay as long as they want, while admitting someone for “duration of status” means they can stay as long as they continue to hold the status that entitles them to be in the US. For example, if you are on a student visa, and you cease to be a student, your student status has ended, and you must leave (or adjust to a different status).

  13. Roni

    Hi,

    I got H1B approval notice, but do not have the stamp on my passport. Trying to fill some forms, I need to write my visa number, issue date and consular location. Should I use my H1B recipe # as my visa number? Should I use my H1B recipe date as the issue date? or the start valid date? Should I use the USCIS office address as the consular location? or all of that is wrong and I should fill the details of my previous J2 visa (with its stamp on my passport)?

    Thank you !!!

  14. H1 B onboard

    Hi All,

    Can you all please confirm, Is there any limitation like an H1 B applicant should go for H1B VISA stamping within some period after it extended.

    In my case, H1 b extension was filled in September 2013 and approved in December 2013 for 3 years (09/30/2013 to 09/29/2016).
    I return to India in October 2013 as my onsite work was complete.
    After returning to India I did not go for VISA stamping in US embassy here in INDIA as there was no plan to go to US that time.

    Now we have position in US with same employer and location and i want to avail this opportunity.

    Can you please confirm, Is there any limitation like an H1 B applicant should go for H1B VISA stamping within some period after it extended or can I go for VISA stamping any time till I797 is valid (09/29/2016).

  15. Anya

    Hi Folks,
    I need some information regarding my Status in USA.
    I am currently on F2 visa in US and got my H1B approved for fy2015- 2016.
    My husbands F1 status expires on July 18 2015 as per I-94.He is applying for an OPT right now with a start date of Sep 1 2015.
    Hence given this situation, what will be my status after July 2015 if there is any delay in receiving the OPT approval or something, I am not sure about the process?
    Will my status become invalid before Oct 1st 2015 when I can start to work?
    Please throw some light here I am really confused!!!!

  16. vivek mehra

    please ASAP my son passport expires in march he is studing in usa,please advise can he obtain a new passport in the usa, or he will have 2 come back @ india for his passport,Thanks

  17. GM

    Hi,
    Currently, i am on L1B Visa with Company A. I am planning to file my H1B visa thru company B. Once it is picked from lottery and petition is approved. Can i go to India for couple of week before 1 october on my current L1 Visa and Re-enter on the same Visa. If yes, what would be the cost involved for updating the I-194 travel dates to US government. what would be risk invloved in processing of approved H1 Petition.

  18. Shanger

    Hello. I came into US with L1. 2 months prior to L1 getting expired, i made visit to india and when comming back, they gave I94 extn for 2 more yrs. Now I have H1 via diff employer. Can i work with my L1 employer untill i94 is valid and then switch to H1 status?

  19. Monica

    Hello,
    How long do we have to leave the country after an O1 visa was withdrawal? There is any period of grace in this case? Thank you in advance!

  20. mounika

    Hi I apied for f1 visa is approved on june 2014 but unfortunately I haven’t gone for fall intake to USA
    My question is
    1) how many days my visa is valied can I go with same visa for next fall intake 2015
    2) can I apply for other university and can I transfer my sevis to new univ from india

  21. saravanakumar

    Hi,
    I stayed in US for about 6 months with H1b in July-December’2012 with company A. After that i came back to india due to some personal reasons. Then i did not travel again back to US. I swithced to company B. My visa got expired on 24-Oct-2014. will i be able to extend my visa through company C using premium processing ?
    Your advice will be highly appreciated.
    Thanks
    Saravanakumar D

  22. Raj

    Hello Bluj/Others,
    I am in the similar situation. But in my case, I came to US on P visa and left US when my visa had expired but my I-94 was still valid. I surrendered my I-94 at the airport as per usual norm. Now, I am planning to go back to US again after several years. (Even my I-94 has expired now). So when I go to apply for my new visa, do I need to show a photo copy of my I-94 to prove that I didn’t overstay during my last visit to US even though my visa had expired that time. My problem is, I don’t have a copy of my I-94 and I am not able to get it online since its been more than 5 years since then. And I heard people’s visa application getting rejected and being banned from entering the country in similar scenarios. Is it true?
    Please Help!

  23. Atul

    Hi,

    My H1B was stamped in March 2009 & visa got expired in April 2011 but I did not travel anytime on this visa does my petition still stand Valid & Cap exempt please help me to understand my visa status

    Thanks,
    Atul Relekar
    09552534261.

  24. Kiran

    Hi,

    My L1B VISA will expire in June 24th 2015. However H-1B VISA status change approved and effective from Oct 2014. I am planning to go to India on Jan 2015. Can I travel through London Hethrow without any Transit VISA as my L-1B VISA is not expired ? Also while boarding in USA, which I-94 I should carry ? IS it thw one which comes with L-1B or the new I-94 which is approved with H-1B ? Having Different I-94’s gives any issues while travelling in british airways ?

    Thanks!

  25. Anuja

    Hi Saurabh,

    I am on H1B. I am travelling to India on 29th Nov and Coming back on 6th Jan. My current H1 is expiring on Jan 15 2015 and so does my I-94. But I will have new extended I797 for the H1B visa when I come back as I have requested my employer to file for the extention. Can you please advice on this scenario on following questions.
    1) Will Immigration officer give me I94 of 10 days only since my current H1 is expiring in 10 days even though have extended I 797.

    2) If it is YES to question 1 will I have to file for the H1 ammendment?

    Your help will be very much appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Anuja

  26. khk

    I am working on L1B with company A. My visa expired Sep-2012 but I have a valid I94 until dec-2014. Company B has applied H1B visa on COS. Can I resign company A and join company B once my H1B is approved? Can company A ask me to serve until my I94 expiration date? Is it legal?

  27. lavi

    Hi

    i just have finished my summer semester, and i would like to go to my country and spend the last three weeks with my family. However, when i am coming back to the united states my visa will be about two months away from expiration, but my i-20 and passport are totally fine. do you think if the imgration will stop me because of my Visa is about to expire. And, what you advice me to do?

  28. lavi

    i just have finished my summer semester, and i would like to go to my country and spend the last three weeks with my family. However, when i am coming back to the united states my visa will be about two months away from expiration, but my i-20 and passport are totally fine. So, what you advice me to do?

  29. lavi

    Hello
    i just have finished my summer semester, and i would like to go to my country and spend the last three weeks with my family. However, when i am coming back to the united states my visa will be about two months away from expiration, but my i-20 and passport are totally fine. So, what you advice me to do?

    1. administrator
      Kumar

      You should be fine to travel, if your I-20 and passport are fine. You should also talk to DSO at your school and seek advice on this.

  30. lia

    my job appointment ended on june 30, my I94 indicates valid until july 31 (one month later), does it mean that i am legal in the us until july 31? i have been told just right now that i am not, that i have to leave the us just the day my job ends, and i got worried, i want to return to Europe but i need time to finish my things here, after 5 years. My driver license will also expire on july 31. I have to sell my belongings and end my things and it is impossible to leave right now! I am freaking out!!! please help!!!

  31. SIVA

    Hi,
    I am having valid L1 from my current employer A till
    2016. This year I applied for H1 and my petition has been approved
    from employer B. Currently I am staying in India.
    I want to resign my current employer A.
    Can I work for employer B in US after 1st october 2014
    with my L1 Visa stamping and H1 approved petition?
    Is it required to get my H1 stampped?

  32. Ravi

    Hi,

    I am an Indian national working in the US on a L-1 visa and have recently gained admission for a masters program in the US. My program starts from Sep’14, but I would like to apply for the student visa as early as June’14 in India. However, I intend to come back and keep working for my current employer till I the program starts.

    My question: If I go to India to get a student visa, will my L-1 visa be valid till the dates of the student visa are in effect. Will there be a problem on re-entry or if I travel internationally till my student visa is in effect ?

    Thanks in advance for your response.

  33. Alex

    Hello

    I applied for H1 on Apr 2013 as a change of Status from L1 to H1.
    I got it approved on July 2013. I went to India in August for a week and came back.
    I entered on L1 with a new I-94. After I came back , I continued to work for the L1 employer till now . Now I want to start working for my H1 employer (my H1 petition was approved till 2017 but on old I94)

    Questions:
    1) What is my status now L1 or H1 ? Is there any way to find out
    2) Do i need to do a change of status again ? or only a I94 amendment?

    Please provide me with your valuable suggestions

    1. administrator
      Saurabh

      Alex,
      1. L-1 as you entered recently on L-1 visa.
      2. Yes, COS needs to be filed from L-1 to H-1. Once approved, you can start working on H-1 and need to stop working on L-1.

  34. am2014

    Hi,

    Currently, I am in US and my H1-B visa expired in 2013 but i94 valid till 2015. If, I need to travel India but afraid, if didn’t get the approval. This may hamper my entire matters in USA at both personal and professional fronts.

    Please confirm me what will be the consequences of this situation? Also, what should be immediate measurements that I need to take?

    Thanks!

    1. administrator
      Saurabh

      Am2014,
      To return to US, you need a valid H-1 visa. If you travel and are unable to receive the H-1 visa, then there is no option but to wait outside US until the process is complete.

  35. Sam

    Hi,

    My Visa Expired in Jun 2013 , I am on I-94 from Oct 2011. I have I-94 till Sep 30th 2014

    Can I apply for I-94 extension . Will it be extended

    1. administrator
      Saurabh

      Sam,
      Yes, I-94 extension can be applied. Chances of approval depend upon a lot of factors and there is no easy answer to guess the outcome.

  36. venu

    My wife was on F1 during APR 2012 and a company filed H1 with Change of Status. She got H1 approved on Jun 2012 and got an I94 with Change of status activation from Oct1st 2012. After she received the H1 she went for India and had a H4 stamping and returned to US on H4 on Sep13 2012, the I94 end date is Nov 13 2013. As per my discussion with company’s attorney , Attorney said her H1 I94 will be automatically activated from Oct1st 2012. And she started working from Oct1st 2012. Recently we got to know that we can look at the electronic I94 through online and when i verified the I94 it has the H4 I94 details and looks like the H1 I94 never got activated. Can you please suggest the future course of action.

  37. John

    I came to US on L1b and my wife on L2. L1b/L2 and I-94 for both of us were valid till 6th Sept 2013. My employer applied for L1 to H1 COS in april 2013, got selected in lottery. While H1 COS was in progress, my employer applied for L1 extn for me and L2 extn for my wife for us to maintain status. My employer also applied for my wife’s L2 to H4 COS in Sept.

    Current Situation –
    My L1 extn denied on 20th Feb 2014
    My wife’s L2 extn denied on 21st Feb 2014
    My H1 COS approved on 20th Feb 2014
    My wife’s H4 is still in initial review since 19th Sept 2013 (her I94 has already expired on 6th Sept 2013)

    My Questions –
    1. Can my wife continue to stay here until her H4 is approved?
    2. Is she maintaining valid status as her H4 is in progress?
    3. If she is not in valid status how much time does she have to leave the country? I need number of days? today is the 5th day from when her L2 extn is denied.
    4. Is there any other option available for her to maintain status?
    5. Can we apply for H4 Premium Processing?

  38. Kumar

    Hi, I am working in US on h1b visa and my both visa and petition expires on 31 Jan 2014. But I have a valid i94 till July 2014. I haven’t applied for extension. Can I stay and work beyond 31 Jan 2014? Also if I have to apply for extension, what would be the date by when I need to apply for extension?

    Thanks,
    Kumar

  39. lionking

    Kumar,

    Nice article. Will you please brief on though I-94 is the legal document that lets you to stay till its expiry, I have been hearing things like if we cross certain days without visa, your re-entry and new visas in future will be a problem.
    Example:
    Visa expired and staying on I-94 till 6 months gives a 3 years ban in future.
    Beyond 6 months and less than 365 is 5 year ban.
    anything above 365 days is 10 year ban.

    Are these true? Even if these are not true, what if USCIS or VO asks about this scenario. WHY did you stay beyond Visa expiry without applying Visa extension.?

    Can you also explain the new I-94 process? These are automated now against the olden days(before April 2013) where an alien is stapled a piece of paper on his/her passport about I-94 and expiry.

    When it is automated in April 2013, does system give max stay time till end of visa or does the Immigration officer enters it manually in the system.

    1. Ajay

      Hello lionking
      is this statement true, kindly confirm
      Visa expired and staying on I-94 till 6 months gives a 3 years ban in future.
      Beyond 6 months and less than 365 is 5 year ban.
      anything above 365 days is 10 year ban.

      My visa already expired and I am on I 94 and now I am in the process of applying H1B visa ,

      1. vijaya

        Can you please update us on this. I am on L1 visa and that will expire on Dec 2014 but i-94 valid till Mar 2016. can i stay up-to Mar 2016 without visa extension.

        1. BluJ

          I worked in US for 1.5 years after my L1 visa expired, because my I-94 was still valid. There was no problem in applying and getting any subsequent visas.
          This is a very common scenario, so don’t worry. Only problem is that you won’t be able to exit the country and enter again without getting a new visa after your visa is expired. (even if I-94 is valid).

          1. ramya

            Hi BluJ,

            Could you please help to clarify the below?

            I am in L1B visa in US since 6 months my I 94 and L1B visa both valid till 15th March 2018. My I 129 petition got expired on March 1st 2016 and applied for extension its got denied. could you please let me know can i stay in US based on I94 and L1B Visa status till 2018 or do i need to leave the country since I 129s Extension Denied. Thanks.

            Regards,
            Ramya

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