Visa vs. Status: Your visa can expire, but your status should not.
People often use the term, ‘visa’ to mean both a person’s visa and their status. They also use both terms, ‘visa’ and ‘status’ interchangeably. However, they are two different things. A ‘visa’ is a stamp or sticker that is placed in your passport and is used to seek entry into the U.S. ‘Status’ refers to your formal immigration classification in the U.S. with immigration benefits and responsibilities.
When a student enters the U.S., they must show he or she is eligible to enter the country by providing documents to the CBP (Customs and Border Protection) officer such as the I-20, F-1 visa, financial documents, etc. Then, the student is issued an entry stamp in his or her passport. The entry stamp shows the traveler’s entry date, immigration status, and the expiration date of the status. Most visitors will be given a specific date for the expiration date of the status. For an F-1 student, the expiration will be shown as D/S, which stands for Duration of Status. The duration of status is based on the form I-20. On the date that your I-20 expires, your status ends.
The student will be in the admitted status till the expiration date assuming that he or she will obey the regulations pertaining to the status. If the student violates the regulations that govern the status, he or she becomes ‘out of status’, which means he or she no longer has a lawful basis for staying in the U.S.
A visa is only an entry document and can expire while you are in the U.S. There is no issue if your visa expires while you are legally present in the U.S. As long as your status is still valid and you continue to follow all immigration regulations, you can continue to remain in the U.S. even if your visa has expired. The status does not end when the visa expires. However, you will require a valid visa anytime you seek entry into the U.S. If your visa expires and you are traveling internationally, you will need to get a new visa before returning to the U.S.
If a visitor has an expired visa and is working on OPT, she does not need a valid visa to remain in the U.S. and work. Additionally, if a visitor is transferring their SEVIS record to a new school, they can continue to stay in the U.S. in between programs, regardless of the validity of the F-1 entry visa.
Form I-20 is the certificate of eligibility for F visa (traditional students and their dependents).
Certificates of eligibility are issued by the International Admissions Office at Indiana Tech for the following reasons:
- To obtain an F-1 visa from the American Embassy/Consulate in your home country
- To enter the country for the first time
- To re-enter after a short visit outside the U.S.
- To transfer to another school
- For entry of family (spouse and children)
- To extend expected program end/activity date
Note: Previous copies of your I-20 cannot be regenerated as we only have access to the most current version.
Form I-94 can be retrieved electronically at cbp.gov/i94, but some visa types are still issued a paper form I-94 card.
You will receive a new I-94 number each time you re-enter the U.S. You must provide International Services with all new I-94 numbers you receive during your stay in the U.S.
If you receive a paper I-94, you must be in possession of your I-94 card at all times. Do not lose this card. If you lose your I-94, contact International Services immediately.
D/S on your I-94 stands for “duration of status.” It indicates the period of time students are allowed to stay in the United States.
A passport is your country’s identification of you as a citizen. Your passport must remain valid at all times. It is not allowed to expire.
If your passport expires and your visa in the expired passport is still valid, you can travel to the United States with your two passports, both the expired passport with the valid visa and the new valid passport. Both passports (the valid and the expired one with the visa) should be from the same country. When you arrive at the U.S. port-of-entry (generally an airport or land border), the Customs and Border Protection Immigration Officer will check your visa in the old passport and if s/he decides to admit you into the United States, they will stamp your new passport with an admission stamp along with the annotation “VIOPP” (visa in other passport). You should not try to remove the visa from your old passport and stick it into the new valid passport. If you do so, the visa will no longer be valid.
A visa is a stamp or sticker placed in your passport by an official of the United States (or the country you are entering) permitting your entry. You must have a valid visa to enter the United States (unless you are visa exempt). However, unlike a passport, once you are in the U.S., your visa is allowed to expire.
Note: You cannot re-enter the country with an expired visa.
With the valid visa, you CAN:
- stay in the U.S. legally as long as your certificate of eligibility allows.
- travel to Canada, Mexico, or other contiguous U.S. territories for less than 30 days (some countries are not eligible).
With the expired visa, you CANNOT:
- travel outside of the U.S. (except Canada, Mexico, or other contiguous U.S. territories for less than 30 days).
- request a new visa in the U.S.
To Request a new visa, you will need to take the following items to the nearest American Consulate/Embassy Office located in your country:
- a valid passport
- proof of financial support
- and/or verification of enrollment letter
- evidence showing intention to return to your home country upon program completion
- proof of SEVIS fee payment.
If you have lost or misplaced your Form I-20, or for other reasons are unable to produce that form at the port of entry, you should ask to be admitted on a Form I-515A. In such a case, the immigration officer will determine if you have a valid F-1 or J-1 visa and are qualified in all other respects for admission as a student. The officer may admit you to the United States in student status for a period of 30 days and issue the Form I-515A, but you will need to make an appointment with the International Services Counselor as soon as you return to campus.
If the immigration officer at the port of entry is not able to determine that you are eligible for admission as a student, the officer may parole you into the United States for “deferred inspection,” which requires that you report in person to a USCIS office.