The Visa Stamp in My Passport Expired, am I in the United States Illegally?

ZZ55684069-ttWhat Happens if the Visa Stamp in your Passport Expires or is revoked? Are you required to leave the United States? Or are you allowed to stay? Many people seem confused as to what a visa stamp is for, what an I–94 is for, etc. Therefore, every once in a while, we think it is good to review these concepts.

As most people know, in order to enter the US, generally you will need a visa stamp in your passport (the big colerful stamp that takes up a whole page – not the entry stamp you get when coming to the US with the date you need to leave the US). There are, of course, exceptions to this. Permanent Residents and citizens do not need visas. Also, those entering under the visa waiver program are not required to get a visa stamp either (although they do have to use the online system prior to any trip to the US). However, as stated above, generally most people will need to visit a US Consulate and receive a visa stamp in their passport before entering the United States. The purpose of the visa stamp is just that, to allow you to enter the United States. It does not control your status in the US, it does not indicate when you need to leave the US. It is simply a tool to allow you to travel and enter the United States.

Whenever you do enter the United States, you are required to go through an immigration control line, in which Immigration and Customes Enforcement (ICE) Officers, and perhaps USCIS officer, will review your passport, visa stamp, immigration history, etc. and determine if you are admissable to the United States. Despite having the visa stamp in your passport, these officers can still deny you entry to the United States if they believe that you meet one of the grounds of inadmissability or are not eligible for the status you are seeking. If they determine that you are eligible they will allow you to enter and will provide you with an entry stamp in your passport and an I–94 online. It is these documents, the entry stamp and I–94 that control your status in the United States. Whatever date is listed on these documents is the date your stay will expire and when you need to leave the US. Therefore, if your Visa Stamp expires it does NOT affect your stay in the US. Just recently, the DOS confirmed that this is the case, and further confirmed that even if DOS revokes your visa, this does not affect your stay in the US either. It is up to ICE and USCIS to revoke your status in the US and to kick you out, if they are so inclined. DOS simply does not have that power.

Why would your visa be revoked? Well, there are many reasons, including that you no longer qualify for the status (i.e., a tourist visa for someone who filed a green card application or you move to an H visa, etc.), or some other information comes to light that shows you no longer qualify (security concerns, etc.). While a visa revocation alone will not affect your stay in the US, it is a good idea to talk with your attorney (or an attorney) if you do receive such a letter in the mail, as it could be a harbinger of other things to come.

Please remember, as always, this blog does not offer legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog. Thank you.

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