Law Offices of Stuart J. Reich, PLLC

Practice Limited to Immigration & Nationality Law

11 Broadway, Suite 615
New York, NY 10004

(212) 430-6582 phone
(212) 430-6583 facsimile

What is the difference between a visa and a visa stamp?

Q: What is the difference between a visa and a visa stamp?

A: A visa is best defined as the right to be present in the U.S. for a specific period of time for a specific purpose. Both the type of visa on which a foreign national is present in the U.S. and the length of time during which that foreign national is permitted to remain in the U.S. have historically been governed by the I-94 card.

The I-94 card created upon lawful entry is now be a printout obtained from the Customs and Border Protection site here, after entering personal and passport info as well as date and visa type/class of admission. If a person has, since lawful entry, changed, amended or extended their status through USCIS, the I-94 will be a printed section at the bottom of a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service-issued Form I-797 Approval Notice.

An actual white card used to be issued upon entry to the US before I-94s went electronic in 2013, and there had even been light green cards issued in the case of a Visa Waiver Program entrant (before the ESTA program was implemented). These cards issued upon entry were a detachable section of a form normally completed on the plane or ship on the way to the US, and were physically stapled into the passport upon examination and admission by immigration officers.

Whatever form it takes, the I-94 is what controls a non-citizen/non-permanent resident individual’s ability to remain in the US. With few exceptions (parolees, asylees and refugees among them), any foreign national in the U.S. who is not a permanent resident must have a non-immigrant visa to be legally present.

A visa stampis best described as a "pass" or "ticket" to enter the U.S. It is reviewed upon entry to determine admissibility, but does not control whether the foreign national is legally present while here in the U.S. in the way that the visa itself, as evidenced by the I-9, does.

Q: Can a foreign national remain in the U.S. if the visa stamp expires?

A: Yes, as long as the I-94 - or admission stamp - remains valid (unexpired). However, if the foreign national travels abroad, he or she will need to apply for a new visa stamp at a U.S. embassy or consulate before returning to the U.S.

Contact us here to arrange a consultation, to inquire about retaining us to handle your immigration matter, or simply to suggest topics you would like to see covered on our site.

The above is presented for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship with our firm. The information provided should not be used as guidance in pursuing an immigration matter absent consultation with a qualified immigration attorney.