Visa Status: Difference Between Visa and Status

What is Visa?

  • A visa is an entry document for foreign nationals to enter the U.S. It is typically a stamp placed in a passport by a U.S. Consulate or Embassy.
  • Nonimmigrant visas allow temporary entry to work, visit, study, or live, while immigrant visas are granted to individuals who are beneficiaries of an immigrant petition or Diversity Visa Lotter.
  • A visa does not guarantee admission, and a U.S. Customs & Border Protection Officer may deny entry if the holder is not eligible.


What is Status?

  • Status refers to the privileges granted to foreign nationals during immigration benefits at the port of entry. When legally admitted to the U.S., a foreign national gains either immigrant or nonimmigrant status.
  • Nonimmigrant status allows a foreign national to maintain their visa classification. Canadians can apply for nonimmigrant status at the border and obtain an I-94 entry/departure record.
  • Immigrant status grants a foreign national legal permanent residency.


Visa v.s Status: Period of Validity


A Visa’s validity period can range from 30 days to 10 years, allowing the holder to enter the US at a US port of entry. It can be limited to single or multiple entries. The authorized stay period on the I-94 may be less or longer than the Visa’s validity period.


Your Status is valid for the authorized stay specified in the I-94, not the Visa in the passport. If your valid Visa expires, you are not “out of status” if you remain within the authorized period.


Change of Status

Change of status in the U.S. involves applying with the USCIS but does not affect visas. If leaving the U.S., a new visa is required for re-entry, and previously issued visas can be used to resume prior status.


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