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About Your Visa

If you are confused about the difference between your visa entry document and your U.S. immigration status, or visa status, you’re not alone. Here is some information to help you make sense of it all.

What Is a Visa?

Your visa is the entry stamp in your passport that allows you to enter the United States. You must apply for it at a U.S. consulate or embassy outside the country. It certifies that you are eligible to apply for admission at a U.S. port of entry in a particular classification, such as F-1, J-1 or H-1B.

What Is a Visa Status?

When you’re admitted into the United States at a port of entry, you must present your passport with the entry visa and other supporting documents to a Customs and Border Protection officer. The officer then decides whether you are eligible to enter the country and how long you can stay and admits you in a nonimmigrant status that matches the visa in your passport. This is your visa status, also called an immigration status.

The most common visa statuses at Cornell are F-1 and J-1 for students, and J-1 and H-1B for  faculty and staff.  Your visa status is stamped in your passport and generates an I-94 arrival/departure record.

Do I have to leave the U.S. when the entry visa in my passport expires?

No. The length of time you can stay in the United States is connected to your academic program or your authorized period of research or employment. However, you may wish to travel abroad during the time you are authorized to stay in the United States. The expiration date of the visa in your passport is the last date you may use that visa to reenter the United States in the same classification with valid, unexpired supporting documents.

What happens if my entry visa expires while I’m in the United States?

Nothing, if you are maintaining your legal status. If you leave the United States with an expired entry visa, however, you’ll need to apply for a new visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy to reenter the Unite States in the same status.

What if I get a new passport, but my entry visa is still valid in my old one?

You can continue to use an unexpired visa in an expired passport along with a new passport. Just take both passports with you when you travel.

What if I lose my passport with the valid entry visa?

Be very careful with your passport! If you lose it, you cannot replace your visa in the United States. You will need to leave the country and apply for a new visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad.

I have other questions about my visa.

Visit the U.S. Department of State visa FAQs for answers to other common visa questions.