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Don’t let the visa expiration date fool you

A visa expiration date may not mean what you think it means.

If you're currently working in the U.S. to send money to your loved ones back in your native country, you're likely quite familiar with visas, as these allow you to live and work in the U.S. on a temporary basis. But there are certain things about a visa that you ought to be clear about to avoid issues down the road.

For example, every visa has an expiration date. You may suspect that this date tells you the amount of time you are permitted to stay within the United States. But according to the State Department, the expiration date is not indicative of how long you can legally stay within the U.S. borders, as some may mistakenly believe.

The visa expiration date is located in the lower right corner of a visa and is listed alongside the date the visa was issued to you. These dates are referred to as your visa validity. This time period is the length of time during which you are allowed to travel into the U.S. It has nothing to do with how long you can stay in the country, contrary to what some people may think.

The State Department notes that the length of time you are legally permitted to stay within the U.S. is determined by the Customs and Border Protection Officer who was stationed at the port-of-entry when you initially came into the country. They're the ones that make the determination and they should have made a note of it on your visa.

It's important to be aware of this date, as if you overstay, your visa could be cancelled or voided. However, you can avoid this by filing an extension of stay application to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol well before the end date.

If you want to apply to stay longer than the time denoted by the customers officer on your card, you can do this without a problem. All you have to do is obtain a I-539 Form. Once you fill in the required information, USCIS recommends submitting it at least one and a half months before the authorization period expires. Some people may not be allowed to extend their stay for a variety of reasons. USCIS lists the various categories in which you may be prevented from remaining in the U.S. for a longer time period.

Helpful links:
I-539 Form

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