How long can I stay in the US?

How long can I stay in the US?

If you are not a US citizen, or green card holder, when you are inspected at the US border, you will be admitted for a specific amount of time (a period of lawful admission).  It is important to pay attention to this admission period.  If you stay longer than permitted by your last entry to the US, you may be overstaying your entry.  If you overstay, you could be deported. If you overstay for 6 months or more, you could be barred from returning to the US for three years once you leave the US.  This bar increases to 10 years if you overstay for 12 months or more.

How Do I Know How Long I can Stay in the US?

If you enter the US by Air or Sea:

  • All travelers by air or sea receive an electronic Arrival-Departure Card, Form I-94. In the past, this was a white card that the border officer stapled into your passport.
  • Now Form I-94 is issued electronically. This means that you no longer receive a piece of paper that tells you how long you are permitted to stay. You must go online to print a copy of your I-94.
  • To get a copy of your Form-I-94, go to
  • Below is a sample of an electronic Form I-94.


  • In addition to an electronic Form I-94, the border officer will place an entry stamp in your passport. This stamp includes the date you entered the US and the date when you must leave the US.

If you enter the US by Land:

  • You will receive a paper Form I-94. This form includes your admission period.
  • Below is a sample of a paper form I-94.

sample of I-94 paper

  • You will also receive an entry stamp in your passport that includes the date you entered the US and the date when you must leave the US.
  • Below is a sample entry stamp.

entry stamp

  • Canadians do not usually receive a paper Form I-94 at a land port of entry. Even if the border officer does not issue a paper Form I-94, Canadians are admitted to the US for a specific period. If you are from Canada, you should also go online to print your Form I-94, so that you will know the date when you must leave the US.

What is the difference between Form I-94 and a visa?

Unless you are from a Visa-Waiver country, you must get a visa from a US embassy or consulate to travel to the US. The time on the visa, the validity period, is not a period of admission. The validity period on your visa gives you the time in which you can apply for entry at a US border. For example, if your visa is valid for five years, you can come to the US border at any time during those five years to ask to be admitted. The officer who inspects you at the border will provide you with an admission period. This admission period depends on the reason for your visit to the US. The admission period may be shorter than the time on your visa. Below is a sample visa stamp.

visa sample

Remember to use the admission period on your Form I-94, not the validity period on your visa, to determine how long you may stay in the US. If your visa expires during your admission period in the US, you will need to apply for another visa the next time you leave the US.

Can I apply for a longer admission period while I am in the US?

In some cases, foreign nationals may apply to extend their stay in the US or to change to another category of admission.  For example, some students who have completed their time in student status may be able to apply for an employment-based visa.

If you would like our help in determining what choices you might have to extend your stay in the US, or change your immigration status, contact our office for a consultation.

Immigration Updates