F1 Visa Stamp is Valid for 2 Years Not Typical 5 Years. Problems?

When you get F-1 Visa approved after F-1 Visa student interview, visa stamp is typically valid for five years. But, there are times where the F1 stamp is expired in less than five years. Here’s a question from a reader:

I am done with the F1 VISA interview and my visa has been approved and stamped in my passport.

I just have one query alone. My visa expiry date is the same date as the course end date in the i20. Is this gonna pose a problem when I want to continue on OPT? Everyone I know has got their visa expiring five years later. Is there anything I can do right now or is this situation fine. Please advise. I am very much worried!

Thanks so much for your constant help and emails. It has been so so helpful.

F1 Visa Stamp Valid for two years

This a one of the frequently asked question after F1 Visa interview when the visa validity is less than five years.

For instance, if you take Masters Degree where it would take two years to graduate, then followed by 36 months of OPT and STEM OPT Extension, your timeline would look like this:

  • M.S. Degree – 24 Months
  • OPT – 12 Months
  • STEM OPT – 24 Months
  • Total – 5 Years

But, F1 Visa stamp on the passport expires in 24 months, you are worried about how you can continue to stay in the U.S.A.

Answer:

You don’t have to worry. You can continue to stay and work on OPT even after your visa stamp on your passport expires.

Your follow-up question is likely “But, how is it possible?”

[highlight]Visa Stamp[/highlight] would get you till U.S. Port of Entry. Airlines would check your valid visa stamp on the passport and let you board the flight.

At the port of entry, CBP Officer (Immigration Officer) will give you[highlight]Valid Status[/highlight].

  • Valid Visa Stamp
  • Valid Status

They are two different entities.

  • Valid Visa + Valid Status = You can stay in the U.S.
  • Expired Visa + Valid Status = You can stay in the U.S.
  • Valid Visa + Expired Status = You cannot stay in the U.S.

That’s why maintaining your valid status is important. Read this article to learn about how to maintain F1 Visa status.

In other words, your legal status in the U.S.A is determined by the papers you carry with you.

  • For F1 Visa Students – Form I-20 ( and I-94 Record)
  • For H1B Visa Workers – Form I-797 ( and I-94 Record)

When you graduate with your Masters Degree, your school DSO (Designated School Official) will provide and new I-20 for OPT.

That new I-20 would be valid for 12 more months. That gives you new F-1 Visa OPT Status for 12 more months. You can continue to stay and work while on your OPT period.

What if I want to Travel Outside U.S.A.

Ok. Now you got me!

Your valid visa is what that will get you into America’s Front Door – Port of Entry.

If you go on a vacation to visit your family and friends while you have the valid stamp, you can reenter again. If not, you have to get F visa stamp.

  • Valid Visa  = You can leave and enter the U.S.
  • Expired Visa = You can leave the U.S., but requires Valid Stamp to enter the U.S..

As you can see, I did not list the Valid Status part above. Why?

You have a Valid Status only when you are within U.S.A. You don’t have a U.S. lawful status when you have departed the U.S.A.

If you travel after your OPT, have started, your Visa would be expired.

For you to enter U.S.

  • Attend the visa interview again
  • Get New F1 Visa Stamp on your passport

What is Out of Status?

That’s a very good question.

Let’s say; you lost forget to apply for OPT Card after completing Masters Degree.Then you will be out of status after the date on the I-20. If you continue to stay after that date, you are out of status. You are staying illegally in the U.S.A.

Check this article – Mistakes that can affect your legal status in the U.S.A.

Summary:

  • U.S. Visa – Get you till Port of Entry
  • U.S. Visa Status – Legal status while you are in the U.S.
  • You can stay in the U.S. with expired visa stamp on your passport
  • Your status can be extended while in the U.S. on F-1 Visa when schools issue new I-20.

8 Comments

  1. Komal Saini on December 23, 2017 at 4:41 AM

    Is the F1 visa given these days is for 2 years or 5 years for MBA students. I heard that it’s only till the duration of the MBA as mentioned on I 20. Please confirm.

  2. Suchitra on September 29, 2017 at 7:16 PM

    I lost my passport with a valid F1 Visa on it. I will be going back in december to get the Visa stamping done on my passport. Typically the visa is valid for 5 years(like my old one). But I am concerned that this time they will authorize my VISA for less than 5 years. Does that happen?

    • Jay on October 8, 2018 at 12:38 AM

      I am in the same situation. Can you give me some update on this? What was your new expiration date on your visa?

  3. Raj patel on August 29, 2017 at 1:28 PM

    I have got f1 visa and i am not going to usa so for now my visa will be rejected and after that when i go back to apply the visa again what could be the question by the consolate and what would be the process. is there chances of rejection?

    • Jay on October 8, 2018 at 12:37 AM

      I am in the same situation. Can you please give me some update on this? What was the new expiration date for your visa?

  4. Vishak Venkatraman on August 16, 2017 at 2:51 PM

    Great explanation. Question

    I was on phd and they gave me only 5 years and not 8 years including opt etc .. (from 2011 though). SO my visa is currently expired and I am inside usa… which is fine

    Now I am in EAD card (OPT first year), if I renew my Visa (leave us for vacation say), will it include the extension years or only till current ead expires. In form ds 160, should I enter intended stay as few years or until ead expiers? Basically how long of a visa will I get now if approved.

  5. Tanya on July 19, 2017 at 1:49 PM

    You mentioned
    “For you to enter U.S.

    Attend the visa interview again
    Get New F1 Visa Stamp on your passport”

    How do I follow up on this? My visa expired on the last day of my course, i.e May 31, 2018. When should I attend the visa interview again and what are the documents I need?

    Any help would be really appreciated!

    • Raghu on August 1, 2017 at 7:33 AM

      Visa is different from status. If your I-20 is valid, you can continue to stay in USA. Your DSO can explain the details.

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