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.
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.
- 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.