legal status vs visa

These Mistakes Can Affect Your Legal Status in USA (and Where to Get Help)

Raghuram Sukumar Edu News 25 Comments

I can’t understand why this happens to folks who are in Non-Immigrant Status in USA. Especially when it comes to matters related to Legal Immigration affecting one’s status.

First, let me explain the difference between Visa and status. Then one of the biggest mistakes done non-immigrants when it coms to seeking legal help.

You will often hear people say, “I got F1 visa stamping for 5 years”. Here’s the thing, 5 years F1 Visa stamping doesn’t allow you to live in USA for 5 years. Visa is different from status.  Remember Visa and Status are two different things.

Visa stamp on the passport merely allows you to travel to USA till Port of Entry (the first destination you will arrive). Following is the definition of What is U.S Visa.

visa vs status

CBP officer at the port of entry will stamp your status on your passport.

Here’s an Example Status:

  • American Citizen
  • Permanent Resident
  • F-1 Student
  • H-1B Worker
  • J-1 Exchange Scholar
f1 visa i94 d/s

F1 Visa D/S

Example of F-1 Student will look like this with D/S. D/S stands for Duration of Status.

April 29, 2011 that you see was date that person entered U.S.A.  D/S is asking to refer to complete course by Date listed on I-20. Which is the date by which the student have to graduate.

If you stay past that date, then you are out of status.

Likewise, H-1B worker will have date based on validity of H-1B Approval Notice. Your Status is Valid and legal in U.S.A. until the date listed on your I-94 form. You can get a copy of the I-94 from online CBP site.

If you stay past that date, without submitting new application, then you are Out of Status.

Now, you know the difference between Visa and Status. Next, let me explain the biggest mistake done by those folks who are staying in USA in F1, H1B, H4, etc.

Biggest Mistake

USA is run by Corporations and Lawyers. It’s a saying.

You have to Ask right questions at right time to the right people.

  • Right Questions = Question about your immigration and legal issues.
  • Right Time = The moment you learn about the problem.
  • Right People = Attorney (Immigration in this case) are the only qualified person to help with your legal status questions.

Here’s What I have observed about some people with legal immigration questions.

  • They make mistakes.
  • They make timely mistakes.
  • Their mistakes have long lasting impact.

Impact in terms of losing their legal status (or going out of status) and moving back to their home country. I think you know exactly what I’m talking about right?

Let me be specific.

Folks who make those mistakes I’m referring are as follows

  • F-1 Visa students
  • H-1B Visa holders
  • H4 visa holders
  • L1 Visa Holders
  • L2 Visa Holders
  • J1 Visa students and scholars

First you should recognize the severity of the situation when it comes to legal status.

[Tweet "Forums. Blog posts and comments posted by strangers in the blogs are NOT your legal counsel. PERIOD.”]

I repeat.

Forums and Blogs are not your source for answers to your legal counsel.

Why do you think all the blogs and forums have an disclaimer that says, there’s no attorney client relationship is established and use the details only for your information purpose.

What does consultation mean?

You have a PROBLEM. An Expert knows the Solution. You pay them for exchange of information that will help you solve your problem.

With respect to Immigration scenario, problems can be of following nature

  • You need help to file a petition
  • You need guidance to answer an query for application you with USCIS
  • You need help with issues related to your employer.
  • You need information to understand the finer aspects of legal and immigration laws.

And So on..

I have replied to several comments and emails from readers asking them to consult an attorney. Guess, what?

These Highly Educated folks don’t want to spend a DIME to seek professional legal help.

Example: H1B Employee

Let’s take an H-1B Employee for example.

You are working for an employer.

Your employer hired an attorney to represent them and you. If you are going for H1B stamping and say, you get 221(g) Administrative processing  about seeking finance documents about your employer. In this case, you can contact your employer’s attorney and have them help you.  In this scenario, its your employer’s responsibility to sort out and answer queries about 221(g) process.

Now, if the same employee has an outside ownership interest in another company. If during H1B visa interview, if there’s 221(g) about that second company’s and your involvement in day to day operations. Can you ask that question to your employer’s attorney?

Probably not. Attorney’s hired by your employer, work for your employer. Not you. In such scenario, where do you seek help?

Guess what?

People will head straight to forums, blogs to seek legal opinion. Desperately searching for someone who could have faced similar situation and provided an answer.

I would go straight to an attorney that I trust to seek help. I would pay their required fees for consultation.

Here’s one such Example:

I have got H1B this year and have received petition from my employer for client A, but now last month my client merged with client B and formed new tax entity with name AB company. So can I work at same client office, same location on same petition, or do I have to amend petition with AB company client name. Please share your views.

Do you see what I’m talking about? You should be asking this question to your employer’s attorney. Not in the blog or in the forums. This directly impacts your legal status due to company merger. Here’s another example from Q&A Page – H1B under Processing, Travel to US on H4.

[T[Tweet "Questions affecting your legal status in USA should be dealt with Attorney’s Help.”]h3>Example: Student in F-1 Visa

Now take F-1 Visa student. I see the following scenarios quite often.

  • Student competed Masters Degree,
  • Applies for OPT
  • Works for an employer during OPT for 12 months.
  • Then student will apply for STEM OPT extension.

Guess what?

USCIS sends an RFE during OPT STEM extension application processing.

RFE would be like:

  • Prove your employment is related to your Degree
  • Send pay stubs to prove you were not unemployed for over 90 days.
  • Plus, they would ask for several documents from employer and client.

This brilliant student will spend day and night searching for answers in Forums, Facebook Groups and Blogs.


He or she doesn’t want to spend that $20or $30 or $50 in consulting fees. Some friends, friend’s friend will give an answer. He would he respond to RFE.

Guess what?

He would get another follow-up RFE or OPT Extension denial. They would find a blog ( say Happy Schools). The, I would receive an email. Please help me.

I would bang my head on the table and respond.

  • What did you learn after going to school in America?
  • Couldn’t you identify the severity of the situation?
  • Why can’t you spend that $50 for a consulting call?

You spent $50,000 for Graduate Degree. Your got $30,000 in Student Loan. And, you don’t want to pay $50, so you can find a way to stay here in USA?

Educated People Make Dumb Mistakes

I mean, why do educated people make such mistakes?

Do you know when this student should have asked for help?

A consultation with an immigration attorney could have saved YOUR CAREER and Future.

Be Smart. Ask right questions about your legal status to right people.


Who to Ask?

There’s so many attorney’s and they all charge varying amount for consulting fees.

For someone who is seeking legal immigration questions help for the first time, I know it can be overwhelming. But, it’s all part of the learning process.

You can here – Ask An Attorney (via email or phone) or Do you know another attorney, then ask them. There’s so many Immigration Attorney’s who can help you. The most important thing here to seek help when it matters.

Update 1: (Aug 23, 2015)

Some folks commented this is an ad for promoting Ask An Attorney Service. Trust Me. So many readers are now asking questions via Ask an Attorney.

Here’s another proof where people are posting in blogs without seeking Legal help when their application is denied by USCIS. Example – OPT Extension Denied.

opt extension denied help needed

Please seek Legal help from Immigration Attorney if you need help. Your friends and blogs are not your legal counsel. I have gone through same process and situations when it comes to Immigration. For someone like F1 students, the biggest challenge is finding the right attorney and affordable Attorney to ask you questions. I’m bridging that gap via Ask an Attorney.


  1. Hi Raghu,

    I have been reading your blog and its truly a great help.
    I have one specific question.
    I came to US in Jan 2011 on L1B Visa.
    Then I went for vacation for 3 weeks to India in 2013.
    When I entered US again in 2013 on L1-B, I was given an I94 for 3 more years.

    Now my I-94 is valid till April 2016.
    But my 5 years of L1-B will expire in Jan 2016 and if we add that 3 weeks of time spent outside of US, my 5 years on L1-B will expire sometime in Feb 2016.

    My question is can i stay in US till I-94 validity of April 2016 or will i have to exit in Jan 2016 or Feb 2016 when 5 years of L1-B expires.

    Pls let me know what do you think.
    Or if you can suggest any attorney I can consult and pay fees to get this doubt clarified.

    Thanks for your response.

    1. You, sir, have beaten the whole purpose of this article (probably even without having a courtesy to read it carefully)!

      1. Author

        @AP – I was going to say that, but from my experience running this blog, people skim the articles, they don’t read end to end. Link to an attorney is listed, but not everyone reads everything. but, you have a valid point 🙂

    1. Author

      I knew someone is going to say exactly the same 🙂

  2. It’s a very informative post. Some of us may come across with situation like this. Good advice! Thanks!

  3. Hi Raghu was reading your post about Expedia . i would like to make contact with you pls reply email gamiet.brown at g mail …..

  4. Dear Raghuram,
    I had written to u 3years back-What a great job u r doing !Congratts,but at the same time I am AMAZED to find not much improvement in ur Engliish.U still make silly mistakes particularly in the usage of vowels.Why dont u hire someone expert and proficient in English to Proof Read before u dispatch the Article?I do hope u got my point?No hard feelings Please.I am u r great follower and my daughter did MS from UMD this year and got a job also .u r Blogs have been very helpful to us.Thanks a lot.Blessings
    Lal Amarjeet Singh

    1. Author

      I totally understand. IF folks like you pay for any premium services like video club, I can afford to hire a copyeditor 🙂

  5. Raghu, please dont keep changing the website design every few days! it really sucks!

  6. Hi Raghu,

    I am in OPT status right now. My H-1B is approved and is effective from 1st OCT,2015. My question is I want to go for Change of Status (COS) i.e., H-1B stamping. I am applying for the canada visitors visa, My plan is to get the canada visitor visa and go for stamping in canada US Consulate. My question is what if they did not give H-1B for me in the interview. can I return back to USA or I need to go to INDIA and apply one more time for the interview in the US Consulate.

    Your help is very much appreciated.


  7. Hi Raghu,

    Appreciate your work on helping international students.

    I am keen to have a couple of questions answered and looking for an attorny consultation.

    Can i have contact details of Murli emailed to me and i can schedule an appointment.

    Thanks and have a great day!!

  8. Hi,


    I love the way you have been helping lot of people who are in confused state. I request you to draw out a matrix table to let everyone know the entire process of Green Card – right from its start. Please mention estimated timelines with benefits/restrictions/remarks thereof for the applicant and the spouses, etc

    Best Reagrds


    1. Author

      It’s there. I have series of articles. Start here Green Card Steps and read from there. Let me know if I need to add anything else.

  9. Hello Raghu,

    I am working at XXX. I am on OPT and planning to travel outside of US during OPT. I have a valid EAD, passport, F-1 Visa, I-20 signed for travel and job offer letter. Do you think that I can travel and re enter safely? Will there be any risk that the CBP officer may not allow me to re enter to US?


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