Frequently Asked Questions
If you are already in the U.S., it may be possible to obtain a change of your immigration status to your new status without leaving the U.S., and without the need to apply for an H-1B visa at the U.S. embassy or consulate. Generally, GSS will request that your immigration status be changed when your H-1B petition is approved by USCIS. If the change of status is approved, there is no need to leave and re-enter the U.S. to start your H-1B status.
While many people often conflate the terms “visa” and “status,” the words mean different things.
The term “visa” refers only to the sticker you receive in your passport. It contains several pieces of information, including your picture and your requested “status.” It also contains an expiration date and the number of times the visa may be used — often visas are issued for one, two, or more entries.
However, the visa serves a limited purpose; it grants you permission to apply for admission at a U.S. port of entry. While many individuals coming to the U.S. will receive a visa that is valid for the entire period of intended stay, many others receive visas that are valid only for a few months.
Once you are in the U.S., the visa serves no real purpose and does not necessarily reflect your status — especially if you obtained a change of immigration status. Therefore, while the visa may expire while you are in the U.S., as long as your underlying immigration status as indicated on your I-94 card remains valid, you may remain in the U.S. and engage in the activity permitted by your immigration status.
If you obtained a change of immigration status, your visa will be for a different status than the status you currently hold. This is very common and is not a problem. However, to re-enter the U.S. after a stay abroad, you will need a valid visa for the appropriate status. This means that if your visa has expired while in the U.S., or if you have changed your immigration status, you will need to apply for a new visa. It is not possible to apply for this new visa while in the U.S.; you can only apply for a U.S. visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.
When entering the U.S., you will receive an I-94 record. The I-94 used to be a paper document stapled to your passport. Now, though, the I-94 record consists of the entry stamp in your passport.
You can — and should — download a paper version of your I-94 record at the CBP website. This paper record is among your most important documents, as it will indicate your immigration status in the U.S. as well as the maximum period you may remain in the U.S. in that status. Whenever you receive a new I-94, please provide a copy of the paper I-94 from the CBP website to GSS.
If there is a discrepancy between your various immigration documents, the I-94 record controls. For example, if you have all the necessary H-1B documents, but your I-94 record indicates you are in a different status, you would not be in H-1B status. Also, once your I-94 card “expires,” your status will end, even if your other documents remain valid.
To stay beyond the “expiration date” on your I-94 card, you will either have to leave and re-enter the U.S. (so that you will receive a new I-94 card) or a change/extension of your immigration status has to be requested.
Each time you receive a new I-94, it supersedes your previous I-94 — even if the new I-94 has an earlier “expiration date.”
Unfortunately, not all I-94 records can be found on the CBP website. The main reason for this is that the data entry is not done in a consistent fashion or because a data entry error was made when you entered the country. Because you will likely need a paper copy of your I-94 record from the CBP website to apply for many benefits in the U.S., it is important that you have access to the relevant record.
If you cannot find the record based on the information as it is written in your passport, please try any or all of the following:
- If you have multiple given names, enter all of them under the “First (Given) Name” entry with a space between the names.
- If your passport number consists of both letters and numbers — e.g., AA123456 — enter it with a space on the CBP website — i.e., AA 123456.
- Use an arrival date that was 1-3 days prior to or after your actual arrival into the U.S.
- Sometimes, there is a discrepancy between your name spelling on your visa, your airline ticket, your passport biographical information page, and the machine readable section of your passport (at the bottom of the biographical information page). Use these spelling variations.
If none of this works, you should call the deferred inspection office at the airport where you entered the U.S. The officer there may be able to assist you over the phone. If that does not work, you may have to visit a deferred inspection office in person. (The closest is at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.) Before you do, please contact GSS.
How early you may enter the U.S., depends on your immigration status. Assuming you have the relevant visa stamp in your passport — unless exempt — you may enter the U.S. as early as 10 days prior to the official start date of your I-797 Approval Notice if you are coming to the U.S. in H-1B or O-1 status.
If you are coming to the U.S. in J-1 status, you may enter as early as 30 days prior to the start date indicated on your DS-2019 form.
If you are coming to the U.S. in TN, or E-3 status, there is no regulation permitting you to arrive early.
If you attempt to enter the U.S. prior to the earliest permitted date, you may encounter issues at the port of entry and may not be admitted. Please note that your visa stamp does not have a start date; rather, it has an issue date.
As an employee, you must pay U.S. income taxes unless you are specifically exempt from the requirement. Please note that the number of deductions you can claim may be impacted by your immigration status.
GSS cannot advise on taxes. For more information on taxes, consult the International Tax Information page on the Virginia Tech website.