What Happens When Your Visa Expires?

Foreign travellers are generally required to have a valid visa to enter the United States. A foreign traveller may obtain a visa from the U.S. embassy or consulate in his country of residence. When a visa expires, it can no longer be used to enter the United States and the visa holder is required to apply for another visa before he can enter the country. Reapplying for another visa generally must be done in the person’s country of residence (with certain exceptions depending on the visa type).


According to the U.S. Department of State, a visa indicates that a traveller has been determined by an officer of the U.S. embassy or consulate to be eligible to travel to the United States; it does not guarantee entry into the country. Visas are placed on a traveller’s passport. An expiration date is shown on the visa.

According to the Department of State, the time between the visa issuance date and the visa expiration date is called visa validity. This is the period of time when a visa may be used to enter the United States.


Typically, the kind of visa issued to a foreign traveller is tied with her purpose of entering the United States. The two major types of visas are immigrant visas and nonimmigrant visas, both of which have expiration dates.

Immigrant visas are issued to those who qualify to become permanent residents of the United States. Nonimmigrant visas are issued to those who wish to travel to the country temporarily for a specific purpose.

Visas that are authorised for a one-time use are single-entry visas. This means that the visa holder may enter the United States once within the period of visa validity.Other visas are multiple entry visas. A multiple-entry visa allows a visa holder to enter the United States multiple times within the period of validity.

Visa vs. I-94

A visa is the document, issued by a U.S. embassy or consulate, that a traveller shows at a port of entry to seek admission to the United States. An I-94 is a document issued at the port of entry by a Customs and Border Protection officer that provides how long the traveller is authorised to be present in the United States,

A visa expiration date is different from the authorised length of stay that is provided in the I-94. A person must depart the United States before his or her I-94 expires, whereas a person with an expired visa is legally present in the United States if the I-94 is current. A person with an expired visa needs to reapply for another visa before again entering the country.

Expiration and Renewals

A traveller with an expired visa generally needs to renew his visa in his country of residence in order to re-enter the United States. This means that the traveller is required to go through the entire application process again. Exceptions to the interview requirement may be found by visiting the website of the applicable U.S. embassy. Certain visa types, such as the A and the G visas, may be renewed in the United States.

Consequences for Overstaying

A person who stays beyond the authorised length of time shown on the I-94 will generally have her visa voided or cancelled automatically. She may be ineligible to receive a visa in the future.

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About the Author

Katrina Hall is a Virginia-based writer specializing in legislative drafting. Her work has been published in the "Penn State Law Review" and, prior to law school, she served as a copywriter for brochures and other marketing materials. Hall graduated with a Juris Doctor from Penn State University and received her Bachelor of Science in technical communications from Clarkson University.