Many people are confused as to how long can they actually stay. When they were told they overstayed their visas, it could be too late because they could have been arrested by immigration officers and no explanation will be heard. The consequence of such ignorance could be multl-folded. The most serious one will be deportation and barred from coming back to US in years to come.
The common reason Visa holders don’t know the legal duration of their stay is that they confuse dates on Visa pages as duration dates. As a matter of fact, They have a time stamp on Visa page and a I-94 card on passport that shows a time period. The underlined difference is actually that of a Visa and a I-94 card.
A visa is a permission of entry issued by US consulate after interviewing applicants. Visa holders are supposed to present this document to an immigration officer from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency at a port of entry (typically at a U.S. airport inspection). The foreign national will only be admitted to the United States if the stated purpose of his trip is consistent with the non-immigrant visa in his passport.
If the US customs officers grant entry to the foreign national holding the visa, this person is given a Form I-94 that lists the foreign national’s authorized period of stay.
While the foreign national is in the United States, the controlling document is the Form I-94, not the visa. The Form I-94 dictates how long the foreign national can stay in the United States and in what status he is allowed to remain. The “period” shown on the Visa page is not indication as to how long the foreign national can stay, instead, it permits foreign nationals to enter within certain period of time.
With this understanding in mind, nonimmigrants should carefully keep the expiration dates of their Form I-94, their E-2 Visas (if any) and their passports. They also need to clearly understand the difference between Visa Status and E-2 Valid Dates.