Every category of U.S. nonimmigrant (temporary) visa has its own rule as to how long the holder will be permitted to stay in the United States after entering. Don't be confused by looking at the expiration date on the visa that you receive at the U.S. consulate in your home country—that date merely shows the last day upon which you can use it to physically enter the United States. The exact date upon which you must DEPART the U.S. will be shown on your I-94 arrival/departure record.
Where to Get Your I-94 Departure Record
If you arrived by air or sea after April 30, 2013, you can access your I-94 online at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94. This online record will be created for you by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer who meets you when you arrive in the United States.
In a few cases, however, the I-94 is issued as a card stapled into the person's passport when they come to the United States. And in still other cases, it's a card that comes with an approval notice issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) when a nonimmigrant who is in the United States changes to another immigration status while here.
You will see a required departure date on your I-94 in any case.
Types of U.S. Nonimmigrant Visas and Permitted Length of U.S. Stay
Below is a quick summary of how long various types of visa holders (shown by their letter designation) are normally allowed to stay on any one trip to the United States.
In situations where derivative status is allowed, most often for a spouse and children who will accompany the primary visa holder, assume that they will be allowed the same length of stay as the primary visa holder. However, if children marry or turn 21, they will lose their visa eligibility and must either apply to change to a new status or depart the United States.
The normal periods of admission might be limited if your passport is about to expire, so make sure your passport has plenty of time left when you visit the U.S. consulate with it.
- A-1, A-2, G-1, G-2, G-3, G4 diplomats, government representatives, and staffs: "Duration of Status," (D/S), meaning you can remain in the U.S. for as long as U.S. Secretary of State continues to recognize you as a member of the diplomatic category. You do not need to apply to extend your stay.
- A-3 and G-5 domestic staff members: Up to three years. You can apply for extensions in two-year increments.
- B visitors for business or pleasure. No more than a year at first, usually six months. You can apply for extensions of stay in six-month increments if your reasons are consistent with the terms and conditions of your original status.
- C-1, transit through the United States. No longer than meets the definition of immediate and continuous transit while passing through the United States. No extensions except in emergencies.
- C-2 representatives to the United Nations: The duration of your mission at U.N. Headquarters. You do not need to apply to extend your stay. A C-2 cannot travel beyond the 25 mile radius of the U.N. district without first applying for and receiving a change of status to another nonimmigrant category.
- C-3 government representatives in transit: Maximum of 29 days; no extensions.
- D crewmembers: Maximum of 29 days. No extensions of stay or changes to another status.
- E treaty traders and treaty investors: No maximum; initially given a two-year stay. Extensions can be authorized in two-year increments. E visa holders can enter the U.S. up to ten days before their intended period of employment begins and remain up to ten days after their employment ends.
- E-3 Australians in specialty occupation: No maximum; initially given a two-year stay. Extensions can be authorized in two-year increments. Visa holders can enter the U.S. up to ten days before their intended period of employment begins and remain up to ten days after their employment ends.
- F academic students: Duration of status (D/S), meaning for as long as you remain enrolled, full-time, in an educational program at an approved school; are making normal progress toward completing your course of study; and are in compliance with all the terms of your F-1 status. You're allowed a 60-day grace period to prepare to leave the United States. No extension application needed.
- H-1B temporary workers in specialty occupations and distinguished fashion models: Depends on the validity period of the labor condition application and the proposed period of employment, plus a period of up to ten days before the validity period of the H-1B petition begins and ten days after it ends. Most H-1B workers are initially granted up to a three-year stay. Extensions are allowed up to a maximum total stay of six years (with exceptions, notably for persons who are seeking permanent residence through the job). After getting your H-1B, any time you spend outside the U.S. is added on to and extends your three years.
- H-1C registered nurses: Three-year maximum. No extensions allowed.
- H-2A temporary agricultural workers: Depends on the validity period of the labor certification and the proposed period of employment, plus ten days before the beginning of the approved H-2A petition and 30 days following the expiration of the approved petition. Initial maximum of 12 months, with extensions of up to a year possible, limited by an overall maximum of three years.
- H-2B temporary skilled and unskilled workers: Depends on the labor certification and the proposed period of employment, plus a period of up to ten days before the validity period of the H-2B petition begins and ten days after it ends. Initial maximum of 12 months, with extensions of up to a year possible, limited by an overall maximum of three years.
- H-3 trainees: The length of the proposed training program, plus up to ten days before and after the start and end dates. If the initial program was designed to last for a shorter period than this but has been continued, the employer may request an extension from USCIS, up to the maximum authorized stay, which is two years (or 18 months for a special education exchange program).
- I representatives of foreign information media: "Duration of status" (D/S), meaning you can remain in the U.S. for the length of your assignment.
- J exchange visitors: Depends on the type of program or appointment. Sometimes duration of status (D/S). Thirty days added to beginning and end of program. The maximum total time in J-1 scholar status is five years, and no more than six months for short-term scholars. Extensions allowed only in exceptional cases.
- K-1 fiancés of U.S. citizens: Ninety days, with no extensions. (However, USCIS may accept an application to adjust status from a K-1 applicant who is out of status, but who married the U.S. citizen as intended.)
- K-3 spouses of U.S. citizens who will apply for adjustment of status in the U.S.: Up to two years initially, or until the I-130 visa petition filed by the U.S. citizen spouse has been approved by USCIS and the immigrant can apply for a green card. Extensions are allowed if USCIS hasn't yet approved the I-130.
- L intracompany transferees: Initial maximum of three years; extensions of stay allowed based in increments of up to two years. L-1 visa holders can enter the U.S. up to ten days before their intended period of employment begins and remain up to ten days after their employment ends.
- M vocational students: Length of the vocational program as shown on the SEVIS Form I-20, up to a maximum of one year, plus a 30-day grace period in order to prepare to depart the United States. If the vocational program will extend beyond the date indicated on your I-20 and I-94, it's possible to apply for an extension.
- NATO personnel: "Duration of Status," (D/S) meaning the person can remain in the U.S. for the length of the NATO assignment, as coordinated with the U.S. Department of Defense. There's no need to apply to extend one's stay.
- O persons with extraordinary ability and their support personnel: The time period necessary to accomplish the event or activity, up to three years initially, with one-year extensions possible, plus ten days before the validity period of the visa petition and ten days after the petition expires. No maximum.
- P athletes, entertainers, and artists: The time period necessary to accomplish the event or activity, plus ten days before the validity period of the visa petition and up to ten days after the petition expires. Initially up to five years for athletes, one year for other artists and entertainers. Extensions possible. Ten-year maximum for athletes; no maximum on others.
- Q participants in an international cultural exchange program: The time period necessary to accomplish the event or activity, up to a maximum stay of 15 months.
- R clergy and religious workers: The time period necessary to accomplish the activity, with a maximum initial stay of three years. Extensions are allowed, subject to a total maximum stay of five years.
- S informants: Maximum initial stay of three years, plus extensions if supported by a law enforcement organization.
- T victims of trafficking: Four years initial stay. The holder might be eligible to apply for a green card after three years.
- TN, TD NAFTA professionals from Canada: Up to one year initially, plus extensions of stay in 12-month increments, with no overall maximum.
- TN, TD NAFTA professionals from Mexico: Initial stay up to the validity period of the TN visa application, plus extensions of stay in 12-month increments, with no overall maximum. TN visa holders can enter the U.S. up to ten days before their intended period of employment begins and remain up to ten days after their employment ends.
- U victims of crimes assisting law enforcement: Four years' initial stay, with extensions allowed if a law enforcement agency certifies that your continued presence in the U.S. is required to assist in the criminal investigation or prosecution.
- Visa waiver program (VWP): Ninety-day maximum; 30-day extensions available in cases of emergency.
To learn more about individual visas, see the Getting a U.S. Temporary Visa page of Nolo's website. For personalized advice and assistance with the extension application process, consult an experienced immigration attorney.