Sunday, June 7, 2015

Getting a shorter period I-94 at the port of entry because of passport expiry.

Many have experienced when entering on either their H1B or H4 visas, that the Custom Border Protection (CBP) officer will issue only a limited I-94 approval although the I 797 approval shows a longer period.  For example, someone has an approved H1B form I-797 expiring in December 1 2018, however the H1 B or H4 holder passport expires in December 2016. When entering the United States, CBP will issue an I-94 which expires up to December 1, 2016.  As such the status will expire on December 1, 2016 and therefore the H1 or H4 visa holder will actually be out of status after December 1, 2016.

This is a major issue for those who are unaware of the rules of status especially if they are thinking that since their form I-797 I-94 is expiring on December 2018, it is perfectly alright to continue staying inside the United States.  This is a wrong concept.  Therefore, you need to fix the situation.  There are three possible solutions to this problem:

1. File an extension of the H1B and H4 status before the I-94 expires;
2. Get a new passport, leave the country and come back to the United States. Note you would have to be in possession of a valid visa (stamp on passport) to be able to re-enter; or
3. Get a new passport and contact CBP and try to have the problem fixed at the CBP office.

All the above solutions have worked, depending on your situation you might opt for option 1, 2 or 3.  It is always good to opt for leaving and coming back if you already have a visa stamp of your passport, but you should not just leave without talking to a lawyer because there might be other
issues of unlawful presence if you found out about this issue too late.

We have dealt with many such situations in the past, we recommend you call us at 510 742 5887 for any help.