Difference Between I-94 & Visa

Understanding the difference between a visa stamp and an I-94 record is often confusing. To give you a quick “snap shot” understanding of the two documents, we have prepared the following summary:

A Visa Stamp
  • Is issued by a U.S. Consulate or Embassy outside the U.S.
  • Is a “knock on the door” permit, allowing the visa holder to request permission to enter the U.S. at a U.S. port of entry.
  • Does not guarantee admission to enter the U.S.
  • Does not govern how long the visa holder may remain in the U.S
  • Does not affect the visa holder’s status in the U.S. if it expires as long as the visa holder’s status remains valid.
An I-94 Record
  • Is issued by a Customs and Border Protection Officer (“CBP”) at a U.S. port of entry.
  • Governs the length of stay the foreign national is authorized to be in the U.S.
  • Shows the status under which the foreign national is admitted.
  • Must remain valid while foreign national is present in the U.S.
  • Is issued/created in either a paper or electronic format (examples below).
  • May be accessed at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/ (electronic version only).
Sample Paper I-94 issued at most land ports-of-entry: