Visa Application & Expiration


Application Process

Before you apply for the visa, you should understand the process and the rules governing visas. Many visa applications fail. In some countries, most applications fail. Often, it is because the applicant did not know the rules or was not prepared. We do not want this to happen to you. Please read what follows very carefully.

Important Documents

Form I-20: Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student

An I-20 can be used for the following:

  • To obtain an F-1 visa from American Embassy/Consulate in your home country.
  • To enter the US for the first time.
  • To reenter after a short visit outside the U.S.
  • To transfer to another school.
  • For entry of family (spouse, children).
  • To extend expected program completion date.

DS-2019: Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Students Status (J-1 Visa)

A DS-2019 can be used for the following:

  • To obtain a J-1 visa from American Embassy/Consulate in your home country.
  • To enter the US for the first time.
  • Extension of stay and renewal of Entry Permit (I-94).
  • To re-enter after a short visit outside the U.S.
  • For entry of family (spouse, children).
  • To extend expected program completion date.

I-94: Arrival-Departure Record

Customs & Border Patrol now electronically records your arrival and departure information at your point of entry. If the last time you entered the U.S. was after April 30, 2013, you will have an electronic I-94 card that can be printed at

If your last date of arrival in the U.S. is prior to April 30, 2013, you will have a paper I-94 card. The I-94 is the small white card in your passport on which the visa classification and the expiration date of your authorized stay is written when you enter the U.S. 


A passport is your country’s identification of you as a citizen. Your passport must remain valid at all times. It is not allowed to expire. You may renew it by contacting your Embassy/Consulate within the U.S.

Visa: Stamped Page in Passport

A visa is normally a stamp placed in your passport by an official of the United States (or the country you are entering) permitting your entry. You must have a valid visa to enter the United States (unless visa exempt). However, unlike a passport, once in the U.S., a visa is allowed to expire.

Visa Expiration

The length of time you may remain in the United States on exchange visitor status is determined by the general limitations for the category and the length of time needed to complete the objectives outlined by your visa type. However, the expiration date on your visa is not the date that you need to leave by; it is the last date in which you can enter the U.S. In general, 

  • Exchange Visitors in the Professor or Research Scholar category have a maximum stay of five (5) years.
  • Short-Term Scholars have a maximum stay of six (6) months.
  • Specialists have a maximum stay of one year.
  • Non-degree students have a maximum stay of (2) two years.
  • Degree Students do not have a maximum stay limitation.  They are permitted to extend for as long as necessary to complete the program of study provided they are studying full time and making good academic progress.

When do I need to leave, specifically?

You can determine the date when you must leave by viewing the Form I-94 online. You must exit the U.S. on or before the departure date listed on the I-94.

Are You Trying to Extend Your Stay?

If you are trying to extend your stay or permission to stay in the U.S. and do not need to extend your visa steamp in your passport, please visit our Maintaining Status page.


Traveling with an Expired Visa

Unless you are traveling to Canada, Mexico or other contiguous territories for less than 30 days, you will need to get a new visa stamp to re-enter the United States. You will need to stop at the American Embassy/Consulate nearest to where you are going. You will need to bring the following items with you:

  • Current Form I-20 or DS-2019 endorsed for travel (carry all I-20's / DS-2019's you have ever been issued)
  • Valid passport (unless passport exempt)
  • Proof of financial support as listed on the form I-20 or DS-2019
  • Evidence of intent to return home following completion of study (such as employment letters, property ownership, immediate family, etc.)
  • Copy of your UC transcript
  • Students on Optional Practical Training should bring their Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and proof of employment.
  • Students on Academic Training should bring proof of employment.

Visa processing times and procedures do vary by country. For example, some Embassies/Consulates may want to see a recent transcript, others won’t. Some Embassies/Consulates require a personal interview, others don’t. We recommend that you have a friend or relative call the U.S. Embassy/Consulate in your home country to find out processing times and procedures.

Or, you may want to call the visa processing office at the Department of State at (202) 663-1225 or visit their website for more information. In addition, if you are studying or conducting research in one of fields listed on the Technology Alert List you may be subject to a security check that could take up to several months to complete. You will want to plan your trip accordingly.

Upon your return, you are required to report to UC International Services immediately with your new visa. We have to maintain a copy of it in your student file.


Automatic Extensions

You may travel to a contiguous territory or adjacent island and return to the U.S. using an expired visa or an older, different visa for those who have changed status in the U.S., as long as the visit does not exceed 30 days.

Contiguous territory refers to Canada and Mexico. The term "adjacent islands" means Saint Pierre, Miquelon, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, the Windward and Leeward Islands, Trinidad, Martinique, and other British, French, and Netherlands territory or possessions in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea (except Cuba).

If you decide to travel using the automatic extension of visa provision, you must:

  1. Be in possession of a Form I-94 and in the case of an F or J student or exchange visitor, a current I-20 or DS 2019.
  2. Not be abroad for more than 30 days and the travel must be limited to contiguous territory (Mexico or Canada) or adjacent islands.
  3. Maintain, and intend to resume, nonimmigrant status.
  4. Apply for readmission within the authorized period of initial admission.
  5. Be in possession of a valid passport.
  6. Not be required to apply for authorization for admission under INA212(d)(3).
  7. Have a country of citizenship that is not Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, North Korea or Cuba.
  8. Not be traveling to contiguous territories to apply for a new visa.