You just went to the consulate, your tourist visa was approved and they gave it to you for 10 years. Awesome you thought, now I can go and stay in the United States for 10 years… not so fast! A visa does not determine how long you can stay in the United States. Instead, think of you a visa as an airplane ticket. It gives you the right to board an airplane and present yourself at the border for inspection and admission. Once at the border the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer will decide two things:
- Whether to admit you at all;
- If the officer admits you, for how long you will be admitted.
Your visa determines the maximum length of stay the officer can give you, but the document you need to pay attention to is Form I-94. Form I-94 contains basic information such as your full name, passport number, nationality, visa category of admission, and for how long you can stay.
If you’ve been traveling to the United States for a long time, you may remember filling out a white paper with your name and passport number on it. That paper was then stamped by the CBP officer together with your passport. Well, since 2013 that paper is no longer used much. Instead, nowadays you’ll find the I-94 online on this page. Here you can also find your travel history to the United States.
Make sure to review the I-94, and do not go by the passport stamp date. What matters is the I-94 as that is what stays in the system. So check it right away, and if you see a mistake contact the pertinent CBP port of entry or deferred inspection office to correct it, here.