Why does my visa expire before my status (I-94) expiration?

A visa is a document that is intended to grant you permission to travel to the United States. It does not guarantee your admission into the country, but rather indicates that a consular officer found you to be eligible for admission. The expiration date on your visa, then, is merely the date on which your ability to travel to the United States ends. Your I-94 is the form documenting your arrival to and departure from the United States. It indicates under what status you are present in the United States and the length of time you are allowed to remain in the country. The date on your I-94 is the date on which your status ends.

It may seem illogical for a visa to be granted for a period of time shorter than your actual status. However, the length of time a visa is granted is partially dependent on the country of your citizenship. This is because each country has an agreement with the U.S. regarding the length of time for which visas will be granted. This arrangement is called "visa reciprocity." While the United States will not enter into formal reciprocity agreements, the U.S. creates reciprocity schedules which are shaped by the visa requirements the sending country imposes on U.S. travelers. Reciprocity schedules apply to all nationals, permanent residents, refugees and stateless residents from the involved countries. The United States attempts to make visa validity, the number of visas granted, and the fees for such visas reciprocal with the sending country "insofar as practicable." The U.S. government publishes visa reciprocity tables which show the available visas in any given country as well as the corresponding fees. These tables can be found at: http://travel.state.gov/visa/fees/fees_3272.html.

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