Decoding Your Immigration Approval Notice (I-797): When Does my Stay Expire?

Although this may seem quite simple, many with Form I-797A Approval Notices have experienced confusion regarding the expiration of their period of approved stay; and rightfully so. Recently, the United States Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) began issuing approval notices with two different validity periods. Thus, the question remains: when does your period of stay really expire?

Period of Work Authorization vs. Period of Stay

E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B, L-1 and TN nonimmigrants and their dependent family members may enter and stay in the United States for the period of time allowed by their specific work authorization. To give foreign workers and their families additional grace period between their arrival and departure from the United States, USCIS now includes, in some cases, an up to 10-day extension of authorized stay before and after the period of work authorization. The extension does not allow individuals to work during the up to 10 day extension period; employment during that time would result in a violation of their visa. With this extra time, workers will have the opportunity to settle their affairs before they begin work and prior to leaving the United States. However, the addition of a separate expiration date on the Form I-797A approval notice has resulted in much confusion in reporting for other important work authorization documents.

I-9 & I-94

To complete a work authorization document, or I-9, on or before their first day of employment, foreign nationals must provide information about their period of stay and period of work authorization. With the new extended period of authorized stay, many employees may be tempted to list the date of anticipated departure on their work authorization document. Employees must list their petition expiration date, found on the top of the Form I-797 in Section 1 of their I-9. Employers, however, will list the expiration of the Form I-94, or the end of the employees period of stay, on Section 2 of the I-9. Employers should ensure that their employee does not work past the expiration date of their work authorization.