An Explanation of Non-Immigrant Documents


Non-Immigrant Work Classifications ( What the control and their use)

The process of obtaining a non-immigrant status for employment begins when the prospective employer files in the U.S. a Petition for Non-immigrant Worker on form I-129 with the USCIS. The USCIS then determines whether the foreign national meets the basic qualifications for a particular category. Once this petition is approved, an I-797 Notice of Action (the approval notice) is issued for a specific period of time with a specific employer. This approval notice may then be used to apply for a visa.


With an approval notice, the foreign national (going) abroad should then apply for a visa, generally at their home country consulate. The U.S. Department of State (DOS) is the government agency that issues the visa. Please note that the approval notice does not guarantee visa issuance to a foreign national, because the foreign national must also demonstrate that he or she is admissible to the U.S. The DOS does personal and security background checks to determine a foreign national’s admissibility. When approved and issued, the validity period of a visa may vary depending on the non-immigrant classification and the reciprocity agreements between the U.S. and the foreign national’s country of citizenship. The visa does not confer any legal right upon a foreign national to be able to enter the U.S. or otherwise guarantee entry into the U.S. The visa merely gives permission for a person to apply for entry to the U.S. The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent at the port of entry has the authority to deny entry to anyone who is inadmissible under U.S. laws. Essentially, the visa allows a foreign national to travel to the U.S. (generally board a plane) and request entry.

Arrival/Departure Records (I-94)

If the CBP official at the port of entry confirms the foreign national’s admissibility, he or she will issue the I-94, Record of Arrival-Departure. The I-94 will indicate the status as well as the authorized period of stay in the U.S. that is granted to the foreign national. It is important to make sure that all arrivals and departures from the U.S. are recorded properly. The dates on the I-94 indicate a foreign national’s status. If the foreign national remains in the U.S. beyond the date authorized on this document, it generally will result in the foreign national becoming removable (deportable) and the visa being automatically cancelled. Furthermore, if the foreign national remains in the U.S. for an extended period beyond the date authorized, his or her future entry into the U.S. may be barred for several years or more. Accordingly, the I-94 should always be reviewed for accuracy when it is issued.

Extensions and changes of status may update the I-94 by filings with the USCIS. These can be combined with the I-797 (Notice of Action) Approval Notice. The I-94 should be kept with the passport in a safe place, as it will need to be returned to DHS officials upon departing from the United States. Failure to complete these steps could lead DHS to determine that a foreign national has overstayed and lead to visa cancellation.