Visa vs. Status: What’s the Difference?

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If you are planning to have lawful status in the United States, it is vital to understand the difference between status and a visa. Visa and status may mean the same thing to most people. However, they are different in both meaning and purpose. You can have multiple visas on your passport, but you’ll only have one immigration status in the United States.

Moffitt Law, LLC serves Georgia as an immigration lawyer skilled in navigating the visa application process. Get in touch when you need an immigration defense in Georgia.

What is a U.S. Visa?

A visa is a document that gives you entry into the United States for a specific reason and period. It is a stamp placed on your passport by the U.S. embassy in your country. The visa can be issued for medical treatment, business, education, or pleasure.

If you want to visit the United States as a tourist, you’ll need a visa. You must apply for a tourist visa at the U.S. embassy in your home country.

Next, you’ll ask for entry into the United States. If you have the appropriate visa type, you’ll be allowed entry. Otherwise, it will be denied. The visa will either be non-immigrant or immigrant.

Non-immigrant Visa

The non-immigrant visa is given to anyone who wishes to enter the United States temporarily. It could be for study, work, or a visit. There are over 20 different non-immigrant visa categories. Make sure you meet the requirements for the non-immigrant visa type you are applying for.

Immigrant Visa

You’ll need an immigrant visa to enter the U.S. when you are a beneficiary of the Diversity Visa Lottery or have an immigrant petition. The visa allows you to become a permanent U.S. resident.

Keep in mind that having a visa is not a guarantee that you’ll gain admission to the U.S. The U.S. customs and border protection officer makes the final decision at the port of entry. They can deny you entry if they believe you are not eligible for the visa category.

What is a U.S. Immigration Status?

Status refers to the privileges you get with your immigration benefits at the port of entry. You’ll acquire a status when you get admitted to the United States. Your immigration status considers the time you intend to stay, how you entered the United States and your current circumstances.

If you entered the U.S. on a student visa, you’d have student status. Your immigration status can change over time. For instance, you can have a student status that changes to employment status when you find a job after graduation. The status is designated as non-immigrant or immigrant.

Non-immigrant Status

Once you gain entry into the United States on a non-immigrant visa, your status changes to non-immigrant status.

Immigrant Status

When you enter the United States on an immigrant visa, your status becomes a lawful permanent resident.

Visa vs. Status: Period of Validity


The validity period of a visa determines when you can ask for admission to the United States. It can have multiple entries or a single entry on the validity period. The visa validity can be as short as 30 days or as long as ten years, depending on the classification. However, the validity period and the authorized period of stay are not the same.


Your status will be valid for the duration of your authorized period of stay in the United States. It will be indicated on Form I-94. If you entered the U.S. and your visa has expired, you won’t be out of status. What matters is that you are in the U.S. within the authorized period of stay on your I-94.

Change of Status

You can change your non-immigrant status after gaining entry into the United States — you’ll have to fill out a change of status application with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Additionally, you will need a new visa when leaving the United States after changing your status.

Remember, you can change your status as long as there is a valid reason. Get in touch with an attorney at Moffitt Law, LLC for help with your visa application or petition. We can also help adjust your immigration status. Contact our Georgia immigration lawyers today.

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