The I-797 Notice of Action form is a critical document in the U.S. immigration process, serving as an official notification from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Attached to some I-797 approvals is an I-94 document, which provides the official expiration date of a person’s authorized stay in the United States.

I. What is the I-797 Notice of Action?

The I-797 is a document issued by USCIS to communicate various immigration-related actions. It may serve as a receipt notice, approval notice, transfer notice, or request for additional evidence. Within the context of work visas, such as H-1B, L-1, and O-1, there is an I-797A, I-797B, and I-797C. I-797A is issued ONLY to people who are currently in the U.S. and those who are undergoing a change of status, for example from F-1 to H-1B.
The A means that the applicant can continue to remain in the U.S. and work. Because of this, I-797A will have an I-94 attached to the bottom.
I-797B is issued to those who had never been to the U.S. or to those whose change of status cannot be approved. This means that the recipient is qualified for the job, but a change of status cannot be approved. Therefore, those receiving an I-797B will need to apply for an entry visa at a U.S. consular post outside of the United States (except for citizens of Canada).

I-797C is a copy issued to sponsoring employers.

II. Locating the I-797 Expiration Date:

The expiration date on the I-797 is located at the top right of the page. For I-797A approvals, there will also be an I-94 document attached at the bottom, which will also show the expiration date, as pictured below:

I-797 expiration dateIf you depart the United States and re-enter, you will receive a new I-94 document, which can be retrieved at: This new I-94 document will have an expiration date that now overrides the expiration date on the previously issued I-797.

I-94 Expiration DateThe date on the I-94 will often be the same as the expiration date on the I-797. However, if it is different, the last action rule dictates that the I-94 date governs. Therefore, it is critical to check the new I-94 every time a person re-enters the U.S. If there is a mistake on the I-94, it should be raised to an attorney to assist in getting it corrected.

III. Significance of the I-797 Expiration Date:

Understanding the expiration date on the I-797 is crucial to ensure the person remains in valid status during their stay in the United States. If an individual wishes to extend or renew their immigration status, they must initiate the process before the I-797 expiration date to maintain continuous legal presence.

Individuals planning international travel should be mindful of the I-94 expiration date, as it may impact their ability to re-enter the United States without a valid visa or approval notice.

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