A visa is an entry document, which allows you to enter the U.S. and should not be confused with an I-20 or DS-2019. The I-20, issued to F-1 degree seeking students, and the DS-2019, issued to exchange visitor students, are documents that allow the student to stay in the U.S. for the length of their academic program. The American Consulate or Embassy in the student's home country, issues the visa for a period of time that can last several months or several years, depending on the program dates stated on the I-20 or DS-2019 immigration document. The U.S. Embassy or Consulate makes the final decision of visa approval.
The expiration of the visa only becomes an issue if you travel outside the U.S. and plan to reenter after the expiration date of the visa has been met. Upon leaving the United States on an expired visa, a renewed visa must be obtained to reenter the country, so long as your I-20 of DS-2019 is current, valid, and has not yet expired. With an expired visa, you will be denied reentry. You should not travel to any other country but your home country to renew your visa. This could result in your being denied a visa and as a consequence being denied reentry. Remember, a student may remain in the U.S. on an expired visa, as long as they are properly and legally maintaining their status and have an unexpired immigration document, (I-20 or DS-2019), since students on F-1 and J-1 visas are admitted to the U.S. for the Duration of their Status.
For additional information regarding the steps needed to obtain a visa to enter the United States, please see "Obtaining a Visa ", an informational guide created by the U.S. Department of State.
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