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My mom arrived to the U.S. today on a B1/B2 visa. At the airport the CBP officer chided her for spending a lot of time in the US in the past 12 months (though never in excess of official limits) and told her she must leave the U.S. within 30 days. However when I checked her I-94 it showed the expected 6 months, with an Admit Until date of October 1st. Her passport was not stamped so that’s the only date we can cross check.

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Is there a provision in U.S. immigration law for a CBP officer to verbally require a shorter length of stay? Or can this verbal warning be safely ignored and one should just follow the I-94 date?

The current plan is for her to leave on June 12th and not come back for at least 6-7 months.

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    Note that another possible interpretation is not so much that she has to leave within 30 days, but rather that if she doesn’t and comes back following the same rhythm she will be refused entry next time. I.e. more of a warning than an actual limit. I think it would be useful to heed the advice given.
    – jcaron
    Apr 2 at 20:48
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    @jcaron But unless it's written down in a record it leaves it all up in the air as we have no idea what the next guy will actually do.
    – Peter M
    Apr 2 at 20:56
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    @jcaron the "rule of thumb" is a rule of thumb because it is unofficial. The actual rule is that you must leave or apply for an extension of status before the expiration date of the I-94. So she was in fact within the limit, not over it.
    – phoog
    Apr 2 at 21:51
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    @JonathanReez So 11 months out of 14? Sounds more like living in the US with a 3 month holiday in between
    – Traveller
    Apr 2 at 21:54
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    @mkennedy I will change the return ticket from January 12th to March 3rd, this should be good enough to balance it out, but ignore the warning and still leave in June.
    – JonathanReez
    Apr 3 at 3:16

1 Answer 1

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Generally I-94 is the authority. See here:

The visitor must exit the U.S. on or before the departure date stamped on the I-94

What I suspect happened was that the CBP officer either intended to override the default and didn't, or is trying to suggest that staying for another 6 months may lead to denial of entry on the next visit.

The CBP officers have a very wide discretion, but overriding the default probably requires some extra paperwork to document the decision that the officer ended up skipping. In the end of the day, the next CBP officer may just wave her in, or not let her in at all even if she does leave after 30 days.

I-94 defines the status, but doesn't guarantee anything in the future. She'd be within her rights to stay until October, but the CBP may deny her entry in the future if she does. The general rule of thumb is to stay outside the US at least the same amount of time as spent in the US, and your mother seems to be spending way more time in the US than expected from a temporary visitor.

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  • Overriding the default officially requires a supervisor's approval, so it's possible that the officer didn't want to obtain that approval for some reason.
    – phoog
    Apr 2 at 21:52
  • Indeed. more so denying entry. It's a hassle, so they probably don't want to actually deal with it, just make her think they did.
    – littleadv
    Apr 2 at 21:54
  • @phoog the entire landing interview took ~60 seconds, so definitely not enough time for any paperwork
    – JonathanReez
    Apr 2 at 21:55
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    Also possible: the CBP office was just an "unpleasant person" who felt like grunting at someone. Unfortunately I've a met a lot of these who really enjoy lording over other people and the unreasonable amount of "discretion" that they have encourages this behavior.
    – Hilmar
    Apr 3 at 14:02

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