I am an international student and authorized to stay in US for 2 years on my I-20 form. My visa expired on June this year and I need to fly to some states outside Georgia to visit colleges. Can I fly within the US?

If I can, what kind of document will the airport check when I depart? Will they notice my expired visa and turn me in to Homeland Security? In other words, will I get into trouble?

  • 1
    are you even allowed to be in the country with an expired visa? Almost certainly not. You're not an illegal alien.
    – jwenting
    Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 13:27
  • @CGCampbell no, your visa defines the length of your legal stay. After that you're in the country illegally and subject to deportation. If that weren't the case, why have a maximum duration of stay at all in a visa? Makes no sense, doesn't it?
    – jwenting
    Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 20:32
  • 9
    @jwenting I'm sorry, but I believe you are wrong. A US visa, has an issue date and an expiration date. "Expiration Date" is the last day you can use your visa to seek entry into the US. It has nothing to do with how long you may stay in the US. Quoted The type of visa determines how long you may be in the US legally, after entry. See the second entry under visa validity
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 23:41
  • @CGCampbell yes, and he's violated that stay...
    – jwenting
    Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 15:28
  • 5
    @CGCampbell It's already been explained in detail to jwenting and it seems he is unable to grasp the distinction between visa and status or to contemplate the fact that the US might have other rules and different terminology than other countries. Or perhaps he knows full well that what he is writing is untrue but he likes to make the same point all over again for some reason that escapes me. Whatever the case may be, you are loosing your time.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 21:02

2 Answers 2


A U.S. visa (visa stamp) is only for entering the U.S. The visa's expiration date is the last day you can use the visa to enter the U.S. The visa has nothing to do with your ability to stay in the U.S. That is determined by your status, which is given upon entry. Not having a valid visa does not affect your ability to stay in the U.S., as long as you have a valid status; and conversely, having a valid visa does not mean you can stay in the U.S., if you are out of status.

The status and length of stay are determined by the I-94 you are given upon entry (well, you are no longer given a paper one anymore; you can print it out online). F-1 students on multi-year programs are always admitted for "D/S" (Duration of Status) on their I-94, meaning they do not have a fixed length of stay. Rather, they remain in F-1 status as long as they have a valid I-20 and do not violate the conditions of F-1 status. (Similarly for J-1 status, they remain in J-1 status as long as they have a valid DS-2019.)

You would only need a visa if you leave the U.S. and need to re-enter the U.S. again. You an only get a visa at a U.S. consulate outside the U.S. It is common for long-term international students in valid status to have their visa expired for years because they have not had to leave the U.S. during that time.

When traveling within the U.S., you should almost never run into anyone who will ask about your immigration status, unless you go within 100 miles of the Mexican border where there are Border Patrol checkpoints. Local law enforcement (except perhaps in Arizona) generally don't deal with immigration stuff because it is a federal matter. It is not within the TSA (the agency you will most likely deal with when traveling by air)'s jurisdiction to check immigration status, although there have been occasional reports of bad agents who yell at people for expired visas (not understanding that the visa has nothing to do with status). (Plus they do not have the training to check even if they wanted; for example, someone out of status is still legal if they have a pending Adjustment of Status, Change of Status, or Extension of Status application, or if they have pending asylum or Deferred Action, etc. The intricacies of immigration law are way too complicated for a non-immigration agency to deal with.)

Your I-94 and I-20 is sufficient proof that you are in valid status, if you ever need to prove it. You should bring that with you.

  • Border patrol also operates checkpoints within 100 miles of the Canadian border, and I've seen a court case from the 1980s indicating that they were operating one in Florida, too. I don't know about Florida, but it seems that the checkpoints may become more frequent in the north if the Border Patrol force is expanded further. Also, a small number of visa classes can be issued in the US.
    – phoog
    Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 22:34

(shorter version that might actually get read)

I am an international student and authorized to stay in US for 2 years on my I-20 form.

2 years from when? If you arrived after 2013/1/1 you're fine.

My visa expired on June this year

Your visa, that you showed to immigration on arrival? Or your I-20?

Your visa expired in june, it was used when you entered the USA (and thus cannot be used again).

All you need for domestic travel is valid ID, but unless you have a local driver's license you will most likely use your passport. All the airline and security will care about is the name matches the ticket and your face matches the picture. Enjoy the trip.

  • 2
    Picking Nits: The visa expired, so it cannot be used now. that is not the same thing as the visa was used and cannot be used again. If it was not expired, and was indicated for multiple uses, it could be used again. The reason I went overboard is your short answer helps this user, my longer answer may help future users with slightly different circumstances. It also helps with the common misunderstanding as shown by jwenting's comments above.
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 12:45

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