I am a French exchange student in the US. My visa expires on May 10 but I booked my plane ticket to go back home for June 14 (so a few days after the end of my 30 days grace).

Do you know what will happen if I stay with an invalid visa? Do people check it at the airport? Do you know if I could go to Mexico by bus and return the same day with the ESTA?

closed as off-topic by Michael Hampton, Giorgio, Olielo, mts, David Richerby Mar 24 '17 at 10:49

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    If it is just your visa that expires, don't worry. The visa did its job when you entered the US, and its expiration date does not matter once you're inside. What should worry you is if your J-1 immigration status expires before you leave, which it does independently of the visa. – Henning Makholm Mar 23 '17 at 14:42
  • Thank you for the info! How do I know when my immigration status expires? And I'm also going to take a plane from California to NY before going home and while my visa is expired.. they will check my visa right? – mathz Mar 23 '17 at 17:04
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    Last I checked, neither California nor New York had seceded from the United States recently -- unless that is the case, a flight between them is a domestic flight and so does not involve entering the US. – Henning Makholm Mar 23 '17 at 20:39

Visa is the permission to enter the country. What matters is your status. When is the expiration date on your I-94 (it is likely electronic) or an admission stamp? If it is D/S, then when does your SEVIS record expire? It is indicated on your DS-2019. This determines when your status expires.

You will most likely be allowed to leave with an expired status. When re-entering, the fact that you overstayed makes you ineligible for the VWP. I would suggest going to Canada and back, as departures to Mexico by land are often not recorded. Upon readmission from Canada or Mexico make sure you clearly state you intend to enter using WVP, and present your ticket back home if requested. Have a backup plan if you are denied admission.

The alternative is changing your status to that of B-1, by filing the change of status paperwork with USCIS I-539. Currently, such requests made in August 2016 are being approved. However, you can stay in the country while petition is pending.

BTW, When re-entering by land, ESTA is not required (although having one will make your entry quicker, as you do not have to pay for and fill out an entry form)

PS. The above does not represent legal advice, and is provided just for everyone's information.

  • "So this route is not recommended": but the pending application will mean that the applicant does not accrue illegal presence -- does it not also allow the applicant to retain eligibility for the VWP? – phoog Mar 23 '17 at 23:58
  • correct. I thought it does not apply for B visas. Changed an answer accordingly. – mzu Mar 24 '17 at 0:25
  • My DS sas that my statues will expire at the same time: May 10. As it is very complicated for me to go to Canada (I already booked my tickets to go to CA), you think that going to Mexico by bus is useless? They don't ask for the ESTA? I don't get it, I thought it was mandatory when entering the US... – mathz Mar 24 '17 at 20:42
  • @mathz. The idea is to get out of the US before May, 10th +grace period in a documented way. CBP does not document land departures to Mexico. One way of documenting it, is to reenter US before May, 10th +grace. So going to Mexico by bus is useful if you present yourself for reentry before May 10th + grace. Keep your bus tickets available for CBP just in case. – mzu Mar 24 '17 at 22:37
  • @mahtz, re:ESTA see the link. – mzu Mar 24 '17 at 22:37

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