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I-539 — The Complete Guide
If you are currently in the US on a type of non-immigrant visa – such as the F-1 student visa or the B-2 tourist visa, you will have to leave the country at some point. But is there a way in which you can prolong your stay? What does the law state in this respect? In this case, you can apply for an extension, so that you can prolong your stay in the US – which leads us to the topic we’ll focus on today, namely the form I-539.
What Is Form I-539?
To start with, form I-539 can be used if a non-immigrant wants to prolong his/her stay in the US. Non-immigrants are regarded as temporary visitors, who have to respect specific visa terms, depending on what they are doing in the US.
Form I-539, which entails an Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, allows you to either prolong your stay or you can choose to opt for another visa designation. You can download this document here free of charge.
It’s worth noting that recently, some changes have been implemented regarding form I-539. To that end, since the 22nd of March, 2019, USCIS has officially announced that it will only accept the new, revised version of the form.
What does this mean? Basically, applicants and co-applicants alike have to pay an additional $85 biometrics fee. Aside from this, this requires scheduling an appointment at a USCIS Applicant Support Center (ACS). These centers deal with collecting fingerprints and biometrics.
In addition to that, when it comes to applications entailing several family members, there is a new type of form – namely the form I-539A. Essentially, this substitutes prior versions.
All applicants have to pay for the biometric services fee, with the exception of A, G, and NATO non-immigrants, as specified in the I-539 instructions.
Who Is Eligible for an I-539 Extension?
Let’s move on to another aspect of major interest – eligibility. According to US immigration laws, there are very specific guidelines regarding the time one can remain in the US. The truth is that there are individual specifications that apply to every scenario.
In other words, this will depend on the type of visa you have at the moment. In addition to that, you have to ensure that you didn’t violate the terms included in your current visa specifications.
Basically, when someone works illegally in the US, or simply allows the I-94 to expire without taking the steps to apply for an extension, this could jeopardize your chances. Below, there is a list comprising of nonimmigrant visa designations that should use the I-539 for prolonging their stay in the US.
- A-1, A-2, A-3 diplomatic visas
- CW-1 dependents
- B1, B2 business and tourism visas
- H visa dependents
- F academic student visas
- L intracompany transfer visas
- J1 exchange visitor visas
- M vocational or non-academic student visas
- R visa dependents
- O visa dependents
- TD dependents
Documents Required for the I-539
Completing forms requires a range of documents. The same goes when filling out the I-539 form. What documents do you need to gather in this respect? Here is a list:
- The form I-539 – you have the possibility to include your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 years old in your application. The only condition you have to meet is for them to have the same status.
- Fee for filing the extension visa
- Online printed form I-94
- Copies of the pages in your passport – this also includes blank pages. Your passport should be valid for the entire duration of your stay in the US
- Proof of financial support
- A letter explaining in detail the following: the reason why you want to prolong your stay in the US, why your stay in the US is of temporary nature only, the effect your extended stay would have on your foreign employment or residency.
How to Fill Out the I-539
Furthermore, we will focus on the actual steps you have to follow for completing form I-539. Most questions aren’t that tricky, in fact, they are self-explanatory and to the point. We are focusing precisely on the revised I-539 form, which has been introduced in 2019. When completing the form, if your answer is this doesn’t apply to me or none, you should simply enter NA (which stands for non-applicable), as opposed to leaving the spaces blank.
In case your answer is lengthier and the space provided isn’t sufficient, you can use the part 8 of the form to expand on your answers.
Part 1: Information about You
As it is the case with most visa forms, the first part of the document is to the point. Basically, you might have an A-number, which consists of an eight or nine-digit number proceeding the letter A for alien, only if you have been involved in a removal proceeding at an immigration court. However, if you have been involved in such things, you should definitely consult with a lawyer prior to applying for an extension.
If you have already filed a petition or application, you will have a USCIS Online Account Number. Note that this isn’t the same as the A-number mentioned beforehand. Unless your visa status allowed you to work, the odds are that you don’t have a U.S. social security number.
Moving on to your I-94 number, it is present on the small white card you get at the border. If the date included on your I-94 form has passed, then your status has expired, which means that you can no longer apply for an extension with the form I-539.
Most likely you’ve entered the US using your passport. In this case, you can include N/A in the travel document box. That’s because a travel document is another option for passport and you cannot include both. If, in the meantime, your travel document or passport has expired, you should include the old passport number you had when you first received the I-94. The same goes for the expiration date.
When filing the current immigration status box, you have to include your visa status. As for the expiration date, this info is also included on your I-94. If you have the status of a J exchange visitor, you should check the box in question 16 – in case your I-94 says D/S. This means you can remain in the US until your studying program is over.
Part 2: Application Type
This form can be used for more than the purpose of extending your stay in the US. Nonetheless, considering that this is the case in your situation, you should check the first box and leave the other two empty.
You can check the box 5a if you want to include your spouse or children in the application. In this case, you will also have to fill out the I-539 supplement A, where you will incorporate their personal information and other details.
Part 3: Processing Information
In the third part, you have to state the date when you plan on leaving the US. As for the questions 2a through 3b, if you are including any family dependents, you should check the answer yes – question 3a.
On the other hand, if you are submitting the I-539 after your spouse, child or parent, and the USCIS hasn’t provided an official answer for their application, you should check yes under yes, filed previously and pending with the USCIS.
Part 4: Additional Information
The first questions are related to your passport; you’ll have to enter details such as passport country, expiration date, and number. You have to do this even if it has expired. However, if the expiration date will be during the period of the extension, you can renew it at a consulate of your home country based in the US. It should be valid for at least six months prior to leaving the US, as well.
An immigrant visa enables foreigners to come to the US and to become permanent visitors, eventually. If you included in your application that you have applied for an immigrant visa, then this will indicate that you are interested to remain in the US. This might lead to having your extension rejected, on the grounds that you don’t plan to return in your home country.
Also, if you include that you’ve filled an immigrant petition, the USCIS will most likely reject your application. That’s because this is one of the first steps taken for becoming a permanent US resident.
The questions from six to fifteen aim at determining whether you are inadmissible to the US or not. For example, for question 6, if your answer is affirmative, and you have been arrested for a crime you haven’t yet been charged, you should simply enter yes. You might also consider including a copy of the police report offering a detailed explanation of what happened.
Nevertheless, for more serious occurrences, you should discuss your situation with a lawyer before proceeding any further.
In regards to visa violations, you should check with the specifications that apply in your scenario. For instance, if you first came to the US as a student and you worked without authorization, this will be perceived as a violation.
How Much Does the I-539 Cost to File?
As we’ve mentioned beforehand, the revised I-539 requires paying a biometric fee worth $85. Aside from this, you will have to pay $370. To that end, the total sum of money you have to pay is of $455. You may check this source to find out precisely how much to pay.
You can choose to pay with a personal check, money order or cashier’s check, depending on what works best for you. Bear in mind that when you agree to complete the payment, this means that you provide the US government to process your money.
If you’re filing the form at a USCIS Lockbox facility, you could consider paying by credit card. When paying by check, first you have to make your check payable to the US Department of Homeland Security.
In addition to that, note that these fees aren’t refundable. Once you complete the payment, you cannot get your money back, whether your application for an extension is successful or not. Concurrently, even if you decide to withdraw your request, there is no way in which you can get your money back.
How to Submit Form I-539
When it comes to actually submitting the form, what is the procedure in this respect? For most applications, the only way of submitting the form is by mailing it to the right address. You can have a look at USCIS’ filing addresses page in this respect. In this case, you have to make sure that you’ve provided a copy for each item – this also entails a copy of the money order or check.
If you are applying on your own, you may also submit the form online. Nevertheless, in order to do that, you should have one of the following statuses:
- M-1 vocational student
- M-2 spouse or child of an M-1 student, whose expiration date is different than in the case of the M-1 student
- B-1 temporary visitor for business
- B-2 temporary visitor for pleasure
- F-1 academic student
- F-2 spouse or a child of the F-1 student, whose expiration date is different than in the case of the F-1 student.
All things considered, applying for a visa extension is not that difficult, granted that you know what you have to do so that the process is stress-free. If you want to find out more information regarding your visa status – say you have a TN visa, an F-1 visa, or a K3 visa, you should consider the many resources we have in this respect. Concurrently, we supply financing options, which are made specifically to meet the needs of immigrants. Make sure you check our website if you want to find out more information.