Guide to Visitor Visa Extensions
Are you perhaps looking for a way to extend your B1 or B2 visas? Do you have some kind of emergency that needs your urgent attention in the U.S. but it will take longer to solve than what your original visa allows? How can you remain in the U.S. to see to these things without breaking the immigration laws? Is staying longer even an option?
You can possibly apply for a visitor visa extension. If you qualify, getting a visitor extension visa can give you enough time to solve your problems or finish your business in the U.S. before you need to leave again. Here are the most important things you need to know.
You May Apply to Extend Your Stay If
Even though you might have the option to extend, there are still certain qualifying criteria you need to meet. The USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) will allow you to stay on a visitor visa extension if you comply with the following:
- You are lawfully admitted into the U.S. with a nonimmigrant visa.
- Your nonimmigrant visa has remained valid throughout the time of your stay here.
- You have a valid and legitimate reason to stay longer. Your reason must be related to the visa category you are currently on.
- You have not committed any crimes that could remove your eligibility for the visa.
- You have not violated any conditions of your admission to the U.S.
- Your passport is valid and will remain valid for the remainder of the extension for which you are applying.
- You have definite plans to leave the U.S. once the visa extension expires.
- You can prove you have the financial means to see out the visa extension period.
You must comply with the above criteria before you can be granted a visitor visa extension. You’ll need to convince the U.S. immigration authorities about your ability to meet each of these points or else you won’t get your visitor visa extension granted.
You May NOT Apply to Extend Your Stay If
There are, unfortunately, certain visas that won’t be eligible for a visa extension even if you comply with the criteria listed above. These visas include:
- Crew member (D nonimmigrant visa)
- In transit through the United States (C nonimmigrant visa)
- In transit through the United States without a visa (TWOV)
- Visa waiver program
- Fiancé of a U.S. citizen or dependent of such a fiancé (K nonimmigrant visa)
- An S nonimmigrant visa holder (an informant on terrorism or organized crime including their dependents).
The nature of these visa programs doesn’t make any room for visa extensions. So you won’t be able to apply for an extension of this type of visitor visa. If you are in a tricky situation, however, you can consult an immigration attorney. They might be able to find an alternative solution to your problem.
Documents Required for Visitor Visa Extension
The extension process still demands a formal application to be done and the application requires specific documents.
Here is a list of the documents required for visitor visa extension application:
- Form I-539 – The actual application form. You can also file it online.
- Cover letter – In your cover letter, you need to state why you need the visa extension to convince the authorities to grant you one. There are some examples of cover letters online.
- Proof of financial support – Prove you have the finances to cover your extended stay in the U.S.
- Return tickets – Supply proof of your return tickets disclosing your intentions to return home after the visa extension expires.
- Include payment – The visa extension filing fee is $370 (for you and your family included in the application) but there may be an extra $85 biometric fee involved depending on your current type of visa.
- Copy of Form I-94 – Your arrival and departures form attained at the entry to the U.S. Keep your originals and send the copies of each family member included in the application.
Your situation might be unique, especially if you have your parents on visas included on your trip. So you might have to add other types of documentation as well. Take a look at this checklist to help you better understand exactly what additional documents might be required. It might also be a good idea to ask the advice of a professional like an immigration attorney.
How to Apply to Extend Your Visitor Visa
First of all, make sure you have all the required documentation included in your application. You can file your physical application at a USCIS Lockbox or you can mail it physically to one of the USCIS addresses.
Remember to sign your application. Any unsigned applications are immediately denied. There are some useful filing tips for Form I-539 on the USCIS website. Follow the guidelines and file your application.
What to Do if Your Application is Approved or Denied
After completing the filing of your application the USCIS will give you a receipt with a 13-digit number. Keep it safe as this is your case number and helps to identify your application in the future. The receipt will also indicate the approximate processing time.
You can stay in the U.S. for 240 days after the expiry date on your I-94 if you have proof of an I-539 application. Check your visitor visa extension case online by using your case number. You can also call the customer service center at 1-800-375-5283 to ask about your case.
Once you get the outcome of your case, your next steps will depend on exactly what that outcome is.
You’ll get a replacement I-94 with your new departure date when your application is approved. Make a copy of the letter and keep it safe since this information is required in any of your future visa applications. You can stay in the U.S. up until your new departure date. Please remember to submit both your I-94s (old and new) when you check in to depart on your trip home.
The USCIS will supply a letter detailing the reasons for your application denial. If your application is denied you must leave the U.S. immediately to avoid any removal procedures. If you don’t leave immediately and steps are taken against you, it could influence your ability to enter the U.S. again in the future.
Visitor Visa Extension FAQ
We’ve covered the basics but you may still have a few other questions about your visitor visa extension. To help you out, here are a few of the more frequently asked questions.
When should I apply for a visa extension?
The USCIS recommends that you do your visitor visa extension application at least 45 days before your initial departure date. The USCIS service centers must receive your application before your authorized stay expires. This helps you to get a case number before your departure date and allows you an extra 240 days to stay i the U.S. (or at least until your case has come to a decision).
What after filing the application?
After you’ve filed your I-539 there isn’t much you can do to influence the USCIS decision process but you can remain vigilant about your situation. Check the status of your case online on a regular basis and comply with the USCIS in the adjudication process.
What if you overstayed on a U.S. visa?
If you have overstayed your visa date it can be a problem. Your visa becomes void if you are a multiple entry visa holder once you’ve overstayed your I-94 departure date without any additional proof like an I-593 case number. You may struggle to re-enter the U.S. in the future. If you remain too long you will be deported. If you find yourself in this situation your best answer would be to consult an expert such as an immigration attorney.
Keep to the dates on your immigration documents and always have copies with you to serve as proof for your legal stay in the U.S.
How long you can stay after applying for a visa extension?
Once you get a case number for your I-539 visitor visa extension application you are allowed a maximum of 240 days extra. But that changes once the USCIS makes a decision about your case. If approved they will decide your new departure date. If denied you have 30 days to leave the U.S. If stay beyond this date you will be considered deportable and could find yourself in an uncomfortable situation with the authorities.
Whether you’re on business or visiting the U.S. as a tourist, you can possibly extend your stay if you have the right reasons and meet the qualification criteria. You also need to prove those reasons with concrete evidence. You need to file a Form I-539 application and work with the immigration authorities as they decide the outcome of your extension application. Do you need to extend your stay in the U.S.? Apply for your visitor visa extension today.