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How to Get a B2 Visa Extension During COVID-19
COVID-19 has the world up in arms and has completely disrupted “life as usual”. One of the many disruptions was the sudden flood of travel restrictions and border closures imposed by countries in an attempt to curb the rapid spread of the virus. In the process, many airlines have also suspended travel. Unfortunately, these sudden restrictions mean there are people stranded away from their home countries, unable to return.
If you find yourself stuck in the U.S. on a visitor visa and you can’t return to your home country due to COVID-19 related travel restrictions, you don’t have to worry. You won’t just be deported or find yourself on the wrong side of immigration law. You can apply for an extension of your visitor’s visas and stay in the U.S. legally until you can go back home. We’ll show you how below.
Can B2 Visas be Extended During COVID-19?
As if worrying about your health, your family’s health, the crashing world economy, and being stuck in a foreign country isn’t enough, you are now also worrying about overstaying your visitor visa.
The good news is, if you find yourself in this uncertain situation, you can extend your B2 visitor visa. The USCIS allows for visitor’s visas to be extended due to the extreme and unusual situation created by the Coronavirus. This means you can remain legally in the U.S. borders until you are able to return home.
The extension of your visitor visa will, however, only be allowed where you are not able to travel back to your home country due to COVID-19.
So, how can you prove this is your case, and where can you apply for this extension? It’s actually quite easy.
How to File a Visitor Visa Extension
You can apply for an extension of your visitor visa by doing the following things. Filing a Form I-539, providing a written statement containing all the details of the restrictions that apply, and supplying the listed supporting documents.
The first step in filing for your visitor visa extension is to fill out Form I-539, Extension of a Non-Immigrant Visa. You can download the form here and check out tips on how to fill out Form I-539 here. At this stage, it would be best to file your Form I-539 online as many of the physical USCIS branches have temporarily closed.
You must include a written statement (in the form of a letter), which explains your reasons for requesting the extension. Here you can explain, for example, that your country has closed its borders due to COVID-19 and that you will not be allowed to travel back until the restrictions are lifted. You can find an example of the format of this letter here.
Other Supporting Documents
Over and above the reasons for your required extension, the USCIS also wants to see things like the fact that you will return to your home country once you can. Or that you won’t be a financial burden (known as a Public Charge) to the country. To show this, include the below listed supporting documents with your Form I-539.
- Proof that your extended stay is temporary. The USCIS wants to know your extended stay will still be temporary. You can include any documents or proof you have to show you will be returning home as soon as the restrictions have been lifted. If possible, this would be copies of your return tickets or proof that you are still employed in your home country.
- Copies of return air tickets. Ideally, you should include copies of your return air tickets in your application. This could be tricky since it probably isn’t certain when your home country’s restrictions will be lifted. Consider the option of buying air tickets with flexible dates. You can then prove the tickets but only need to confirm the dates you will be traveling closer to the time. Alternatively, if your country is in a formal lockdown, book the tickets for a few weeks after the formal lockdown ends. Don’t schedule them to close to the end as the lockdown could possibly be extended.
- Copies of your Form I-94. The Form I-94 is your Arrival-Departure Record Card. If you’ve lost yours, you can find guidelines on replacing it here.
- Proof of financial independence. You need to show you will be financially independent during your extended stay in the U.S. You can show this by providing proof of your income or possibly by providing bank statements.
- Documents showing what impact your extended stay might have on your foreign employment or residency This would be any documents that are relevant to your specific situation. You can include a letter from your employer confirming continued employment, if possible.
For this application, you should not have accessed any monetary state benefits or supplementary income from the State after February 11, 2020. This is to prevent you from falling under the “Public Charge” rule. If you have indeed received any state benefits, you will need to list these benefits separately together with supporting documents. You can find more info on this here.
You will need to pay the filing fee of $370 (and possibly an $85 biometric fee) when you submit your application.
Considerations When Filing a B2 Visa Extension During COVID-19
One of the most important things to remember is to file your application for extension on time! You don’t want to be caught in a situation where you’ve already overstayed your welcome and don’t have an application for an extension in place! File your extension at least 45 days prior to the date of the required departure listed in your I-94. If your visitor visa has already expired, it is probably your best option to contact an immigration attorney to find out what your options are.
Once you’ve filed for the extension, you don’t have to worry if your stay expires before you receive your extension. You are allowed to stay in the U.S. for 240 days after the expiry date listed in your I-94, but only if you have proof of your I-539 application. Proof of your application will be the 13-digit case number issued by the USCIS once you submit your application.
If you have a spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 who also need to apply for an extension, you can file one Form I-539 for all of them.
Finally, you have to remember you will only qualify for a visitor visa extension if you haven’t violated your visa status or any of the U.S. immigration laws while you were in the U.S.
What to Do after Your File for Your Extension
After you’ve filed your application to extend your visitor’s visa, all you can really do is wait. You can use your 13-digit case number to check the status of your case and processing times.
You can check the status of your case online. Alternatively, you can call the USCIS customer service center at 1-800-375-5283 to enquire about your case.
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The expiry of your visitor visa shouldn’t be something you worry about at this time. Apply for your visitor visa extension by filing your Form I-539 and including the required documentation. Make sure you apply in time before your visa expires and you will have one less thing to think about while you are stuck in the U.S.