How to Extend B1 or B2 Visitor Visa?
Foreign nationals intending to visit the United States for business or pleasure apply for B1 or B2 visitor visas. These are non-immigrant visas and therefore you are only allowed to stay a short period of time. When you need to stay longer, you have to apply for extension by filing Form I-539.
How Long Can You Stay in the United States on Visitor Visa?To be in lawful presence in the U.S., it is very important to understand the difference between the date in a visa issued in your home country and the length of time you are allowed to stay in the U.S. A visa, which is a sticker that is placed in your passport in the U.S. embassy, allows you to seek entry into the U.S. If the sticker states that it is valid for 10 years, it meas that you are allowed to seek admission to the U.S. for the next ten years. Therefore, it does not mean that you can stay in the U.S. for 10 years.
When you arrive in the port-of-entry (e.g., airport), an immigration officer checks your passport and U.S. visa to ensure you have a permission to enter the country. After the immigration officer ensures that you are admissible, you will be issued an entry stamp (also known as admission stamp or I-94) in your passport. The entry stamp will usually show the date of entry, immigration status and the date when the admission expires. This stamp proves that you arrived in the U.S. legally and indicates how long you can stay in the U.S. B1 and B2 visitors are usually allowed to stay between six to 12 months.
Sometimes, you may notice that there is no entry stamp in your passport. In this case, it is your obligation to visit the CBP (Customs and Border Protection) website and check/print relevant records showing your lawful admission. To do so:
1) Go to CBP's website, which can be accessed here - https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home;
2) Click on "Get Most Recent I-94," read notification and press "Consent & Continue";
3) Enter your personal and passport information and press "Next" to get your most recent entry stamp/I-94 information.
Please take note of this date and make sure to depart from the U.S. by that date.
How to Extend Your Visitor Visa?Sometimes, circumstances may force you to stay longer in the U.S. If you wish to stay longer, you have to apply for extension of visitor visa.
To extend your visitor visa, you need to file Form I-539. You can access the form here - https://www.uscis.gov/i-539. In filling out Form I-539, you need to pay attention to the following important issues:
- Form I-539 must be filed before your status expires. Remember, your status expires on the date indicated in your entry stamp. Ideally, Form I-539 must be submitted at least 45 days prior to expiration date on your entry stamp;
- You need to explain to the USCIS officer why you need an extension. Be as detailed and specific as possible;
- You need to provide detailed explanation of how you are planning to meet your daily expenses during the requested extension period. You need to explain how you are planning to pay for your meals and accommodation;
- You need to demonstrate that you have already made some arrangements to depart from the U.S. on or before the new extension date (you may include air ticket purchase, arrangements with your employer, etc.);
- You need to explain that your extended stay in the U.S. would not negatively impact your employment in your home country (you may include permission letter from your employer and any other arrangements you made with your place of employment).
There is a fee in the amount of $370 to file Form I-539.
Can You File Form I-539 After Expiration of Your Visa?Yes, you can file Form I-539 after the expiration date. Failure to file Form I-539 may be excused if you can demonstrate that:
- The delay was due to unexpected extraordinary circumstances (e.g. hospitalization with severe injuries);
- The length of delay must be reasonable (if you were expected to be released from hospital in two days, but you requested an extension for 3 months, this may be considered to be unreasonable);
- You have to explain that you are not in removal proceedings;
- You have to explain that you did not violate your non-immigrant status (e.g., by engaging in an unauthorized employment).
May Extension of Visitor Visa Have Negative Impact on a New Non-Immigrant Visa Application?In general, it is never a good idea to remain in the U.S. beyond the expiration date. In most cases, U.S. consular officers will look with suspicion to extension of visitor visas. However, if you had a genuine reason to apply for extension of your stay, this should not have a negative impact on your new application for a non-immigrant visa. When you go for a consular interview, make sure to provide detailed explanation as to why extension was necessary and how you complied with visa regulations during your extended stay.