U.S. Visa Extension – Steps to be Taken for a Longer Stay in the U.S.

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US visa extension refers to the permission given for an extended stay in the US to foreign nationals. These persons are already in the US on a non-immigrant visa for pleasure, study, work or business and want to extend their stay in the US.

When a non-immigrant enters US, an Immigration Officer gives him/her a Form I-94 which is the Arrival Departure document. The I-94 has a date stamped on it, on or before which the visitor must leave the country. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) however, may grant the permission for US visa extension and allow the nonimmigrants to extend their stay for a certain approved period.

Eligibility Criteria for US Visa Extension

Individuals eligible for a US visa extension are those who:

  • have entered into the United States lawfully with a non-immigrant visa
  • are not required to leave the US in order to extend their visa status
  • are not involved in criminal activities that might negate their eligibility and
  • the status of their nonimmigrant visa remains valid.

How to Apply for US Visa Extension?

There are different nonimmigrant visa categories and the visa extension procedure depends on which category the applicant belongs to.

Employment Based Categories

In case of the following employment based nonimmigrant categories, the Form I-129 (Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker) must be filed by the employers. The application for a visa extension has to be filed along with the supporting documents well before the beneficiary’s Form I-94 expires. The categories include:

  • E-1 or E-2 – International Traders and Investors
  • H-1B, H-2A, H-2B or H-3 – Temporary Workers
  • L1A or L1B – Intracompany Transferees
  • O-1 or O-2 – Aliens of Extraordinary Ability
  • P-1, P-2 or P-3 – Entertainers and Athletes
  • Q-1 – Visitors for International Cultural Exchange
  • R-1 – Religious Workers
  • TN -1 or TN-2 – Canadians and Mexicans Under NAFTA

The employer files the I-129 on behalf of the primary visa holder. In case the spouse and children, unmarried and under the age of 21, of the primary applicant also want to extend their status, then they will have to file Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. All the dependents can be included on one application and this application may be filed along with the I-129 to ensure both are adjudicated at the same time.

Other Nonimmigrant Categories

In case of the following categories of nonimmigrants, the Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status needs to be submitted by the applicant along with other supporting documents. Per the USCIS, these categories are:

  • A-3 – Attendants, Servants, Personal Employees of Diplomatic and Other Government Officials and Immediate Family
  • B-1 and B-2 – Visitors for Business or Pleasure
  • E – Treaty Traders and Investors Dependents
  • G-5 – Attendants, Servants, Personal Employees of Foreign Government Officials and Immediate Family
  • H-4 – Temporary Worker Dependents
  • K-3 and K-4 – Spouse of U.S. Citizen and Minor Child Accompanying/ Following to Join
  • L-2 – Intracompany Transferee Dependents
  • M – Vocational Students and Dependents
  • N – Parents and Children of Certain People Who Have Been Granted Special Immigrant Status
  • NATO-7 – Attendants, Servants, Personal Employees of NATO Representatives, Officials, Employees and Immediate Family Members
  • O-3 – Aliens With Extraordinary Ability Dependents
  • P-4 – Athletes and Entertainer Dependents
  • R-2 – Religious Worker Dependents
  • All “V”categories (Certain Second-Preference Beneficiaries)
  • TD – TN Dependents

When to Apply for US Visa Extension?

According to the USCIS, the application for the extension of stay must be filed at least 45 days prior to the expiration of the authorized stay and received by the USCIS Service Center before the expiry of the authorized stay.

In case, the application of the US visa extension has been filed late and/or after the expiration of the authorized stay, it must be proved that:

The delay was due to unexpected and uncontrollable circumstances
No such act has been committed by the applicant that might violate his non-immigrant status such as working without the approval of the USCIS
The duration of delay in filing was reasonable
The applicant is not involved in any kind of formal proceedings regarding his deportation and removal from the US and
The status of the applicant is still that of a non-immigrant.

Extension of Stay on J-1 Visa

Those who want to extend their stay on J-1 visa must get the approval from the Department of State. Extensions are allowed only for certain exceptional cases under some of the program categories. To get this approval, the responsible officer needs to submit a written request and supporting documents to the DOS on behalf of the J-1 visa holder.

F-1 Student Visa Extension

Persons seeking an extension of their F-1 visa need to contact the designated official in their institutions.

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