Visa Extension – Key to an Extended Stay

While entering America on a temporary basis for medical treatment, pleasure purposes or for business purposes, people are issued a non-immigrant US visa called the Visitor Visa. Usually, these visas are issued for six months but with the approval of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the visas can be extended for a maximum period of 6 months. For special cases, one year is the maximum period during which a person can stay on a visitor visa.

Visitor Visa Extension

Those who enter United States with a visitor visa and want to extend their visa must apply for a visa extension. The Form I-539 (Application to Extend or Change Non-Immigrant Status) needs to be filed by the applicant with the USCIS.

USCIS has the full authority to decide whether to grant the visa extension or not. The USCIS takes into consideration the legitimate reason for extension and should be convinced that after the provisional stay in the U.S, the candidate would return to his / her home country.

When to Apply

Applicants should keep in mind that the visa extension should be applied 45 days before the expiration of Form I-94 (Arrival-Departure Record), which states the duration of a candidate’s stay in the U.S. This is required to be in legal status during the application for visa extension. People staying in the U.S. after the expiration of the authorized stay are either deported from U.S. or barred from returning. In case of late filing, that is, after the expiration of the authorized stay, candidates need to prove that:

  • Certain uncontrollable and extraordinary circumstances caused the delay
  • The residing period was reasonable
  • No immigrant visa petition has been filed on the applicant’s behalf
  • The non-immigrant status has not been violated by any kind of action
  • The candidate was not involved in formal proceedings regarding deportation from United States

Applicants should also take care of not applying within 3 months of entering U.S.A as it might contradict their statement at the entry port or Consulate.

Documents Required for Visitor Visa Extension

The following documents are required for extension of visitor visa:

  • An application providing the cause for the extension.
  • Photocopy of the return tickets
  • A copy of Form I-94 of every candidate
  • A completed Form I-539 (PDF or Online)
  • Evidence of financial sustenance during the period of extended stay
  • For extending the visitor visa, an extension fee of $290 is required (as of November 23, 2010)

Other Conditions for Visa Extension

To extend the stay, certain other conditions must be met, like:

  • Lawful admittance into the U.S. through a non-immigrant visa
  • Conditions of admission should be obeyed
  • Proof for financial support should be provided
  • The passport should be valid during the period of the stay

Those who belong to the following categories cannot apply for an extended stay in US:

  • C non-immigrant visa – in transit through the U.S.
  • K non-immigrant visa – dependent of a fiancé or fiancé of a U.S. citizen
  • D non-immigrant visa – crew member
  • TWOV – in transit, without a visa, through the U.S.
  • S non-immigrant visa – informant on organized crime or terrorism

The Process

After the application for the visa extension has been filed, a receipt bearing the case number would be sent by the USCIS. The receipt would state the estimated process time of the extension, which may vary from two to several weeks. If the application has been made before the expiration of Form I-94 and if it expires while it is under evaluation then the applicant is allowed to stay for a period of 240 days in the U.S. With the help of the receipt number, the status of the case can be checked online.