Suppose you come to the United States on a nonimmigrant visa for a holiday, business or study, and you decide you want to extend your stay. You must navigate the extension of stay process, which can be a timely procedure that requires a lot of documentation.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services reported that over 6.8 million nonimmigrants got visas in 2022. To help streamline the process, the USCIS allows for certain visas to apply for an extension under specific guidelines and within a set period before your authorized stay expires. It is important to understand this process to avoid complications that could arise from overstaying.
Start the process
First, check your visa type to see if it qualifies for an extension. Not all visas are eligible, and the USCIS provides a list of those that are. If you hold a type that qualifies, file a Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, before your authorized stay expires. You can find the date your authorized stay expires on your Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record. Filing this form after your visa has expired could lead to denial and possible deportation.
When you apply for an extension, you must prove that you maintained your nonimmigrant status, that your extended stay is temporary and that you plan to return to your home country afterward. Prepare to provide documents that support your extension request, such as proof of your financial support while in the United States and evidence of ties to your home country, like a job or family.
Submit the application
Submit the Form I-539 to USCIS along with the required fee. If you are including family members in your extension application, you need to provide additional evidence for each person. Make sure you keep copies of all documents you submit for your records.
Wait for a decision
After you file your application, USCIS will send you a receipt notice. You can check the status of your application online using the receipt number on the notice. USCIS may also request more information or documents, which you should provide promptly to avoid delays in processing.
In conclusion, understanding the extension of stay process is important if you wish to remain longer in the United States than your visa allows. While waiting for a decision, maintain your nonimmigrant status and do not assume approval until USCIS confirms it. This process, while detailed, is essential for ensuring that you legally extend your stay in the U.S.