Millions of foreign nationals enter the U.S. to visit family and friends every year. If you are visiting and want to legally extend your stay here in the U.S. beyond the time permitted on your I-94 card, this article gives tips to help you maintain your status in the U.S.

 

As every foreign national who enters the U.S. on a visitor visa knows, there is an expiration date for each foreign national by which time he or she must depart the U.S. If the foreign national stays beyond that time period without permission from USCIS, that foreign national’s visa in his or her passport becomes null and void. That foreign national then becomes an overstay and harsh immigration laws will become applicable to that foreign national, including becoming removable, etc.

As a result, many people who want to remain in the U.S. beyond the time allotted (usually six months but can be less than six months) must file an extension request with USCIS. The extension request must be received by USCIS on or before the expiration date of the foreign national’s visa.

If the foreign national is physically in the U.S. on a B-2 visa (visitor for pleasure classification) or a B-1 visa (visitor for business classification), they should file form I-539, Application to Extend Nonimmigrant status, with USCIS to request their extension. There is an accompanying filing fee that must also be attached to the form. The following should also be included in the filing with USCIS:

• Statement from the applicant to explain why he or she is seeking an extension of their visa

• Copy of the applicant’s passport and I-94 card / or stamp in passport to show entry date

• Copy of the applicant’s birth certificate and translation, if applicable

• Letter from the bank and / or bank statement for the applicant showing the applicant has funds to maintain his or her stay in the U.S. without having to work

• Optional: If the applicant is staying in the U.S. temporarily with friends or family, the applicant’s friend or family member can also provide a letter stating that the applicant will remain with them during their stay, that they will (hopefully) provide transportation, lodging, food etc.

• Optional: Bank account for the family member or friend of the applicant to show sufficient funds to help take care of the foreign national

• Other relevant documentation, as specified by your immigration lawyer, which may include a copy of the future return flight ticket

If the applicant has his or her spouse or children also in the U.S. visiting, be sure to include their information on the form and attach the necessary paperwork for each person, i.e. marriage certificate, birth certificates, etc. All documents must be translated.

I cannot stress enough that the visa petition package must be properly signed, assembled, include all required documentation, and must be timely received before the expiration of the visa as noted on the I-94 card or stamp in the passport for each applicant.

Also, merely filing the extension request does Not guarantee approval, and that is why I strongly urge you to retain an immigration lawyer to handle the process on your behalf.

If the applicant wishes to file the application online, there is an ELIS system now set up by USCIS that will allow the applicant to file the form electronically.

Please note that the above is general information and other factors may apply. Immigration law is very complex and nothing can take the place of seeking the assistance of an experienced immigration lawyer. The above information is not to be considered as legal advice.