Foreign nationals who enter into the United States on temporary non-immigrant visas, can stay in the country only for a certain period of time. If they seek to remain in the country for few more days, they will have to apply for US visa extension. Citizens of foreign countries who enter into America for tourism, work or for business, may apply for visa extension and extend their stay.
All the foreign nationals who enter into the United States on non-immigrant visas, must complete Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record. This form will be stamped by an immigration officer and the date on that stamp is the date on which the foreign national must leave the United States. However, some foreign nationals who enter into America on temporary visas wish to stay in the country for few more days and to do so they must extend their visas. If the reasons are genuine, USCIS will allow the foreign nationals to extend their stay for a certain period of time.
Who is Eligible for US Visa Extension?
Foreign nationals who hold non-immigrant visas are eligible to apply for visa extension. Similarly, their non-immigrant visas must be valid, while they file their applications for visa extension. However, USCIS will not accept the visa extension applications filed by non-immigrants who have criminal records. Individuals who are not required to leave the country to extend their visas, may apply for US visa extension.
How to Apply for Visa Extension?
The visa extension process depends on your category and it is not the same for all the non-immigrants.
Visa Extension process – Employment Based Non-immigrant Categories
If you had entered into the United States with an employment based non-immigrant visa, your US employer must file Form I-129, Petition for Non-immigrant Worker, for you. Few supporting documents must be submitted along with this form and the US employer must file this form before the foreign worker’s Form I-94, departure record, expires.
The following categories of non-immigrants are eligible to apply for visa extension.
- E-1 Treaty Traders and E-2 Treaty Investors
- Temporary workers who hold H-1B, H-2A, H-2B or H-3 visas
- Intracompany Transferees on L1A or L1B visas
- Non-immigrants with Extraordinary Ability who hold O-1 or O-2 visas
- Artists and Athletes who hold P-1, P-2 or P-3 visas
- International Cultural Exchange Visitors who hold Q-1 visas
- Religious Workers who hold R-1 visas
- Canadian and Mexican NAFTA workers who are in America on TN-1 or TN-2 visas
US employers may file Form I-129, on behalf of the above mentioned categories of non-immigrants. If the eligible dependents of the primary visa holders also wish to extend their status, they must file Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Non-immigrant Status and this form must be filed along with Form I-129.
Other Non-immigrant Categories
Foreign nationals who hold other non-immigrant visas must file the USCIS Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Non-immigrant Status. A-3, B-1, B-2, E (Dependents of Treaty Traders and Investors), G-5, H-4 (Dependents Temporary Workers), K-3, K-4, L-2 (Dependents of Intracompany Transferees), M, N, NATO-7, O-3 (Dependents of Aliens With Extraordinary Ability), P-4 (Dependents of Athletes and Entertainers), R-2 (Dependents of Religious Workers) and V visa holders, must file Form I-539, to extend their visas.
When Should I Apply for US Visa Extension?
If you look forward to extend your stay, you will have to file an application, 45 days ahead of the date of departure printed on your departure record. You must not file your application after the expiration of your authorized stay in America. However, your application will be accepted, if you prove that you were not able to file your application at the right time due to unavoidable circumstances and you must also prove that you have followed the US immigration laws. Non-immigrants who are in removal proceedings are ineligible to file applications for visa extension.
J-1 and F-1 Visa Extension
USCIS will adjudicate the visa extension applications of J-1 visa holders only after the US Department of State, approves their applications. Moreover, only certain categories of J-1 visa holders are allowed to extend their stay. Similarly, F-1 visa holders must contact the designated officials in their institutions to apply for visa extension.