If you are in the U.S. on a temporary nonimmigrant visa and you want to extend your authorized stay, you need to do so by filing Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. You need to apply for an extension at least 45 days before your authorized stay expires. If you are an employment-based nonimmigrant, your employer needs to file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, for you.
Foreign nationals who enter the United States on nonimmigrant visas must complete Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record. This form will be stamped by an immigration officer. The I-94 will have the expiry date of the authorized stay.
Who is Eligible for a U.S. Visa Extension?
If you hold a nonimmigrant visa, you are eligible to apply for a visa extension. To apply for an extension you should have a valid visa nonimmigrant visa and should have been admitted lawfully into the U.S. Your visa status should not have expired and your passport also needs to be valid for the duration of your stay. Also, you should not have violated the conditions of your admission or committed any crimes that could make you lose eligibility for the visa.
How to Apply for a Visa Extension?
The visa extension process depends on your visa category. It is not the same for all nonimmigrants.
Visa Extension Process – Employment-Based Nonimmigrant Categories
If you had entered the United States with an employment-based nonimmigrant visa, your U.S. employer must file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, for you. Your employer must file this form along with the supporting documents at least 45 days before your authorized stay expires.
The following categories of employment-based nonimmigrants are eligible to apply for a visa extension:
- E-1 Treaty Traders and E-2 Treaty Investors
- E-3 Skilled Professionals from Australia
- Temporary workers who hold H-1B, H-2A, H-2B, or H-3 visas
- Intracompany Transferees on L1A or L1B visas
- Nonimmigrants with Extraordinary Abilities 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 nonimmigrants. 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 Nonimmigrant Status along with Form I-129.
Other Nonimmigrant Categories
If you belong to one of the following nonimmigrant visa categories, you need to file the USCIS Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, to request an extension of your visa status:
- B-1 or B-2
- CW-2 (Dependent of a CW-1 Transitional Worker)
- E visa dependents (Dependents of Treaty Traders and Investors)
- F-1 (only if you were admitted for a limited duration as a student entering to study at a public secondary school)
- G and G-5 Attendant or Servant of a G Nonimmigrant and the G-5’s Immediate Family Members
- H-4 (Dependents Temporary Workers)
- K-3 and K-4
- L-2 (Dependents of Intracompany Transferees)
- M-1 Vocational or Non-Academic Student
- O-3 (Dependents of Aliens With Extraordinary Ability)
- P-4 (Dependents of Athletes and Entertainers)
- R-2 (Dependents of Religious Workers)
- TD (Dependents of TN visa holders)
- T and T Derivative Nonimmigrants
- U and U Derivative Nonimmigrants
- V visa
Who may not apply for an extension of status?
If you belong to one of the following visa categories, you may not apply for an extension of status:
- Visa Waiver Program
- D nonimmigrant visa – Crew member
- C nonimmigrant visa – In transit through the United States
- TWOV – In transit through the United States without a visa
- K nonimmigrant visa – Fiancé of a U.S. citizen or dependent of a fiancé
- S nonimmigrant visa – Informant (and accompanying family) on terrorism or organized crime
When Should I Apply for US Visa Extension?
If you want to extend your stay, you will have to apply for an extension 45 days ahead of the date of departure printed on your arrival/departure record. You must not file your application after the expiration of your authorized stay in the U.S. However, if you prove that you were not able to file your application at the right time due to unavoidable circumstances and that you have been following U.S. immigration laws, your application may be accepted.
Note: Nonimmigrants who are in removal proceedings are ineligible to file applications for visa extension.
J-1 and F-1 Visa Extension
USCIS adjudicates the visa extension applications of J-1 visa holders only after the U.S. Department of State approves their applications. J-1 exchange visitors seeking an extension of nonimmigrant status need to contact the responsible officer of their program for information about this procedure.
Only those F-1 students who were admitted for a limited duration as a student entering to study at a public secondary school can apply for an extension. All other F-1 visa holders must contact the designated officials in their institutions to apply for a visa extension.