A non-immigrant visa is a specific category of temporary visa issued to foreign nationals who are seeking to visit the U.S. temporarily. Those who are applying for nonimmigrant status must demonstrate that they have no intentions to stay or live permanently in the United States.
A student visa, or F-1 visa, is issued to students who are coming to the United States temporarily. This is to pursue their studies at an established elementary school, high school, college, university, seminary, conservatory, or language school. Such visas are temporary in nature and grant the student nonimmigrant status.
Generally speaking, F-1 visas are for students who wish to attend universities, colleges, or high schools. Students seeking a visa in order to attend vocational programs must instead obtain an M-1 visa. An M-1 visa allows students enrolled in non-academic, vocational studies at an accredited institution to come to the United States, generally for one year.
An M-2 visa is a specific visa that allows the spouse or dependent child of a person on an M-1 visa to enter into the U.S. with their family member. As with other “family” or “dependent” visas, the status of an M-2 visa holder is completely dependent upon the status of the principal M-1 visa holder. What this means is that if the visa of the principal M-1 visa holder expires, then so do the visas of their dependents on M-2 visas.
How Do I Qualify For an M-2 Visa?
In order to qualify for an M-2 visa, the applicant must be the spouse or a child of somebody who has qualified for an M-1 Visa. Here, a child is considered to be an M-1 holder’s child who is under the age of 21. Additionally, the M-2 applicant must prove that they only intend to stay in the U.S. temporarily, as well as the fact that they are indeed the spouse or child of the M-1 holder.
Children who are granted an M-2 visa may pursue an education at an elementary school or secondary school, on a full-time basis. Others may pursue their studies in a vocational or recreational school, and all may travel in and out of the United States.
However, there are some limitations as to what an M-2 visa holder may do. They cannot seek admission to a university as an M-2 child or spouse. And, they may not accept any sort of employment arrangement. M-2 visa holders are allowed to remain in the United States for the same amount of time as their M-1 spouse or parent. This could be for a duration of one year; or, the amount of time necessary for the associated M-1 applicant to complete their studies, which cannot exceed three years plus thirty days thereafter in order to depart from the U.S.
Can an M-2 Visa Be Extended?
Yes, M-2 visa holders may apply for an extension of stay by submitting Form I-539. This Application to Extend or Change Immigrant Status must be submitted to the UCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigrations Services) at least fifteen days before the visa expires. However, this form cannot be submitted more than sixty days prior to the visa’s expiration date.
Information regarding the length of your stay and expiration date can be found on the Arrival and Departure documentation, or Form I-94, which you received when you entered into the country. It is imperative that you follow all of the provided guidelines, as well as ensure that your passport is valid for the entirety of your stay in the U.S.
In order to become eligible for any sort of visa extension, you must meet the following requirements:
- You were lawfully admitted into the U.S. with a nonimmigrant visa;
- Your nonimmigrant visa status is currently valid;
- You have not committed any crimes that would disqualify you for a visa extension;
- You applied for extension before your stay expires; and
- You have maintained a valid passport for your entire stay in the U.S.
It is important to note that extensions are NOT available for the following visa categories:
- Visa Waiver Program (“VWP”);
- D- Crewman status;
- C- In transit without a visa, or foreign national in transit;
- K- As a fiancé or spouse of a U.S. citizen, or dependent of a fiancé or spouse of a U.S. citizen; and
- S- Informant regarding terrorism or organized crime.
If your application for visa extension is filed late, it could still be approved if you are able to prove that:
- The delay resulted from extraordinary circumstances outside of your reasonable control;
- The length of delay was reasonable, considering the circumstances;
- You have not acted in violation of your non-immigrant status in any way;
- You are currently still a nonimmigrant, meaning you are not filing for permanent residence; and/or
- You are not involved in any formal removal proceedings from the U.S.
If your application is still denied, there are certain circumstances in which you may appeal your application. You should inquire with the USCIS or an immigration attorney regarding your potential options. There could be other alternatives available to you, such as filing for permanent status instead of an extension. Another possible alternative would be reapplying for the visa after a waiting period of at least one year.
What Is Visa Revalidation?
Automatic visa revalidation, or “AVR,” refers to a process which allows temporary visitors to the U.S. who hold an expired nonimmigrant visa to re-enter the U.S. without obtaining a new visa. AVR generally applies in situations in which the nonimmigrant status is valid, but the visa has expired. Revalidation allows the visa holder to travel outside of the U.S. for a short period of time, usually up to thirty days, in order to minimize the risk that they will not be able to re-enter the country upon their return.
It is important to note that automatic visa revalidation is not the same as obtaining a visa extension, nor filing for a new visa. If the applicant has filed for a new visa, they will not be eligible for AVR. Nonimmigrants may apply for visa revalidation at the U.S. Consulate in which the original visa was obtained. Alternatively, they may apply for revalidation through the State Department.
Visa Revalidation can be a favorable option for persons with nonimmigrant status because it allows the person to re-enter the U.S. without going through the reapplication process, which is generally time-consuming. Additionally, revalidation is relatively inexpensive in comparison to other options, such as traveling to their home country in order to apply for a new visa.
AVR is reserved for certain classes of visa holders. In order to be eligible for automatic visa revalidation, the following requirements must be met:
- The nonimmigrant visa holder has a valid, unexpired Form I-94: Arrival-Departure Record;
- The form must be endorsed by the Department of Homeland Security;
- The nonimmigrant’s status is valid, even if their visa has expired;
- The nonimmigrant possesses a valid passport; and
- For F and J nonimmigrant classifications, travel outside of the U.S. must be for thirty days or less, and is limited to the countries of Mexico, Canada, or any adjacent island.
Do I Need an Attorney for an M-2 Visa?
If you wish to apply for an M-2 visa, or are experiencing issues related to your M-2 visa, you should consult with an immigration attorney. An experienced local immigration attorney can help you apply for the correct visa, and advise you regarding your legal options.
Additionally, an attorney will also be able to represent you in court, as needed, should any legal issues associated with your M-2 visa arise.