If you are classified under nonimmigrant status, it may be possible to extend your stay in the U.S. You must file for a visa extension with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You should file for an extension of stay as early as possible, preferably 45 days before your visa expires.
Information regarding the length of your stay and expiration date can be found on the Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure documentation) which you received when you entered the country. You should be sure to follow all the provided guidelines and ensure that your passport is valid for the entire duration of your stay.
Who is eligible for an extension of stay?
The following requirements must be met in order to become eligible for a visa extension:
- Your admittance into the U.S. with a nonimmigrant visa was lawful
- Your nonimmigrant visa status is currently valid
- You did not commit any crimes that would disqualify you for an extension
- Application for extension must occur before your stay expires
- You have a valid passport for the entire stay in the U.S.
Extensions are NOT available for the following visa categories:
- Visa Waiver Program (VWP)
- D- Crewman status
- C- In transit without a visa or alien in transit
- K- As a fiancé or spouse of a U.S. citizen, or dependent of a fiancé/spouse
- S- Informant regarding terrorism or organized crime
What if my application for a visa extension is late or my stay has already expired?
You should do your best to file at least 45 days before your stay expires. If your application is filed late, it might still be accepted if you can prove:
- The delay was the result of extraordinary circumstances outside your control
- The length of delay was reasonable
- You have not acted in violation of your non-immigrant status
- You are currently still a nonimmigrant (i.e., not filing for permanent residence)
- You are not involved in any formal removal proceedings from the U.S.
If your application is denied, it might be possible under certain circumstances to appeal your application. Inquire with the USCIS or an attorney for possible recourse. You may also have other alternatives, such as filing for permanent status instead of an extension, or reapplying for the visa after a waiting period of at least one year.
What is visa revalidation? Is this the same as a visa extension?
Certain visa categories may be eligible for visa revalidation. Revalidation is different from a visa extension. Visa revalidation is basically a process for reinstating a visa when the nonimmigrant desires to travel outside the U.S. for a short period of time.
A visa revalidation allows certain non-immigrants to re-enter the U.S. after a trip to Canada or Mexico without first having to obtain an entirely new visa. The trip must last 30 days or less. Only certain nonimmigrant categories qualify for revalidation, and only under limited circumstances. Inquire with an attorney for further details.
Do I need a lawyer for nonimmigrant visa extensions?
Extending your visa is a very important part of your stay in the U.S. Failure to follow the necessary application requirements can result in a denial of application. You should contact an immigration lawyer if you are unsure of whether you are eligible for a visa extension. A lawyer can help explain to you the details of the laws governing nonimmigrant status visas.