In general, a foreign-born national who wishes to stay in the United States on a temporary basis for tourism purposes will need to obtain a tourist visa. A tourist visa, also known as a B-2 visa or a visitor visa, is a type of temporary nonimmigrant visa issued to persons traveling to the United States from another country.
Aside from tourism purposes, a tourist visa may also be appropriate for other reasons, such as if you intend to:
- Take a long holiday or vacation in the United States;
- Visit family members or friends who live in the United States;
- Receive medical treatment at a U.S.-based medical facility;
- Register for a short recreational course (i.e., not one for a degree, but for a course like cooking classes or hourly wine tasting events where an instructor teaches you how to identify wine profiles); and/or
- Partake in social events or amateur contests.
A foreign-born national who is approved for a tourist visa will typically be permitted to stay in the United States for a period of six months. Those applying for a tourist visa extension can receive a maximum of up to another six months on their visa if approved. However, not everyone may be eligible for an extension and the specific requirements for a tourist visa extension may vary by case.
Thus, if you decide you want to apply for an extension on your tourist visa, then it may be in your best interest to contact a local immigration lawyer for further assistance as soon as possible. The longer you wait to apply for an extension, the higher your chances are that you will overstay your visa and risk other penalties.
When Should I Submit a Tourist Visa Extension?
Generally speaking, the process to obtain a tourist visa extension can take several weeks. Thus, those who wish to apply for a tourist visa extension should submit an application at least 45 days in advance of their current visa’s lapse date. This date refers to how long they are allowed to stay in the United States, not the date that the visa actually expires which could be ten years from now.
By applying in advance, this will ensure that there is enough time to process a tourist visa extension (if granted) and that a foreign-born national will not risk being penalized for overstaying their visa limits.
What Are the Eligibility Requirements for a Tourist Visa Extension?
According to U.S. immigration law, a foreign-born nation will need to meet certain requirements to qualify for a tourist visa. For instance, those applying for a U.S. tourist visa will need to prove the following:
- That the sole purpose of their trip is to temporarily gain entry into the United States for tourism-related reasons;
- That they intend to stay in the United States for a specified or limited period of time;
- That they can prove they have enough finances to last for the duration of their trip in the United States; and
- That they have a residence along with binding ties in another country that is outside of the United States and they intend to return to that country at the end of their trip.
As previously mentioned, a tourist visa is only valid for a period of up to six months. Thus, those who wish to extend their stay must apply to extend their tourist visa before the six-month time frame lapses. Again, a tourist visa may only be renewed for another six-month time frame. In order to qualify for a tourist visa extension, a foreign-born national will need to do the following:
- Demonstrate that their initial entry into the United States based on a B-2 visa was obtained lawfully and not through fraudulent means;
- Show that their current visa status is still valid and has not yet expired;
- Prove that they did not commit any crimes that would prevent them from being approved for a tourist visa extension;
- Ensure that they submit a tourist visa extension application before the six-month time frame lapses; and
- Be in possession of a valid passport during their entire trip in the United States.
In addition, applicants should be prepared to offer supplemental documents or other forms of proof depending on the requirements specified by the U.S. Embassy or Consulate for their country of origin. It also should be noted that despite satisfying the above requirements, not every applicant may be granted an extension on their tourist visa.
What If I Missed the Filing Deadline for a Tourist Visa Extension?
If a visa holder misses the filing deadline to apply for a tourist visa extension, or alternatively, if their current visa lapses before an extension is fully processed, the application may still be accepted in some cases. In such a scenario, an applicant should be ready to prove or provide the following information:
- That the delay in filing was due to extraordinary circumstances that were beyond their control (e.g., a medical emergency);
- That the length of the delay was reasonable;
- That the applicant has not acted in any manner that would be considered a violation of non-immigrant status conditions;
- That the applicant still intends to remain a nonimmigrant and is not delaying to file for lawful permanent resident status; and
- That the applicant is not currently involved in any formal removal (formerly deportation) proceedings.
If an application for a tourist visa extension is denied, then an applicant may be able to appeal the decision. This will likely take longer and will involve extra costs. Additionally, an official at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate will also need to re-determine the applicant’s eligibility for nonimmigrant status.
If the appeal ends up being unsuccessful as well, then the foreign-born national will be ordered to leave the United States and return to their home country immediately upon the expiration of their tourist visa.
Are There Any Alternatives?
There is one alternative to applying for a visa extension that may be available to tourist visa holders and that is filing for lawful permanent resident status. It should be noted, however, that an applicant must choose between one or the other since filing for lawful permanent resident status will automatically bar them from applying for a visa extension.
In addition, if a tourist visa holder can afford to return to their home country and wait a certain period of time, then they may be able to re-apply for a different type of visa after one year has passed. So long as they did not violate the conditions of their current visa or any U.S. immigration laws, a new visa will provide them the ability to re-enter the United States at some point in the future.
Common Concerns with Tourist Visa Extensions?
Tourist visas are one of the most highly regulated and sought after types of nonimmigrant visas. Unfortunately, their conditions are often violated by foreign-born nationals who either intentionally or mistakenly overstay their tourist visa. As a result, those who violate a tourist visa extension will be ordered to immediately depart from the United States and return to their home country.
Such violations can also prevent a nonimmigrant traveler from returning to the United States for longer than would be allowed had they initially complied with the terms of their tourist visa. This is only one common cause for concern when it comes to discussing issues associated with tourist visas.
Some other common concerns regarding tourist visa extensions may include:
- Applicants should be aware that those who enter the United States on a tourist visa, but intend to get married during their stay, may be found to have committed immigration marriage fraud. Applicants who want to remain permanently living and working in the United States should thus consider applying for an immigrant visa instead.
- Another common concern with tourist visa extensions is that applicants may run out of money to fund their stay in the United States. Since foreign-born nationals are not permitted to obtain work on a tourist visa, they should make sure they have enough money to last throughout the duration of not only their initial tourist visa period, but also throughout their time on an extended visa.
- One other common concern with a tourist visa extension is if an applicant files too early. While an applicant should not delay as it gets closer to their visa lapsing, those who file immediately upon entry into the U.S. may alert and lead immigration officials to believe that their pre-planned actions imply their intention to stay longer than for a temporary period. Accordingly, such acts can disqualify an applicant from receiving a tourist visa and/or extension.
In other words, any actions that may indicate to immigration officials that a foreign-born national actually intends to stay in the United States longer than they are permitted to by their tourist visa, may give rise to suspicion of a violation.
Thus, it is very important that a foreign-born national adhere to the conditions specified by their tourist visa. This will help ensure that they not only are approved for an extension, but also so that they do not incur additional penalties.
Do I Need a Lawyer for a Tourist Visa Extension?
As discussed above, if you intend to apply for a tourist visa extension, it may be in your best interest to hire a local immigration lawyer for further legal guidance. An experienced immigration lawyer can assist you and/or your loved ones with filing an application for an extension and can ensure that you meet all of the necessary filing deadlines.
Your lawyer can also assist you in gathering the required documents to support your visa extension application as well as can make sure that it contains no errors that would lead to a delay in processing. Additionally, if you have overstayed your current visa or have missed the deadline for filing, your lawyer can help you navigate the potential legal issues that might arise in connection with an expired tourist visa.