An individual who enters the United States on a tourist or visitor’s visa is ordinarily admitted for a period of six months. It is actually up to the Customs and Border Protection Officer at the port of entry how long he/she deems appropriate for the individual to remain in the US. While stays can be given up to six months, it is not uncommon to sometimes receive less than that (in some cases, two weeks or even just a few days). In any event, the foreign national must leave before the designated time or risk falling out of status and accruing “unlawful presence” which could endanger his/her ability to re-enter the United States in the future. Under certain circumstances, an individual who accrues more than six months but less than one year of unlawful presence may trigger a three-year bar to re-entry. If an individual accrues one year or more of “unlawful presence,” it’s even worse: that person is barred for ten years from re-entry once he/she departs the US.
What does one do if one needs to stay longer?
A visitor’s visa, as most of us recognize, is not a “green card.” Nor is it a pass to stay as long as one wants in the U.S. It is legal permission granted by the US government to the foreign national individual to stay in the US for a brief period of time to accomplish whatever purpose he/she stated at the time of visa application, whether it is to attend a business conference or visit friends or family.
There is a mechanism to apply for a longer period of stay if necessary once that person is in the US and his authorized period of admission is coming to an end. The individual needs to apply for an extension on Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. As of this May 2014, the filing fee is $290.
What is Required?
First and foremost, the application should be filed before the current period of admission expires, usually at least 45 days prior to your last day. Filing the application after your authorized stay has already expired will most likely result in a denial, although there are some limited exceptions.
The following is normally also required:
· Form I-94. Note that these days, paper I-94s are no longer given, as the process has become digitized. Applicants may need to go onto the Customs and Border Protection website to retiree a digital printout of their I-94.
· Copy of Visa and Passport
When our office prepares the application, we also attach an explanation detailing the reason for the extension and attach whatever documentary proof is available to support it. In some cases, we also attach further proof of the individual’s non-immigrant intent, such as ties to the applicant’s native country, ie., bank statements, assets, property, job letter, etc.
It is important to understand that not every visitor to the United States will be eligible to extend his/her stay. For example, those who enter under the Visa Waiver Program are subject to certain restrictions that prevent them from changing their status or extending their stay of 90 days.
Moreover, this is not meant to be a substitute for the actual instructions nor legal advice. If you or someone you know needs advice regarding the viability of an extension application and what the legal requirements are, please either refer to the official instructions themselves or consult with an immigration attorney.
We hope that you have enjoyed this article and learned at least one new thing or tip that you may not have known. To keep informed about the latest developments in immigration law, please subscribe to our blog feed by clicking on the “Subscribe To This Blog’s Feed” button on the right. It is important to understand that the above is only general information and not legal advice. The law is extremely fact and circumstance sensitive. For an individual legal analysis of your specific legal case, please complete the “Case Evaluation” box to the right of the screen to get in touch with one of our attorneys.