During the course of your visit to the United States on a B1 or B2 visa, there can be a change in your plans. Due to certain circumstances you may need to stay longer than you had intended to when you first applied for the visit visa.
To extend your stay in the US, you will need to file Form I-539, which is the application form to change/extend your non-immigrant status. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is the government authority that approves such applications. This means that you need to provide the USCIS adequate evidence that your original intention for the visit was business, pleasure or medical treatment, and the change of plans was unexpected.
Here’s a brief guide to the process of visa extension for B1 or B2 visa holders.
When to Apply for Visa Extension?
You are advised to file the extension request as soon as you realize the need to stay beyond the visa expiry date. The USCIS recommends that requests be filed at least 60 days before the expiry of your current visa, as stated on your Form I-94.
However, this might not always be possible, so make sure that you state the extraordinary circumstances that delayed the filing of the request. This will make the time elapsed look reasonable to the authorities. Some examples of such circumstances can be loss or theft of passport or travel documents, medical emergency, etc.
What if I Don’t State Any Reason for Delay?
If you are unable to give a good reason for your apparent negligence, you will not be allowed to extend your visa. As a result, you will have to return to your home country on the expiry of your current B1/B2 visa and apply for a new one all over again.
Visa Extension Documents Checklist
In order to extend the duration of your stay, you need to furnish the same proof that you gave while initially applying for the B-1 or B-2 visa. Some of the documents that are permissible as proof are:
- Documents explaining the reason for extending the duration of stay. These could include medical reports, letters from your doctor, police reports showing an emergency, or letters from relatives in the US, who require you to extend your visit.
- Arrangements for departure from the US after the extended period is over.
- Bank account statements to show that you are capable of supporting your extended stay.
- Letter from your employer, confirming their awareness of the extension of leave and assurance of job security upon return.
Steps to File Visa Extension Request
- Apply for the visit visa extension by filling in Form I-539.
- Submit all the relevant documents, along with the form to either the Vermont Service Center or the California Service Center. You are required to pay a processing fee of about $300 for visa extension
- After you submit your application, the USCIS will provide you a 13-digit case number and the estimated time for processing your application. Wait for the application to get approved.
The approval time can take several weeks, and it is important that you do not engage in any other immigration related activity until your request is processed.