How Long Can You Stay in the US with a Visitor Visa?

According to an article in The Atlantic, in the past 10 years, the number of visa overstays in the US have exceeded border crossings by a ratio of 2:1. The USCIS takes illegal overstays very seriously and takes action in the form of deportation and/or ban on entry into the United States.

Therefore, it is important to know that the B1/B2 visa has a validity ranging from one month to 10 years and allows you to stay only for a period of 6 months in the US. But what if you wish to stay for a longer duration, due to some unfinished business? There is a provision to apply for a visa extension that will help you avoid the penalties associated with overstaying.

So, if you are a B1/B2 visa holder, here is some useful information on how to legally extend your stay in the United States.

When to Apply for Extension?

You can apply for an extension if you can give a valid reason for it, your entry was legal, there have been no violations to the conditions of admission, and you can provide enough proof that you can support yourself financially during the extended period.

Also, remember to apply for an extension before the expiry of your current tourist visa. The expiry date can be found on the I-94 Arrival-Departure record. If you fail to do so, you can be deported from the country and also face a permanent ban on any future entry into the US. The USCIS recommends that travelers file for an extension at least 45 days before the expiry of their current visa.

The fees for applying for a visa extension is $370. If you are applying for your spouse and children as well, they will be covered within the same fee.

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Documents Required

Here is the list of documents that are important for filing an extension with the USCIS:

  • Accurately filled I- 539 Form, which is the Application to Extend/Change Non-Immigrant Status
  • A letter that specifies the reason for seeking the extension
  • Documents that prove financial support for the extended stay. This includes bank statements, credit card statements or financial details of your sponsor (if you have one)
  • A copy of your return ticket to show your original intent to leave before your visa’s expiry date
  • A copy of the I-94 card of the applicant.

Note that your passport should be valid for at least 6 months after the extension period.

After you have filed the application, you will get a receipt from the USCIS. It will contain a 13-digit case number and the approximate time for processing your application.

What if the Extension is Granted?

When your visa extension is approved, you will be a given a new I-94 card, which will have the new departure date. Remember to make a copy of this and keep it safe for use as reference for future US visits. On leaving the US, you need to submit both the new and old I-94 cards, when asked for.

In case your visa extension is denied, you will receive a letter that will explain the reason for the rejection. You will then have to leave the US before the expiry of your original visa.

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Mani Karthik

About the Author

Mani Karthik

Ex “NRI” and Founder of the “Back to India” movement. I share my experience about immigrating to USA here.