Tourists who are in the United States under a B-2 visa (a visitor visa) can spend up to 6 months in the US as a tourist. When a situation arises that requires more time, B-2 visa-holders can petition to extend their stay in the United States beyond the original visa expiration date by filing for an extension of stay. US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recommends filing an application for extension at least 45 days before a visa expires. Once it has been submitted, the standard processing time is typically 3 – 6 months.
Considering that a B-2 visa lasts 6 months and the standard processing time takes 3 – 6 months, there is a high likelihood for an overlap between the two. Fortunately, the system accounts for this as long as the visa-holder filed their application for extension of stay before their visa expired. If the application is approved, USCIS will retroactively apply the extension from the original visa’s expiration date. If the application is denied, the visa-holder will be required to depart the United States immediately to avoid violating the terms of their visa.
Who is Eligible for an Extension?
Travelers with a B-2 visa aren’t the only visa-holders who are eligible for an extension. Anyone with one of the following visas may be eligible to apply for an extension:
- A-3 – Attendants, personal employees, and servants of diplomatic and other government officials and their immediate family
- B-1 & B-2 – Visitors for pleasure or business
- E-1 & E-2 – Dependents of treaty investors, treaty traders, and their employees
- E-3 – Dependents of skilled professionals from Australia
- G-5 – Attendants, personal employees, and servants of foreign government officials and their immediate family members
- H-4 – Dependents of trainees, temporary skilled workers, and unskilled workers
- K-3 & K-4 – Spouses of US citizens and minor children (accompanying or following-to-join)
- L-2 – Dependents of intracompany transferees
- M – Vocational students and their dependents
- N – Parents and children of individuals who have been granted special immigrant status
- NATO-7 – Attendants, personal employees, and servants of NATO representatives, officials, employees, and their immediate family members
- O-3 – Dependents of aliens with extraordinary ability and their assistants
- P-4 – Dependents of athletes and entertainers
- R-2 – Dependents of religious workers
- TD – Dependents of Mexicans and Canadians under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
- V – Certain second-preference beneficiaries
Qualifying for an extension is a lot like qualifying for a visa in the first place. According to USCIS regulations, an applicant with a non-immigrant visa may qualify for an extension if all of the following conditions are met:
- The individual was lawfully admitted into the US with a qualifying non-immigrant visa
- The individual’s non-immigrant visa status is still valid
- The individual hasn’t committed any crimes that would make him or her ineligible for a visa
- The individual hasn’t violated the conditions of their admission into the country
- The individual’s passport is still valid, and it will continue to be valid through the duration of the extended stay
Keep in mind, however, that checking all of the boxes doesn’t automatically qualify you for an extension. You’ll need to present a valid reason for your extension, and the requested time should correlate with your reason for staying in the country. For example, if you came to the United States seeking medical treatment and your doctor recommends another month of inpatient rehabilitation, that may be a valid reason for an extension. However, in the same scenario it may be difficult to approve an extension for three months if the doctor only recommends one month of rehabilitation.
Which Visa Types are Not Eligible for an Extension?
While most non-immigrant visa-holders are eligible to apply for an extension, there are some exceptions. Generally speaking, a traveler is not eligible to apply for an extension if he or she was admitted to the United States under one of the following visas:
- C – Individuals in-transit through the United States
- D – Crew members
- K – Fiancé of a US citizen, or the dependent of a fiancé
- S – Informants on organized crime or terrorism (and their accompanying family)
Furthermore, travelers who are admitted into the United States without a visa are not eligible to apply for an extension. This includes travelers who are in-transit through the United States (TWOV), and travelers who enter the country under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).
Extension Application Fees
For most applicants, there is a $370 fee to file Form I-539. However, the government waives the standard fee for those who qualify for an A1, A2, G1, G2, G3, or G4 extension. In addition to the standard filing fee, some applicants will be required to submit a biometric services fee of $85.
What to Expect After You File
Once USCIS has received your application for an extension, the agency will issue a receipt notice for Form I-539. The receipt will include a tracking number, along with an estimate of the processing time. The receipt should include instructions on how you can use the tracking number to check the status of your application online.
After an agent has had the opportunity to review your application, the agency will issue a written notice of its decision. If your visa expired while the application was processing, one of two things will happen. Assuming your application is approved, the extension will be applied retroactively from your visa expiration date. If the application is denied, you’ll be required to depart the country immediately and apply for a new visa from your home country.