If you want to stay in the U.S. beyond the timeframe that was stipulated on your current visa you may be able to submit an I-539 Application to Extend or Change Nonimmigrant Status. The Form I-539 visa application is designed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to allow people on nonimmigrant (temporary) visas to do one of the following:
- Apply to switch to another type of visa (change status) or
- Extend their stay in the United States.
A nonimmigrant visa allows a foreigner to enter and live in the U.S., for a specified period of time. But what happens if you run out of time and you are not ready to leave the country? For example:
- You are on a tourist visa and have a medical emergency and you apply for an extension on your visa; chances are you might get an approval so you can get the medical care you need.
- Another scenario could be that you came to the U.S., on a student visa and as soon as graduation got closer you found an employment opportunity and an employer offered you a job and helped you obtain an H-1B status.
- Also, you are perhaps already here on a work visa and the work project is taking longer than expected to the point that your employer would like for you to stay. Your employer will need to take care of a visa extension by using another form which is the I-129. Talk to an immigration attorney when applying for a work visa.
Is Applying for an I-539 Extension a New Visa?
Something to understand about a visa is that it is an authorized document that is issued by the U.S. Consulate of another country. While you may wish to stay longer you just cannot stay in the U.S. and think that you will be able to get another visa. That is not how it works. If you want another visa you will need to leave the U.S. and file a new submission for a new visa and then attend an interview at a U.S. Consulate in your home country. While staying in the U.S. might be easier, an I-539 will allow you to stay longer as long as USCIS grants an approval to change or extend your status.
Ensure You Qualify for an Extension or Change of Immigration Status
Every nonimmigrant visa holder in the U.S. may not be eligible for an extension or change of status. First off, most nonimmigrant visas are designed for a temporary stay in the U.S. allowing for one or two extensions.
Secondly, U.S. immigration laws restrict certain types of change of status. Take for example:
- If you came to the U.S. on the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), you cannot extend or change your status.
- If you entered the U.S. on a B-2 tourist visa, you cannot change to a student status (F-1 academic or M-1 vocational) unless you previously got a notation in your visa stating that you will be looking at schools.
- If you arrived on a J-1 visa, you will need to comply with a two-year residency before returning to the U.S. or you may need to apply for a waiver of the home residency requirement.
Get Help from an Immigration Attorney
You will need to speak to an attorney about applying for an extension or changing your immigration status to see if you are eligible or if the nonimmigrant visa you entered the U.S. with will allow you to extend or make a change of status. Call Gambacorta Law Office today for a first free consultation at 847 908 4913.