If you are a non-immigrant and want to extend your stay in the U.S. or change to another non-immigrant status, you have to file Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. You have to file this form with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In some instances, you can use this form to apply for initial nonimmigrant status. If you are an [F-1] or [M-1] student and want to get reinstated, you can also file this form. 

When to Use Form I-539?

When you initially applied for nonimmigrant status, you would have received a document with an expiry date mentioned on it. If you want to extend your stay or change to another visa classification, you have to file Form I-539 well before the expiry date. Even if you are approved for another visa classification in the future, you still have to file Form I-539 in order to close any gap that might happen between the expiry date of your current status and the validity of your future visa classification status. So it is safe to file Form I-539 at least 45 days before your visa’s validity expires or as soon as you need to change or extend status. 

If you do not file before the expiry date, you might be excused if you can prove while filing the form that: 

1. The delay in filing was because of inevitable circumstances that were not under your control

2. The length of the delay in filing was reasonable

3. You did not violate your status under any circumstance

4. You are very much still a bona fide nonimmigrant and 

5. You do not fall under removal proceedings. 

Multiple Applicants 

As the primary applicant, you can add your spouse and your unmarried children below 21 years of age in your application for extension or change of status. This is possible only if you are all currently in the same status or they are all in derivative status. In this case, you have to file Form I-539A for every individual you want to include in your application. However, note that extensions granted to the family members have to be for the same period of time. All the family members will be given the same shortest period given to any member of the family.

Make sure you sign your application and also note that while filing Form I-539A, it should also have the signature of the primary applicant. USCIS will not permit or accept a stamped or a typewritten name for all signatures on this form. If your age is below 14 years, your parent or legal guardian will be allowed to sign the form on your behalf. A legal guardian is also authorized to sign for a mentally incompetent person. 

After you send your application to the USCIS, they will check if your form is complete. If your application is incomplete, USCIS will reject it. If everything is fine, they will then notify you regarding a biometrics appointment, if required. That notification will have all the information about the date, time and location of your local or an authorized USCIS Application Support Center (ASC).

If you are abroad, you will be instructed to contact a U.S. Embassy, U.S. Consulate, or USCIS office to set up an appointment in the place you are currently located. It is important to note that failure to attend the biometric appointment will lead to your application being denied by the USCIS. 

In case the USCIS needs more information related to your case, they will request you to furnish the same, such as additional information or proof to support your application. At times, you might also be required to submit the originals of any copies that you submitted. However, they will return the original document after they decide they no longer need your original documents. 

Keep legible photocopies of documents ready as the USCIS might request you to submit those. They might ask you for an original document during your time of filing or at any time while your application is getting processed. Should they ask you for your original document, they will send it back to you after they are convinced. Do not send your original documents unless specifically requested by the USCIS to do so. 

Translations 

When you are submitting any document that is not in the English language, make sure you attach a translation of the same. The person who translated the document has to certify that the document has been fully translated and is accurate.

That person should also prove that he/she is competent enough to translate documents from the foreign language to English and has to sign the certification. It is highly recommended that the certificate has the name, signature, and contact information of the translator. 

If you have used the services of an interpreter to help you with reading the instructions or questions on the form to you in a language that you understand easily, that person has to fill out a section in the application. He/she has to enter his/her name, business, or organization address (if any), in addition to the telephone/mobile number and email address (if any). Persons who helped you prepare your form have to sign and date the application. If an attorney or accredited representative helped you complete the form, he/she should additionally complete Form G-28, Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative, with your I-539 application. 

Supporting Evidence to be Filed with Form I-539 

The evidence that you will need to submit will be listed in the form instructions and it varies depending on the category you are filing under. The general requirement is to submit a copy of Form I-94, Nonimmigrant Arrival-Departure Record, for each person included in your application. Other than this, supporting documents include a written statement, an original letter from an employer, a copy of Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student, etc., depending on why you are filing the form. For more information, you can refer to the checklist on the USCIS website.

If you do not submit the documents and evidence required by the USCIS, they might reject or deny your application. If you need a passport to be legally admitted into the U.S., ensure that you maintain the validity of your passport during your stay as a nonimmigrant. If your passport is not valid at the time of filing your Form I-539, you will be required to submit an explanation along with your application explaining why the validity was not maintained. 

What Is the Submission Fee? 

While filing your I-539 form, you have to send a filing fee for $370. In addition to the filing fee, you have to pay an $85 biometrics services fee for yourself and for every individual whom you included in your I-539 form. Some nonimmigrants are exempt from paying any fees: persons changing into or out of A-1, A-2, A-3, G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, G-5, NATO-1, NATO-2, NATO-3, NATO-4, NATO-5, or NATO-6 status are not required to submit either the filing fee or the biometric services fee.

Please note that the submission or the biometric services fee will not be refunded in any case. Make a check or money order in exact amounts. Ensure that the check or money order is made in U.S. dollars and is drawn on any bank or a financial institution that is in the U.S. and is payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. 

You can also pay your submission and biometric fee using your credit card if you are filing your form at a USCIS Lockbox facility. You can refer to Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions.

The USCIS might request you to appear at their office for an interview based on the application you submitted. At that time, they might also ask you for your biometrics to confirm your identity and to update background and security checks. 

The final decision on your submitted application will be established if the USCIS finds you eligible for the purpose of filing your form. They will inform you of their decision in writing.