If you are a nonimmigrant and want to extend your stay in the U.S. or change to another nonimmigrant 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.
Who Qualifies to Extend Their Stay With Form I-539?
Not everyone is eligible to apply to extend their stay. In order to apply for an extension of your stay using Form I-539, you must meet the following requirements:
- You were lawfully admitted into the United States with a nonimmigrant visa
- Your nonimmigrant visa status remains valid
- You have not committed any crimes that make you ineligible for a visa
- You have not violated the conditions of your admission
- Your passport is valid and will remain valid for the duration of your stay
Certain visas are not eligible for extensions. If you were admitted through one of the following categories, you cannot extend your stay:
- Visa Waiver Program
- Crew member (D nonimmigrant visa)
- In transit through the United States (C nonimmigrant visa)
- In transit through the United States without a visa (TWOV)
- Fiancé of a U.S. citizen or dependent of a fiancé (K nonimmigrant visa)
- Informant (and accompanying family) on terrorism or organized crime (S nonimmigrant visa)
How to Apply for a U.S. Nonimmigrant Extension
If you are currently in the U.S. on a nonimmigrant (temporary) visa and want to apply for a different nonimmigrant visa, you will need to request this change with the USCIS.
There are over 40 nonimmigrant visa categories and each is used for a different purpose and has its own set of eligibility requirements. Before you apply for a different visa, be sure that you meet the eligibility requirements of that visa.
If you are applying for an employment-based visa, your prospective employer should file the USCIS Form 1-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker. In general, if you are applying for a different visa type (not employment-based) you should file the USCIS Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services have special extension rules for each visa type, so it’s important to check on the rules for your specific visa.
However, the USCIS focuses on three things in general:
- Immigration officers will want to know why you wish to extend your stay in the U.S.
- You’ll need to show that your stay in the U.S. is still temporary
- The USCIS will also want to know if your extension will affect your job or residence in your home country
When Should You Use Form I-539?
When you initially applied for nonimmigrant status, you would have received a document with an expiration 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 expiration 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 expiration date of your current status and the validity of your future visa classification status. 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 your status.
If you do not file before the expiration date, you might be excused if you can prove while filing the form that:
- The delay in filing was because of inevitable circumstances that were not under your control
- The length of the delay in filing was reasonable
- You did not violate your status under any circumstance
- You are very much still a bona fide nonimmigrant
- You do not fall under removal proceedings
What Happens After You Apply for a Nonimmigrant Extension?
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 the U.S. Embassy, U.S. Consulate, or USCIS office in that area 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.
What if USCIS Requests More Information?
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 on hand 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.
How to File a Nonimmigrant Extension for 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.
Are Document Translations Necessary for an Extension Application?
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. The interpreter has to enter their name, business, or organization address (if any), in addition to their 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, they 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, a Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student, etc., depending on why you are filing the form. For more information, you can refer to USCIS’s checklist of required initial evidence.
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 stating why the validity was not maintained.
What Is the Form I-539 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.