How to Extend a Tourist Visa

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Foreigners who enter the US on a B1/B2 visitor’s visa might be eligible to have their stay extended. B1/B2 non-immigrant visas are issued by the US Citizenship and Immigrations Services (USCIS) for purposes of business, travel for pleasure, or medical treatment. If you have not broken any laws or overstayed your visa, you can apply to stay longer than the 3 or 6 month period usually allowed by USCIS. Valid reasons for extending your stay might include medical emergencies, business delays, or important family events and holidays.

Things You'll Need

  • Immigration Form I-539
  • Letter explaining your reason for extending your visa
  • Supporting documentation
  • Certified translations of foreign-language documents
  • Original document I-94
  • Photocopy of the photograph page of your passport showing the expiration date
  • Photocopies of your application and supporting documents
  • Check or money order for $300
  • I-539 application receipt

Fill out Immigration Form I-539. Type your answers or write clearly in block letters. If you cannot understand the form, you may have someone help you fill it out. If your spouse and/or children under the age of 21 are also filing for an extension, you may include them on this form.

Write a cover letter explaining why you want to extend your visa, and when you plan to leave. Include a photocopy of your original return ticket. Explain your reasons as concisely as possible. If you have any supporting documentation such as a medical report, invitation to an important family event, or a letter from a company you’re doing business with, include these with your application. You should also show how you plan to support yourself while you’re in the US, and be able to reassure USCIS officers that your family, home, or business in your home country will not suffer as a result of your prolonged absence. You must provide a certified translation of any documents in a foreign language.

Gather all your documents along with your original I-94 (the document given to you when you arrived in the US) and passport photocopy showing the photo and expiration date. Remember that your permitted stay finishes on the date written on your I-94, not the date your visa expires.

Mail all of your documents to the correct USCIS center at least 45 days before your stay is due to finish, along with a check or money order from a US bank for $300 (2009 fee), payable to the US Department of Homeland Security. Be sure to make photocopies of everything for your records. As of 2009, there are two USCIS centers in the US that process visa extension requests. Your center is determined by the state where you’re temporarily residing. Check www.uscis.gov to learn which center you should use. Alternately, you may e-file your application and mail supporting documents to the address on your e-file receipt.

Keep the I-539 application receipt sent to you by USCIS, and put it in your passport. This receipt will take the place of your I-94, and it will remain valid until your application is approved or denied even if the date on the I-94 expires while you’re waiting. You should hear from USCIS within 60 days. They will send you a new I-94 if your application is approved. If your application is denied, you must leave the US before the date indicated by USCIS.

Tips & Warnings

  • Check www.uscis.gov for any new changes to rules, fees, or service centers. Do not apply for an extension of your tourist visa if you are also applying for an immigration visa. Go to www.uscis.gov for more information about immigrant visas. Avoid websites and services that claim they can get your tourist visa extended. These usually just charge a fee to file the application for you, and they can't necessarily increase your chances for approval. The only fee you should pay is the $300 application fee to the US Department of Homeland Security.
  • Do not overstay your tourist visa or apply for an extension after your I-94 has expired. Overstaying a tourist visa can result in a temporary or permanent ban on future entries into the US.

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