A visa, which is indicated by a stamp on your passport, allows you to travel to the United States as far as the port of entry and ask the immigration officer to allow you to enter the country. The immigration officer decides how long you can stay for any particular visit.
There are certain procedures you'll need to follow if you want to either extend your stay in the US or revalidate your visa so that you may re-enter the US after a brief trip abroad.
Nonimmigrant visas are for people with permanent residence outside the US but who wish to be temporarily in the US for a specific purpose, such as tourism, medical treatment, business, work or study.
Length of US Stay
When you enter the country as a nonimmigrant, a US immigration inspector examines your passport and visa and gives you the Form I-94 (Arrival-Departure Document). This document tells you when you must leave the US.
Extension of Stay
If you want to extend your stay in the US, you must ask for permission from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before your authorized stay expires. You should file your extension of stay application at least 45 days before your authorized stay expires.
Eligibility for Extension
You may be eligible to extend your stay in the US if all of the following are true:
- You have lawfully entered the US with a nonimmigrant visa
- Your nonimmigrant visa status remains valid
- You have not committed any crime that would make you ineligible for an extension
You must submit your extension of stay application before your current authorized stay expires. You must also keep your passport valid for your entire stay in the US.
You may not apply to extend your stay if you have entered into the US under the following visa categories:
- VWPP - Visa Waiver Pilot Program
- D - As a crewman
- C - As an alien in transit or in transit without a visa
- K - As a fiancé(e) or spouse of a US citizen or dependent of a fiancé or spouse
- S - As an informant on terrorism or organized crime
Late Extension Applications
If you are late filing for an extension and your authorized stay already expired, you must prove:
- The delay was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond your control
- The length of the delay was reasonable
- You have not done anything else to violate your nonimmigrant status
- You are still a nonimmigrant, which means you are not trying to become a permanent resident
- You are not in formal proceedings for your removal from the US
Extensions for Dependents
If your employer files Form I-129 to extend your stay in the US, then your dependents must file Form I-539 and submit any required supporting documents to extend their stays.
If you are filing Form I-539 for your own extension, you may include your dependents in your application if you are all in the same nonimmigrant category. You may also include your spouse or children in your application if they were given derivative nonimmigrant status.
A visa revalidation is the process of renewing a visa without leaving the US. This process is designed to assist individuals with certain statuses who are in the US, but wish to travel outside the US for a short time. When they do this they risk not being able to return to the US after their trip because they lack a visa allowing for their return. This can occur when the expiration date for permission to stay in the US is later than the expiration date of a visa so that an individual has a valid US status but an expired visa.
Benefits of Visa Revalidation
There are two benefits of visa revalidation. First, you may renew your visa without having to face the risk of being denied a visa and prohibited from returning to the US. Second, revalidation is inexpensive compared to other ways of obtaining a visa, such as going to your home country to apply for a visa or applying for a visa through a third country.
Applying for Visa Revalidation
You can apply for visa revalidation through either the US Consulate where you obtained your original visa or through the State Department located in Washington, D.C.
Eligibility for Visa Revalidation
To be eligible for a visa revalidation you must have all of the following:
- Valid status
- A passport that is valid for at least six months
- An original E, H, L, O or P Visa that is valid for 60 days or less; or have an original visa that expired within the past 12 months
Questions for Your Attorney
- How do I know my US visa is still valid?
- What are the benefits of visa revalidation?
- If I qualify for visa revalidation and I submit all documents required for visa revalidation to the State Department, am I guaranteed that my visa will be renewed, and how long does it take?