B1/B2 visa vs extension of the visitor stay in the US

October 29, 2021 by Joanna Bobel

b1 b2 visa to us

Getting a tourist visa (B1/B2) and getting an extension of your stay in the US are two separate processes that cannot be mixed. Many people think that they can extend their visa in the US, but they cannot. You cannot get/extend a visa in the US. US visas are issued only by the US embassies. In the US you can request the extension of your stay under the current status or change your current status to a different one. 

What is the B1/B2 visa?

B1/B2 is commonly known as a tourist visa that allows you to travel to the US as a visitor for a short period of time and if the trip is connected to pleasure, business trip or medical reason. 

This visa is issued at the US embassy of your home country. You need to attend the visa interview before the visa is granted. You will also need to fill out the DS160 form and make a payment for the application fee – $160.00. Before you attend the interview and while filling DS160 remember to make sure that the documents that you submit and the answers you give during the interview do not suggest that you plan to immigrate to the US or work, as the officer will deny your petition based on the wrong intent. It is also important to be able to prove that you keep ties with your home country (have a lease agreement, employment contract, study, etc).

Extension of your visitor status in the US

Once you entered the US on the B1/B2 visa, you will be normally allowed to stay for 6 months, however, that depends on the US officer at the port of entry, thus it is important to check the I-94 status, as sometimes officers forget to stamp your passport, or they stamp the passport for 2 months for example, where the I-94 indicates that you can stay for 6 months. If that happens it’s best to get back to the local CBP office and ask them to correct the stamp in the passport. In general the I-94 is the primary evidence confirming your legal stay in the US. 

There are situations when you need to extend your stay in the US, and this is absolutely possible if you are still “in status” – it means that the time allowed to stay in the I-94 did not pass.   

visitor visa stay extension

In order to apply for the extension of your stay as a visitor in the US you need to submit the form I-539 together with the supporting evidence. USCIS states that your application should be submitted at least 45 days before your authorized stay expires, however, in practise your petition must be received by the USCIS latest in the last day of your authorized stay. 

Form I-539 is accompanied with a check $370 filing fee and $85 biometrics services fee, together with a number of documents confirming the purpose of your stay in the US. The detailed information about your stay and explanation of why you need to stay longer must be included in your written personal statement and supported by the evidence showing the need for your presence in the US. The very important part of the extension application is to show that you don’t have immigration intent and you will come back to your home country when the time comes. The evidence that USCIS will want to see is your return flight plane ticket, documents showing that you have close family, permanent property, residence, and employment abroad. In addition we need to add evidence confirming that you can support yourself financially during your stay in the US. When you have all these completed, the application for an extension of stay can be submitted, and what is left is waiting for a decision. It is important not to stay longer than the time requested in your application. If the decision did not arrive on time, please ask someone to monitor your incoming mail so that you receive the final decision even if you left the US. 

Change of visitor status to a different one in the US

Depending on the type of status you want to change to, there are eligibility requirements you need to meet and other necessary forms, fees, and evidence you should provide. You also need to remember that an approved change of status application does not grant you a new visa. To get the visa stamp in your passport and be able to reenter the US, you will need to attend the US Embassy or Consulate abroad.

FAQ

  • What is a Non-immigrant Visa?

    A non-immigrant visa is a visa that does not suggest that you plan to immigrate to the US and apply for a permanent residence. IT suggests that you enter the US just temporarily as a visitor or temporary worker or investor.
  • What is Form I-94?

    Form I-94 is the Arrival-Departure Record Card.It allows U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to keep track of the arrival and departure to/from the United States of people who are not United States citizens or lawful permanent residents. Your current I-94 can be checked here.