Most persons who enter the United States come as visitors for pleasure or visitors for business. While citizens of visa waiver countries may enter without a visa, most persons must apply for a visa at the US consulate in their country of residence. These persons will complete form DS-156 and submit it with evidence of the person’s close family ties to their own country and evidence to establish the reason for their coming to the US. They should also submit evidence (such as bank statements, ownership of property, etc.) to show that they will return to their country upon the completion of their stay in the United States.
Generally their permission to remain in the United States is limited to periods from a few weeks up to six months. Many times these persons wish to extend their stay. This process, if done correctly, is quite simple and can usually be accomplished at minimal expense. However, if done incorrectly and, if the application is denied by the immigration service, the individual will be forced to leave the United States immediately, and in many instances, the visa on which the person entered the United States is deemed to be void and cannot be used again for reentry.
An application for extension of stay is filed on immigration form I-539. Please read the instructions, attached to the application, carefully to determine if you can file the application, what documents will be needed to establish the need for the extension, and the appropriate filing fee. A cover letter should be attached to the application explaining to the immigration service, in greater detail than the form itself, the exact reason why you need or desire the extension. You must also attach the original of your form I-94.
Applications for extension of stay are filed with the immigration service center that has jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of residence in the United States. A complete list of service centers is included on our web site.
Note: Whenever you mail any forms or documents to the immigration service, you should always do so by certified mail-return receipt requested, or by some form of express mail for which you can obtain proof of receipt. This is very important in the event immigration loses your application. In that event, immigration can process your application if you submit your proof of receipt, with evidence of payment, and a copy of the filed application and you will not be considered out of status in the United States.
If you also wish to extend the stay of your spouse and/or child(ren), you would also attach Supplement 1 to form I-539, together with the appropriate fee, and the original of their form(s) I-94.
An application for extension of stay may take several months to adjudicate. Immigration regulations provide that an applicant is considered in status during the pendency of the application, provided that the application was timely filed and is not frivolous in nature.
Once the application is approved, the I-94 of the aliena (and of any accompanying spouse and children) is returned, amended to show the extension of stay granted. The alien will present this form when he or she departs the United States. The alien should make a copy for his or her records in order to establish their lawful presence in the United States should they be questioned at any time in the future.
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