If you have entered the US on a B-1/B-2 visa, you generally have up to six months to remain in the US. If you wish to stay beyond this point, you will need to file Form I-539 to request permission from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to extend your stay. If your Form I-539 application is approved, your stay in the US will generally be extended by up to six additional months.
When you entered the US, you likely were given Form I-94 at your port of entry. Form I-94 is a white card in your passport, indicating your port of entry, your date of entry, and the date you must leave the US under the terms of your visa. Form I94 is usually placed in your passport by a Customs Border Protection (CBP) Officer. It is important to refer to this document and file Form I-539 well in advance of your requested departure date from the US.
If you have entered the United States on a B-1/B-2 visa or have entered on another visa but have switched to a B-1/B-2 visa, you must prove that you only want to stay in the US temporarily and wish to return to your home country. To be eligible to file Form I-539, you must also show that your primary place of residence is outside the US and that you have enough financial means to support yourself during your extended stay in the United States. The B-1 and B-2 visa does not permit work authorization in the US, so you will need to prove that you can easily support yourself with the money and assets you currently have. To have your Form I-539 application accepted by the USCIS, you must also file before your B-1 or B-2 visa expires and you must file Form I-539 correctly.
To fill out Form I-539, you must first enter the US on a B-1 or B-2 visa or you must switch to this non-immigrant visa from another status. To extend your stay in the US with your B-1 or B-2 status, you must correctly complete Form I-539 and file it and the USCIS must approve your Form I-539 application.
When completing Form I-539 you will be asked why you want to extend your stay in the US. For example, if you have entered the United States on a B-1 or B-2 visa for medical reasons and are now requesting an extension of your stay, you may want to include a note from your physician explaining why additional treatment or observation is necessary. If you have entered the US for business reasons, you may wish to include with your Form I-539 application letters from business colleagues or partners explaining why your current presence in the US is important for business reasons. If you are visiting family or friends or just visiting the US for tourist purposes, you will want to explain on Form I-539 the places you still wish to see and the things you still wish to do in the US that you have not yet had the chance to do.
Unfortunately, the processing time for Form I-539 can be long – up to six months. This means that in some cases, a visitor’s B-1 or B-2 visa will expire before Form I-539 is approved and the stay is extended. If this takes place, the visitor must leave the US and return again. It is important to leave the US if a visa expires, even if you have already filed Form I-539. It is also important to file Form I-539 correctly rather than simply attempt to stay. Failure to do so can affect your future ability to travel to the US.