The B1 and B2 visas are temporary, non-immigrant visas. The B1 visa covers business trips to the United States, for however long they might last (but generally less than or up to a 6 month period), and the B2 visa is a more general tourist visa issued to those who are vacationing in the United States. These two visas do not confer legal permanent residence in the United States, although it has been the case that such a visa holder would be able to apply for an adjustment of status if they eventually married within the U.S., or if they were offered a job opportunity through an immigrant visa.
In addition, both visa types are multiple entry/exit visas, usually valid for a 10 year period. However, the validity period of these visas is not the same as the amount of time granted during one stay. Usually, the period of stay granted per entry is no longer than 6 months.
Currently, there have been some problems with travellers that will need to remain in the United States due to the Covid-19 situation in their home country, or because of the difficulty with international travel, closed borders, or enhanced screening that makes it difficult to travel right now and purchase expensive international airfare. As such, many B1/B2 visa holders are wondering what to do and running out of time with their current period of authorized stay in the U.S.
As such, this blog will be dedicated to understanding how to apply for an EOS—Extension of Stay, with the right supporting documents attached, if you are currently on a visitor visa.
Download the I-539 Form
First off, if you are looking to remain in the U.S. for an additional month or two, it is a good idea to apply for an extension of stay versus simply remaining in the U.S. on an expired visa. If you choose the latter, it could affect future immigration benefits you are seeking, and you will have a record of some type of violation that will make it difficult to apply for a green card or any other USCIS application in the future. Therefore, it is best to file for an EOS if you have family in the U.S. or have some attachment to the country.
The way that any visitor visa holder will file for an EOS is by downloading the I-539 Extension of Stay application. Please note that this application is also for changing to a different non-immigrant status, but only if you are eligible to do so.
Attach Supporting Documents
The key in filing a successful I-539 application is to have the right supporting documents so you can show the USCIS that you are requesting an EOS for a legitimate reason. As with most immigration procedures, the more evidence prepared, the better. Besides filling out the application and signing your name at the bottom, you should also be able to provide the following documentation with your application package:
1. Proof of financial support. The USCIS needs to know that if they grant you an extension of stay you will be able to afford the additional time you’ll be spending in the U.S. If your staying with a friend/relative, mention this so the USCIS knows you aren’t paying for rent/accommodation.
2. Printed I-94. Visit the CBP website and fill in the appropriate personal information to receive your I-94. Available here: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home
3. Passport copies for validity purposes.
4. Written letter. The last step of wanting to extend your stay in the U.S. if you are on a B1/B2 visa is to write a comprehensive letter to the USCIS in your I-539 application. The letter should include:
- The specific reason you will need to remain in the U.S.
- Why the extension will be temporary with plans to leave the U.S. eventually
- An explanation of the assets/family members in your home country that you will need to return to once your extension is set to expire
Finally, if you’ve had to postpone your return tickets home, and this is the reason you are applying for an EOS, be sure to attach your tickets (with confirmation booking) to your I-539 application. This will create a clear case to the USCIS that your extension is temporary, and therefore easier to adjudicate.