By Perry and Alznauer, P.C.
The United States federal government has been implementing continuously-shifting restrictions on entering and leaving the country. USCIS offices have suspended routine in-person services until at least April 1. Restrictions and interruptions have direct impact on business and individual travel for an uncertain number of months.
Foreign nationals on a temporary visitor’s visa face the dilemma of whether/how to leave the U.S., taking health-related risks while travelling, undergoing quarantine and/or facing excruciating travel delays in almost all major airports around the world on their way back to their home countries. There is an alternative to the enormous stress and anxiety of these choices for those visitors who can or want to remain temporarily in the United States – applying for an extension of stay.
Tourist visas have 2 basic classifications – B1 (business visitors) and B2 (pleasure visitors) visas. The B-1 category is granted to those traveling to the U.S. for a temporary period of time to negotiate business contracts, attend business conferences. It can also be used for educational & scientific purposes. The B-2 category is granted to those travelling to the U.S. temporarily for the leisure, tourism or medical treatment. Both categories are nonimmigrant visas that bestow status in the U.S. for a temporary stay and not to permanently work and live in U.S
Tourist status can be extended before the expiration on the form I-94. The form I-94 is a foreign national’s arrival and departure record and is issued at the port of entry upon admission to the United States. The record contains the expiration date of a person’s authorized stay. A person with B1/B2 status can submit an application to extend his/her stay in the U.S. The USCIS must receive the completed application and required documents at the latest by the day an authorized stay expires. The maximum extension being issued by USCIS is typically an additional six months.
An extension requires a foreign national to justify the request for the extension. Response time for an application of extension of stay typically takes several months, during which time the applicant may legally remain in the U.S. If the request for extension of stay is granted, the foreign national may remain in the U.S. and consider additional options. If the request is denied and the I-94 has expired, the foreign national is usually given 30 days to leave the United States starting from the date of the denial letter before more formal enforcement procedures are implemented. Denials may be appealed.
The application, as well as the appeal process for a denial, are complicated even under normal circumstances. The impact on this process of the circumstances involving the COVID-19 coronavirus have exacerbated this complexity. That said, the extension of stay option is one that may provide welcome relief for many foreign nationals. It is highly recommended that you are represented by an experienced immigration attorney who can best guide you through the extension of stay application process.