- Reasons for obtaining a B-1 visa
- Reasons for obtaining a B-2 visa
- What are the B1 and B2 visa time limits?
- What are the basic factors for extending your B1 or B2 visa status? Using Form I-539
- What are the basic factors for changing your B1 or B2 visa status?
- How do you file for an extension or change of nonimmigrant status?
- What types of evidence can help with your B1/B2 extension request?
- What types of evidence can help with your B1/B2 change request?
- Additional considerations
- What is Form I-94?
- When you cannot extend your stay?
Many people who have either a B1 visa or a B2 visa may want to extend those visas. People with other types of visas may seek to change their status to a B1 visa or a B-2 visa. These extensions and status changes are becoming even more desirable and even necessary to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reasons for obtaining a B-1 visa
A B-1 Temporary Business Visitor, according to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, is the legal document/right to participate in “business activities of a commercial or professional nature in the United States, including, but not limited to the following:
- Consulting with business associates
- Traveling for a scientific, educational, professional or business convention, or a conference on specific dates
- Settling an estate
- Negotiating a contract
- Participating in short-term training
- Transiting through the United States: certain persons may transit the United States with a B-1 visa
- Deadheading: certain air crewmen may enter the United States as deadhead crew with a B-1 visa
Reasons for obtaining a B-2 visa
A B-2, according to Visa Guide World, is necessary for people who just want to visit the United States for purposes of tourism (seeing the sights), educational, or for medical treatments. Some of the approved activities that can be done in America with a B-2 visa include:
- Having a US vacation
- Touring the various American cities
- Spending time with family and friends
- Participating in different types of organizational or social activities
- Obtaining medical treatment from American hospitals or physicians
- Participating in amateur sports or musical activities or contests
- Enrolling ins courses of study which will not result in credit – such as a cooking class
One major difference between B2 visas and other types of visas is that there is no cap on the number that can be distributed in any year. If you qualify and meet the formal requirements, then you or someone you are helping can obtain a B2 visa.
Some foreign countries are denying reentry by people coming from America. Just flying on long trips is scary and dangerous. Some people have student visas (or work visas), which are expiring, and they can’t stay, but don’t want to leave right away. They can submit a change of status application to B1/B2.
What are the B1 and B2 visa time limits?
Both B1 and B2 visas are non-immigrant visas which means the holders of these visas can only stay in the United States for a short time. Generally, according to Avvo, a visa sticker is placed on your passport by the US embassy. The date of the sticker indicates how much time (for example up to 5 years) you have to use the visa.
Once you arrive at an airport (or other port of entry), the immigration officer will review your passport and visa to determine if you can enter America. If entry is approved, you will be given an entry stamp (also called an I-94 stamp) which shows the entry date, your immigration status, and when you must leave (the expiration date). Generally, B1 and B2 visas permit the holder to stay in American between six months and one year.
If your passport doesn’t have an entry stamp, you need to go to the Customs and Border Protection website and “click on “Get Most Recent I-94,” and follow through with the prompts.
What are the basic factors for extending your B1 or B2 visa status? Using Form I-539
The basic way to extend your B1/B2 visitor visa is by filing Form I-539.
Some of the key Form I-539 requirements include:
- Filing the I-539 form BEFORE your status expires. It’s generally advisable to consult with an experienced immigration lawyer who understands the I-539 filing requirements. B1 and B2 visa holders should seek help or file the I-539 form at least 45 days before their current visa expiration date.
- Filers need to explain why they need the extension. The more detailed the explanation is, the better.
- Holders of visitor visas should provide clear information about how they will cover their daily expenses during the extension period such as meals and lodgings.
- Filers must show they’ve “already made some arrangements to depart from the U.S. on or before the new extension date”. Examples include confirmation of airline ticket purchases and arrangements with the employer in your home country
- B1 and B2 visa holders must also explain why the continued American stay wouldn’t negatively impact their home country’s employment status. For example, a letter from your employer confirming permission to stay can help.
- Pay the filing fee which is about $370
According to Nova Credit, some additional information to keep in mind when completing Form I-539 is:
- If the question doesn’t apply to you – you can write “N/A”
- If the question requires a numerical answer, none may be an acceptable reply
- Use must sign Form I-539 (if you’re not using an online form) with black ink. “Typewritten or stamped signatures typically aren’t accepted. Applicants under the age of 14 may have their parent or legal guardian sign on their behalf.”
- A biometric services appointment may be required. This appointment requires that you be fingerprinted, photographed, and provide your signature – to confirm your identity
- Supporting documents should be readable photocopies – unless the USCIS asks for originals.
- “If any information is written in a language other than English, you must include a certified English translation to confirm that the translation is complete and accurate.”
In some cases, you may be able to file the Form I-539 extension request after your B1/B2 visa expiration date if you can verify:
- There are extraordinary circumstances that couldn’t be helped – such as the need to be hospitalized to treat severe injuries or a sudden illness.
- The length of the delay must match the reason. If you were in the hospital just a few days, you can’t wait months to ask for the extension.
- You must verify that you are not “in removal proceedings.”
- You must “explain that you did not violate your nonimmigrant status (e.g., by engaging in unauthorized employment).”
Generally, it’s never wise to wait until your visa has expired to apply for an extension. US consular officers will look with skepticism on any overdue extension request.
What are the basic factors for changing your B1 or B2 visa status?
In addition to seeking an extension, Form I-539 can be used to change your status. Either you (or in some cases, your employer) can request the extension.
According to the USCIS, the eligibility requirements to change your nonimmigrant status are as follows:
- You must currently be in American with a non-immigrant visa
- Your nonimmigrant status must stay valid
- You can’t violate any conditions of your status
- You can’t commit any crimes that would make you ineligible
You should be able to see your current authorized status and your expiration date “in the lower right corner of your Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record.” Your right to file for a status change and how you file for a status change depends on your current nonimmigrant status
How do you file for an extension or change of nonimmigrant status?
Again, the best course of action is to speak with a skilled immigration lawyer. He’ll explain your rights, your options, and guide you through the stage of the change or extension process.
You can create a USCIS online account to file online and:
- Submit evidence and pay fees electronically
- Receive notices from us electronically
- Receive case status updates about your case and see complete case history
- Communicate with us securely and directly; and
- Respond to requests for evidence.
You can file by paper. You’ll need to:
- Follow the instructions –
- Fill out and sing the I-539 form
- Pay the fees for filing and, if applicable, the biometric fees
- Provide the necessary evidence and supporting documents
The USCIS has absolute discretion on whether they allow you to extend or change your nonimmigrant status. So, the more evidence you have and the more the reasons for the request are related to strong B1 or B2 purposes, the better. One bit of good news is that generally, the filing of the completed I-539 request extends your stay while the decision on its merits is pending???
If your request to change or extend your status is denied, then you will need to immediately leave the United States. From your home country, you can explore your future visa options. If you stay in the US for 180 days or more beyond your B1/B2 expiration date, you may be barred from applying for new immigration or visa status for many years.
What types of evidence can help with your B1/B2 extension request?
Some of the types of explanations, which you’ll need to document, that can help persuade the consular officers to grant an extension include:
- Medical documentation. This is becoming increasingly important during the pandemic. If you contract the disease, then there are specific medical protocols that you must follow. You may even be forced to be quarantined. If you have COVID-19, you may be barred from traveling. It helps to have the documentation (laws, regulations, orders, etc.) that confirm that you’re not allowed to fly or travel.
- Letters from relatives if the relatives have special medical needs and you’re uniquely able to provide them assistance if you stay.
- Bank accounts and pay stubs showing you can support yourself during the extended stay
- “A letter from your foreign employer stating that he or she is aware of your extended absence and that you will retain your position once you return.”
Some of the key factors to consider are:
- You should file your Form I-539 online because many of the physical USCIS physical branches, according to Stilt (an immigration financial service company) may be temporarily closed
- You must attach a statement/ letter explaining the reasons for the extension. An example would be that your home country has closed its borders due to COVID-19 – which means you cannot return to your home country until the restrictions are lifted.
- You should consider the timing of when you book tickets for your return. The tickets should help convince USCIS of your intent to return – but the tickets should be for a time when lockdown from your home country is likely to be lifted.
- The application filing fee is $370. The biometric fee is $85.
What types of evidence can help with your B1/B2 change request?
If you are seeking to change your status to a B1 or B2 visa, you must do more than submit Form I-539. You must show you meet the eligibility requirements for B1 or B2 visa approval. You’ll need to submit documentation to show that you are eligible.
You generally cannot request a change in your nonimmigrant visa to a B1 or B2 if you entered America through the Visa Wavier Program (VWP). A VWP stay also cannot be extended unless there is an emergency, you’ll need to contact the USCIS Contact Center for help in granting you some additional time – normally, 30 days or less.
Travelers must have a valid ESTA approval and must meet certain requirements prior to travel.
If you do apply for a visa extension or change through Form I-539 – and your request is denied, your visa may become void which will require you to leave immediately – even if the date on your I-94 hasn’t yet passed.
What is Form I-94?
According to the USCIS, Form I-94 is essentially your Arrival/Departure Record
DHS issues Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, to aliens who are:
- Admitted to the US.
- Adjusting status while in the U.S or
- Extending their stay.
The CBP officer attaches Form I-94 to the nonimmigrant visitor’s passport upon entry to the U.S.
When you cannot extend your stay?
Generally, foreigners in the US cannot extend their stay (some exceptions may apply) if they entered American in one of the following categories:
- Visa Waiver Program
- Crew member (D nonimmigrant visa)
- In transit through the United States (C nonimmigrant visa)
- In transit through the United States without a visa (TWOV)
- Fiancé of a U.S. citizen or dependent of a fiancé (K nonimmigrant visa)
- Informant (and accompanying family) on terrorism or organized crime (S nonimmigrant visa)
The Herman Legal Group has the experience and skills to help you and your loved ones with all aspects of immigration law and entry into the United States including B1 and B2 visas. We’ll explain your rights and options. We’ll guide you through the application process and represent you at any interviews or hearings that may be required. We have offices in multiple locations including Ohio and New York. For help with any immigration issues regarding an extension or change of your B-1 or B-2 visa, call Herman Legal Group at 1 (800) 808-4013 or complete our contact form to speak with us.