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Question: I entered the United States on a Visitor Visa. I have been here for about 4 months and my status will expire in another two months. Can I simply extend my status without going back to my home country?

 Answer: Prior to September 11, 2001, it would not have been a problem. These types of extensions were quite easy and were usually approved without any problems. However, after September 11, 2001, new regulations have come out regarding the B1/B2 Visitor Visa. These regulations first were issued to make it clear that persons entering the United States do not automatically get a Visitor Visa for six months. Rather, they could get the Visitor Visa for only a month, or the time required for the stay in the United States. Thus, you might have been able to get a Visitor Visa at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate for six months, but when you entered the United States, the Immigration and Naturalization Service might have only given you a lawful stay of 30 days.

This has had the effect of decreasing the number of people who visit the United States. Realistically, when you are traveling from around the world or some distant country, it was not worth the risk for people to stay only a month (especially if this was a once or twice in lifetime type of vacation.) Also, the uncertainty of being issued a Visitor Visa at the Consulate for a certain period of time, only to have it reduced significantly at the border did not bode well with travelers.

 Now, the Immigration and the Naturalization Service has denied many extensions for Visitor Visas. Additionally, many of the ones that have been granted have been granted for only 15 to 45 days. While some extensions are being granted, a large number of extensions are getting what is known as a Request for Evidence. This is a document whereby the Immigration and Naturalization Service does not yet deny the extension, but rather, asks for more information before making a decision. Some Requests for Evidence are intensive consisting of many pages. In some cases, by time you get the response to the Request for Evidence, either the extension is denied, or it was approved for a very small time which has already passed.

 Question: What happens if the denial comes, or if your status is extended, but by time you get the approval notice, the approval date has already passed?

Answer: You will most likely be out of status. If this occurs, then you will not be able to change your status or adjust your status in the United States. You will have to leave the United States and go back to your home country in order to reapply for the Visitor Visa. Once they see that you have been out of status, it will be very difficult to get the Visitor Visa. Additionally, the Consulate or Embassy officers will see that you have just come back from the United States and may not believe you are intending on returning to your home country. Finally, depending on how long it has been since you were out of status, you might be barred from coming back into the United States for the next 10 years.

Question: Is there any other way to remain in the United States without having to go back to my home country?

Answer: Yes. Rather than an extension of your status, you would apply for a change of status to some other type of status. You can obtain a Student change of status. This will allow you after it is approved to go to a designated school. Alternatively, there are a myriad of different types of work visas to allow you to work legally and remain in the country. At this point, I would not recommend doing the extension of the Visitor Visa. Rather, I would recommend that you change your status to some other type of status such as student, exchange or work status.

Home » Immigration Updates » Immigration Article: To Extend or Not to Extend?

Immigration Article: To Extend or Not to Extend?