Extension of Stay & Change of Status

Extension of Stay & Change of Status

Life rarely goes according to plan, but immigration law does not always take kindly to unexpected change. If you are a nonimmigrant visa holder, you know this all too well. While your visa may have granted you a few months or years of legal status in the U.S., you may not be ready to leave when your visa’s expiration date approaches. Alternatively, you may wish to pursue a different activity than what your original visa allowed.

If you acquired a nonimmigrant visa, a wide variety of circumstances could cause you to consider changing or extending your status. Every visa is unique, however, and knowing your options may be the most difficult component of this process. At The Gaston Law Firm, P.A., we are proud to serve clients as a solution-oriented firm, helping both immigrants and nonimmigrants solve unexpected problems and maintain the status they need.

If you’re looking to extend your stay or change your status in South Florida, call our attorneys at (888) 388-6859 today.

How to Extend Your Stay

If you need to extend your stay in the U.S. but you are not changing the purpose of your stay, you will need to file Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. The filing fee for this application is currently $370, plus an $85 biometrics fee.

Filing this form before your visa expires is critical because you may be deported or barred from reentry if you stay in the U.S. unlawfully. USCIS recommends requesting an extension at least 45 days before your visa expires.

You may be eligible for an extension of your stay if:

  • You entered the U.S. with a valid nonimmigrant visa
  • Your nonimmigrant status has not yet expired
  • Your passport will remain valid for the length of your stay
  • You have not violated your visa terms or committed any disqualifying crimes

Unfortunately, not all nonimmigrant visa holders can apply for an extension. You cannot apply for an extension if you entered the U.S.:

  • Through the Visa Waiver Program
  • As a crew member with a D nonimmigrant visa
  • In transit with a C nonimmigrant visa
  • In transit without a visa
  • As a U.S. citizen’s fiancé with a K nonimmigrant visa
  • As an informant on terrorism/organized crime with an S nonimmigrant visa

How to Change Your Status

Changing your status is similar to extending your stay, in that you must file the form while your current visa is still valid. The general qualifications and exceptions are also the same. Visit USCIS’s website for a complete list of exceptions.

USCIS urges visa holders to adjust their activities only when their change of status has been approved. For example, a person on a tourist visa should not begin college classes until they have officially changed their status to student.

The form you use to change your status depends on the type of status you would like to acquire. If you are changing your status to an employment-based category, your prospective employer will need to file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker.

These employment-based categories include the following visas:

  • E-1, E-2, and E-3
  • H-1B, H-2A, H-2B, and H-3
  • L-1A and L-1B
  • O-1 and O-2
  • P-1, P-2, and P-3
  • Q-1
  • R-1
  • TN-1 and TN-2

Other Visa Categories

For all other visa categories (barring the previously listed exceptions), you will use the same form as you would to extend your stay: Form I-539. You will also need this form for your dependents, even if you are changing your status to an employment-based category. In this case, you will need to file both I-129 and I-539.

A Note About the Public Charge Rule

If you are changing or extending your status, you may be subject to the public charge grounds of inadmissibility. If the adjudicating officer believes you are or could become a public charge (i.e. someone who relies on government benefits), they are authorized to deny your application. If you need more information about this rule, please do not hesitate to reach out to us with questions.

Let Us Help You Accomplish Your Immigration Goals

Plans change, and we are here to help you handle new circumstances as efficiently as possible. We can help you assess your options, select the appropriate path, and apply for the status or extension you need. With our guidance, you can rest assured your application has everything it needs for the highest possible likelihood of success.

Call (888) 388-6859 or reach out to us online today. We assist clients in St. Lucie County, Martin County, and the surrounding areas.