If you’re in the United States on a nonimmigrant visa and you need to stay past your visa’s expiration date, you can apply for an extension using Form I-539: Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. To use Form I-539, you must meet certain eligibility requirements, return the completed form to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and pay a $370 filing fee plus $85 for biometrics. This article explains how to fill out Form I-539 and who is eligible to use it to extend their stay in the United States.
Written by Jonathan Petts.
Updated June 20, 2022
What Is Form I-539?
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), an agency of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is responsible for processing Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. Certain nonimmigrant visa holders, including temporary visitors, who want to change their visa status or extend their visa length will need to use Form I-539. Applicants may use Form I-539 to prolong their stay under their current nonimmigrant visa temporarily.
Applicants requesting to change their status may only change to other nonimmigrant visa statuses. Applicants can usually also list their dependents (spouse or children) as co-applicants on the same Form I-539 to extend or change their family statuses. If you have a qualifying familial connection to U.S. citizens or green card holders and want to stay permanently, you may instead wish to apply for permanent residency. If this is the case, you can file Form I-485 to initiate the green card application process.
Who Is Eligible To File Form I-539 for an Extension of Stay?
You are eligible to file Form I-539 if you hold one of the following visa statuses:
A visa (career diplomats and their immediate relatives)
A-3 visa (attendants, employees, or immediate relatives of A-visa holders)
B visa (foreign nationals visiting for business or tourism)
CW-1 dependents (temporarily hired nonimmigrant workers)
E visa (treaty traders, investors, and their dependents)
G visa (foreign government representatives and their immediate family members)
G-5 visa (attendants, employees, or immediate relatives of foreign government representatives)
H-4 visa (dependents of temporary specialty workers)
K-3 visa (fiancé(e) or minor child of a U.S. citizen)
K-4 visa (dependents of U.S. citizens, including spouses and minor children)
L visa (spouse or children dependents of intracompany dependents)
M visa (vocational students and their spouse or children dependents)
N visa (parents or children of certain special immigrants)
NATO-7 visa (attendants, employees, and immediate relatives of NATO representatives)
O-3 visa (spouse and minor children dependents of individuals with extraordinary abilities)
P-4 visa (spouse and minor children dependents of athletes and entertainers)
R-2 visa (spouse and minor children dependents of religious workers)
TD visa (spouse and minor children dependents of TN visa holders)
T visa (trafficking victims and their spouse or minor children dependents)
U visa (crime victims and their spouse or minor children dependents)
V visa (spouse or minor children dependents of certain green card holders)
Your eligibility depends on whether you have violated the terms of your current visa. As long as you have not violated the terms of your qualifying visa status, you may file Form I-539. Common visa term violations include unauthorized work or criminal convictions. If you fail to apply for an extension to your Form I-94, Arrival/Departures Travel Record, you may also risk your eligibility to remain in the United States.
Who Isn’t Eligible To File Form I-539 for an Extension of Stay?
Certain nonimmigrant visa holders aren’t eligible to use Form I-539 to extend their stay or adjust their status. Those with the following visas are not eligible:
C visa (“alien in transit”)
D visa (crewman)
K-1 and K-2 visa (fiancé(e) or dependents of fiancé(e))
K-3 and K-4 visa (certain spouses of U.S. citizens, along with their dependent children)
S visa (witnesses and informants)
TWOV visa (transit without a visa)
WT and WB visa (individuals entering under the Visa Waiver Program)
Foreign nationals under the following visa categories face certain restrictions on requesting a change in status:
J-1 visa (exchange visitors)
M-1 visa (vocational students)
Timeline for Filing Form I-539
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recommends that applicants file Form I-539 at least 45 days before their current stay expires and/or as soon as they realize the need to extend or change their visa status. Sometimes, if USCIS has approved you for another visa, you’ll need to file Form I-539 to extend your original visa stay if there is a gap between your original and new visa periods.
If you don’t file Form I-539 before your visa’s expiration date, USCIS may make some exceptions to this timeline if:
You faced extraordinary circumstances preventing you from filing on time.
The lateness of your application is reasonable.
You haven’t violated any of your visa status conditions.
You have shown that you are a nonimmigrant with no intentions of remaining permanently in the United States.
You are not part of any U.S. removal proceedings.
Guide To Completing Form I-539
Form I-539 has four main sections. The form asks questions regarding your biographical information, application type, processing information, and additional information about you and your application. Before beginning this form, you should review the Form I-539 instruction guide published by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Part 1: Information About You
Part 1 asks basic biographical questions about yourself. Question 2 asks whether you have an Alien Registration Number (A-number). A-numbers consist of eight or nine digits.
You will only have an A-number if you have previously been part of a removal proceeding at an immigration court. You should speak with an immigration lawyer before applying for your extension if you have an A-number.
If you have filed any previous petitions or applications online, you should have a USCIS Online Account Number for Question 3. USCIS Online Account Numbers are different from A-numbers.
Question 9 asks for your U.S. Social Security Number (SSN), if applicable. You will likely only have an SSN if your visa status permits you to work in the United States.
Question 11 asks for your Form I-94 Arrival-Departure Record Number. You may find this number on the small white card you received from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the border, or on the I-94 website. If the date on your Form I-94 has passed, your visa status has expired, so you may no longer apply for an extension with Form I-539.
If you entered the United States with your passport, you can write “N/A” in the travel document box for Question 13. If the travel document or passport you used has expired since your arrival, you should write the passport number and expiration date of the passport you used when you first received your Form I-94.
When completing your current nonimmigrant status for Question 15, write in your visa status. You may find the expiration date for Question 15 on your Form I-94. Nonimmigrants in the United States with J visa status should check the box in Question 16, since their Form I-94 may say D/S. If this is the case, you’ll be able to remain in the United States until your study program finishes.
Part 2: Application Type
Part 2 will ask you about your application type. You will note whether you are applying for reinstatement to your student status, an extension of stay in your current status, or a status change. If you have the same or linked visa status with your dependents, you can also include information about them. If you include your spouse or children on this USCIS form, you might need to submit Form I-539A, Supplemental Information for Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status.
Part 3: Processing Information
Part 3 will ask you to input the date you’d prefer to leave the United States. This date must fall within the maximum period USCIS has granted you on your visa status. Question 2.a asks whether you are basing your current application on an extension or change of status already given to your spouse, child, or parent. If so, answer “yes.”
In Part 3, you may indicate whether you have dependents you would like to include in your application. If you do wish to include your dependents in your visa extension, be sure to answer Question 3.a with “yes, filed with this Form I-539.” If you want to include your dependents on your Form I-539 and USCIS has not yet decided on their application(s), you should answer “yes, filed previously and pending with the USCIS” for Question 3.a.
Part 4: Additional Information About the Applicant
Part 4 assesses your passport, visa, immigrant petition, and inadmissibility status details. The first questions of Part 4 ask you to input information such as your passport country, expiration date, and number. You’ll need to complete this section even if your passport expires. If your passport’s expiration date is during the extension period, you may renew it at a U.S.-based consulate of your home country. Your passport should typically be valid for at least six months before leaving the U.S.
If your application references past applications for an immigrant visa, USCIS may be alarmed. Immigrant visa applications signal that you are interested in remaining in the United States as an immigrant. Since USCIS is deciding on an extension on your nonimmigrant visa status, they may reject your extension because they suspect you don’t intend on eventually returning to your home country. Filing an immigrant petition is the first step toward applying for U.S. permanent residence. When USCIS suspects you intend to reside in the United States permanently, they likely won’t approve extensions of your nonimmigrant status.
Later questions determine whether you’re inadmissible to the United States. Inadmissibility happens when you have committed certain crimes or violated U.S. immigration laws. USCIS will use your answers from questions six to 15 to determine whether you are inadmissible or not. If you have any criminal history, submit a copy of the police report explaining the circumstances. If you’ve committed more serious crimes, you should seek help from an immigration attorney before applying for an extension.
Visa violations, such as overstaying your visa, working without a proper employment authorization document (EAD), and misrepresenting your intended length of stay can jeopardize your extension application.
What Supporting Documents Are Needed?
You’ll need to provide several supporting documents as part of your Form I-539 application, including:
Your printed Form I-94, which shows your complete travel record
Copies of your passport pages (including any blank pages)
Proof that you have enough financial support to cover your expenses in the U.S. for an extended stay
A letter explaining your reason for extending your stay, why you can prove that your stay is temporary, and the impact your extended stay has on your foreign employment or residency options
Note that your passport must be valid for the entire duration of your stay in the U.S.
Form I-539 Filing Information
Form I-539 incurs a filing fee of $370. You must also pay a biometric fee of $85 for yourself and another $85 for each additional co-applicant. In total, your filing and biometric fee costs will be at least $455. You’ll be able to pay with a check, money order, or cashier’s check. If you pay with a check, make the check out to the US Department of Homeland Security. If you’re filing at a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Lockbox facility, you may also pay by credit card using Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions.
If your extension application is unsuccessful, you’ll still need to pay these fees. Even if you withdraw your application before USCIS makes a decision, you won’t be able to get a refund on your filing fees.
Applicants who currently hold one of the following visas will not incur a biometric services fee or filing fee for extension and change of status applications:
A-1, A-2, and A-3 visa
G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, and G-5 visa
NATO-1, NATO-2, NATO-3, NATO-4, NATO-5, and NATO-6 visa
Applicants changing into or extending the following visas aren’t required to submit the biometric services fee:
E-1, E-2, E-2C, E-3, and E-3D visa
How to Submit Your Form I-539
Most applicants mail their Form I-539 to the appropriate USCIS filing address. Be sure to use the correct USCIS mailing address to ensure that they receive your completed application. If you send your application in by mail, be sure that your application contains a copy of each required document and a copy of your proof of payment.
If you don’t have co-applicants, you can also choose to submit the form online. To do so, you must have one of the following visa statuses:
B-1 temporary business visitor
B-2 temporary tourist visitor
M-1 vocational student
M-2 spouse or child dependent of an M-1 student (but only if the M-2 dependent’s visa expiration date is different from the M-1 student’s visa expiration date)
F-1 academic student
F-2 spouse or child dependent of an F-1 student (but only if the F-2 dependent’s visa expiration date is different from the F-1 student’s visa expiration date)
Nonimmigrant visa holders may experience sudden changes while in the U.S. and need to temporarily extend their stay or adjust their status. Form I-539 allows them to do so. Also, as a nonimmigrant visa holder, if you become an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen or green card holder, you may become eligible to apply for a green card.