Have you heard back after extending your B2 visitor visa due to the Coronavirus pandemic?
USCIS has issued an alert regarding extensive delays in processing receipt notices for I-539 visitor visa extension applications. Those who had filed for a visa extension citing Covid-19 travel restrictions starting February 1, 2020 could file for an extension without accruing unlawful presence.
Now USCIS is severely backlogged!
B2 Visitor Visa Processing Times
While general case processing delays have gone up by 100%, extension of stay and change of status requests now take anywhere from 4 months to 22 months to process.
Last year, borders were closed, travel restricted and overall people were hesitant to travel internationally once Covid-19 was declared a pandemic. This meant that many international visitors to the U.S. were stuck in the U.S. beyond their visitor visa expiration.
You Can Still File For Visitor Visa Extension
Here’s a Step-by-Step Process To File a B2 Visa Extension
As a result, close to a 100, 000 visitor visa extension and adjustment of status applications were filed in 2020 resulting in massive backlogs. USCIS is now dealing with processing delays due to this surge in petition filings at lockbox facilities.
May 2020 saw a 500% YoY increase in requests for extensions of B2 visitor visa stay resulting in 67,000 Form I-539 requests. There was also a 100% increase in change of status requests from 2019, totaling to 8,000 in May alone.
Flexibility In Filing B2 Visitor Visa Extension
Given the circumstances, USCIS offered the flexibility to apply for an extension or change of status through Form I-539 application. This came with the disclaimer that those who applied for an extension prior to their visitor visa’s expiration date will not accrue unlawful presence. This applied to anyone who had to unexpectedly remain in the U.S. due to the pandemic lockdowns, were stuck due to flight cancellations or border closings both in the U.S. as well as their home country.
If the U.S. visitor is unable to file an extension in a timely manner due to reasons lockdowns, illness, and other circumstances related to remote work, USCIS might excuse delays that are due to extraordinary circumstances beyond the applicant’s control. This will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Things to Remember When Filing A Visitor Visa Extension
- As far as possible, file your extension application 45 days before your stay mentioned in the I-94 expires.
- You can stay in the US for 240 days after the expiry date on your I-94 if you have proof of an I-539 application.
- The 13-digit case number and receipt notice by USCIS acts as proof of an existing I-539 document in process.
- Spouse and unmarried children under 21 years can be included on one Form I-539
- In order to qualify, you should not have violated your visa statusin any way and not be a potential public charge.
Are you applying for a US Visitor Visa extension?
Here’s the eligibility criteria and complete document list
While the above step-by-step process will help you file your visa extension with ease, do not hesitate to contact a legal immigration expert if you need assistance.
The situation in delays and extended processing times continue into 2021. President Biden is not planning on lifting the Covid-19 induced travel restrictions particularly for visitors from Britain, Brazil and almost 12 countries from Europe. Many foreign nationals continue to be stuck in the U.S. and unable to leave the country at the end of the date stipulated on their I-94s.
USCIS is considering the premium processing option for visitor visa extensions but this has not been presented for vote and approval yet.
Travel restrictions continue in countries like India, several international flights are refrained from operating abroad and an increase in Covid cases all around have rendered people stranded in the U.S. The total Covid-19 death toll is 2 million with over 96 million affected cases.