Your visa is about to expire - and one or more of the international borders between you and your country are closed. With closed international borders around the world, how can one fulfill immigration requirements?
An application for a visa extension is a possible solution. Under United States law, immigration officials have discretion to approve extensions of tourist visas, student visas, and other temporary visas. Because COVID-19 is recognized as a national emergency and global pandemic, it is possible that immigration officials will recognize closed borders as a valid reason to approve an extension if a person cannot return to his or her country. However, if your visa extension application is denied, you will have to leave the country.
For that reason, if you decide to apply for an extension, it would be good to include evidence in your application of your intention to return to your country at the end of the extended time. For example, you could include airline tickets for an original canceled flight or for a future departure date, news items showing that an international border has been temporarily closed, and/or letters from an employer or school with a date when you have to be back in your country. Evidence of assets, such as a home, property, and belongings in your home country may also help.
Requests for visa extensions must be submitted before the date by which you had to leave the country originally. This date is generally found on the form I-94, and is not the expiration date of your visa. When extraordinary circumstances exist outside of the applicant's control, an extension petition can still be considered by immigration after this date unless the applicant has violated the terms of his or her status (for example by working without permission), or is in deportation proceedings. Being in the hospital or the death or serious illness of an immediate family member generally constitute extraordinary circumstances under immigration law.
Visa extension applications may be made online or by completing Form I-539 and mailing it with evidence to USCIS. The online application, or form and instructions can be found on this government website. The price to submit the application is $370 for most applicants. The application has to be completed in English.
If you are a tourist from Chile or another non-Latin American country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program with the US, the process may be different. You should consult an attorney.
*** THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THIS BLOG PUBLICATION IS ACCURATE AS OF APRIL 1, 2020. THERE MAY HAVE BEEN CHANGES SINCE THE TIME OF PUBLICATION.***