Our office has been getting a lot of calls from people who are currently in the U.S. on a non-immigrant visa and whose statuses are about to expire. With so much uncertainty about traveling during the COVID-19 (CoronaVirus) pandemic, they want to know what options they have to stay in the U.S. This post will discuss two common ways to stay in the U.S. beyond the duration of your current non-immigrant status: 1) Extension of Status; and 2) Change of Status.
Extension of Status
Extension of status is exactly what it sounds like. It is a request to USCIS to extend your current non-immigrant status. For example, Nina has been in the U.S. on a B-2 visitor visa for the past five months, and her I-94 record indicated that she is permitted to stay for six months. This means that she will go out of status in one month. Nina can submit an application to extend her B-2 status to USCIS. So long as it is received by USCIS prior to the expiration of her current status, she will be permitted to stay without accruing unlawful status until USCIS makes a decision. If her application is approved, her B-2 status will be extended to the date requested – or another date as determined by the USCIS officer. Note that Nina will lose her status if she leaves at any time while the application is pending, or after it is approved.
Change of Status
Change of status is similar to extension of status. However, instead of extending your current non-immigrant status, you are requesting to change to another status. For example, Charlie is currently in the U.S. in H-1B status which does not expire for another year. However, Charlie’s company is going through financial difficulty and he is laid off – causing him to go out of status. He has a grace period to either depart the U.S. or to change to another status. Instead of returning home, he decides to enroll in a Master’s Degree program at a local university. If he is accepted, he can apply for a change of status from H-1B to F-1 student with USCIS.