If you got unwillingly stuck in the United States because of circumstances caused by COVID-19, and are now afraid that your travel permit will soon expire, or if you’ve already overstayed and your travel permit has expired... there are solutions in place for you that you can do to prevent getting into trouble with the immigration authorities.
In this post I will break them down for you so that you know the procedure you must follow to extend your stay in the country and avoid accumulating illegal presence.
So let’s get you started.
Does the Immigration Authority let me stay past my permit?
If you find yourself in this situation, the first thing you have to know is that you’re not alone.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many tourists stayed in the United States longer than what they had initially planned because the borders were unexpectedly closed, their flights were suspended, and many more other reasons out of their control.
Generally, nonimmigrants must leave the United States before their authorized admission period expires, but the current situation increased the necessity for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to work out solutions and solve the challenges related to immigration as a direct result of the travel restrictions and limitations currently imposed on travel transit.
The measures implemented by the DHS are relatively new, and many tourists do not know of their availability. But the most important aspect of these measures they have implemented is that they provide for ways that allow the extension of your stay beyond your initial authorized period.
How Can I Extend My Stay?
The method you will be able to use to extend your stay, will depend on the travel permit you entered the country with, and whether your permit is soon to expire, or if it has already expired.
A. If you entered the U.S. as a non-immigrant and your visa has not yet expired, then you can:
Request an extension:
Most non-immigrants can mitigate the immigration consequences of COVID-19 by timely filing an application for extension of stay (EOS) or change of status (COS). If you request the extension of your residence permit in time, you will not accumulate illegal presence while the application is in process.
How can I request this extension?
You have to:
- Fill out the online form I-539
- Be sure to read and review each of the instructions on form I-539
- Pay $ 370 for the application and $ 85 for biometric fingerprinting
- Send it by certified mail
B. If you entered the U.S. as a non-immigrant but your permit already expired, then you can:
Present an excuse for your delay:
Following this request, the USCIS, in its discretion, may excuse the failure to file on time, on a case by case basis, if it was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond your control, such as those caused by COVID-19.
How can I request this excuse and extension?
- File a request for extension of stay or change of status on Forms I-129 or I-539
- Present credible evidence to support your delayed application and the reasons why you were not able to timely leave the country before your permit expired
- Make sure that the length of your overstay fits according to these circumstances
C. If you entered the U.S. with the Waiver visa program (ESTA), and now your 90 days are running out, you can receive 30 more days of extension for your stay
How can I request this 30 days extension?
For the authorization of this extension, you have to:
- Contact the local USCIS
- Contact the U.S. Custom and Border Protection (CBP), or through the CBP Telephone toll-free within the United States: (877) 227-5511
It is important that you are aware that every case and circumstance is different, and it is possible that your own situation requires a distinct solution. Therefore, please note that this information is general, and it’s given for general purposes only. For specific responses to your specific case, please consult your attorney. If you do not have an attorney, be sure to consult your specific circumstances with an experienced immigration law attorney.