Can I Extend My Visa Waiver Past 90 days?
Attorney Susan Scheer Discusses Staying Past 90 Days on a Visa Waiver
Very often individuals come to my office, and they come into the country with a visa – sometimes it’s a visitor’s visa, sometimes it’s Visa Waiver, sometimes it’s an F-1 student visa – and one question that I get asked very frequently when someone comes in on the Visa Waiver – in fact just last week someone came into my office; he was from Spain, and he said, “I’m here on the Visa Waiver Program. I’ve been here about 60 days. I really love it here. Now the weather is changing; I want to travel cross-country. Can you help me get an extension of my Visa Waiver period, which is 90 days?” I mostly had bad news to tell him.
The Visa Waiver Program is wonderful; it has its pros and cons. The pro is that somebody doesn’t have to go to a US Embassy and apply for a visa, so it’s quick, it’s not expensive, there’s no chance of getting rejected for a visitor visa, pretty much most people, if you don’t have a criminal record or a prior overstay record can come and go for up to 90 days as long as long as you show the round-trip ticket at the airport and you have sufficient money on you etc. It’s a wonderful program. I believe about 38 programs are enrolled in the Visa Waiver Program. The major plus is you don’t have to go to the Embassy. It’s wonderful.
The major con, which this gentleman is experiencing is that when you come in for 90 days under the Visa Waiver Program, it is not possible to file for an extension. You cannot get more than 90 days, and it is not possible to convert your visa from Visa Waiver to something else. If you had a visitor visa and you wanted to study here or you had a H-1 professional, you could attempt to convert your visa from a B-2 visitor visa to an F-1 student visa or an H-1 professional visa, but not so on the Visa Waiver. Once you come in on the 90-day Visa Waiver visa, you get your 90 days and that’s it. The only exception that I know of is if it happens that down the road you might marry a US citizen, there are ways to interview here in the US for your green card, but that’s a very limited exception, and I sadly have to tell most people that their only option is to leave the country and at some later point in time reenter, if they want to travel here or come for another experience.
Also, if people know in advance that they want to spend more than 90 days here, then they shouldn’t enter on the Visa Waiver. They should go to the US Embassy in their home country and submit proof of what their plan is, whether it’s staying for family holidays or cross-country travel or something like that, and they will apply for a visitor visa at the US Embassy, which is stamped into their passport. When someone enters the US with a visitor visa, then it’s possible to remain here and to get an I-94 authorization to stay here up to six months.
Also, it’s possible sometimes if it happens later that someone wants to convert their visa from visitor visa to something else like student visa, immigration will consider it, but unfortunately in this scenario, immigration does not consider it, and many people erroneously file the I-539 extension of a non-immigrant visa when it’s not possible when you have the Visa Waiver.
Are you on a 90 day visa waiver and looking for options to stay past 90 days? Contact our dedicated Immigration Lawyer in Morristown to learn your options.