While on a temporary visit to the United States, it is essential to be aware of the terms of your stay. In particular, you should be conscious of your I-94 expiration date. If your I-94 expires before you leave the U.S., you must plan to get an I-94 extension so you don’t break U.S. immigration law. This article explains what the I-94 extension is and how to get one. It also covers what documents are required for an extension and how long it takes for the U.S. government to process your extension request.
Written by Jonathan Petts.
Updated October 10, 2022
What Is an I-94 Extension?
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issues Form I-94Arrival/Departure Record to all aliens entering the United States. Everyone who is not a U.S. citizen needs an I-94, including nonimmigrant visa holders, immigrant visa holders, and most Canadian citizens.
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer will issue your I-94 when you arrive at a port of entry. As of 2013, the CBP officers give electronic forms to those traveling by air or sea. You will get a physical card if you arrive at a land border. Your I-94 will contain a departure date. You must leave the United States by this date or apply for an extension of status. You could face serious trouble if you do not respect the expiry date.
An I-94 extension will increase the duration of your I-94 authorized stay, but it doesn’t change your U.S. visa status.
How To Get an I-94 Extension
First, you need to make sure that you meet the eligibility requirements for extending your I-94. To do so, you must have entered the United States legally and not committed any crimes that could bar you from immigration. You also need a valid visa and a valid passport.
There are several ways to extend your I-94. If you entered the United States through a Canada or Mexicoland border, you could choose to exit and re-enter to get a new I-94. You can also visit a SENTRI Enrollment Center. These centers exist in Arizona, Texas, and California and handle U.S. and Mexico border processes. You can find the closest one to you on the CBP website. Be sure to call ahead and make sure they take I-94 extensions.
You can also complete Form I-539Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status and file it with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You should file this at least 45 days before your I-94 expires. If you currently have a work visa, your employer can complete Form I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker for you. However, if you have family members with you, they must complete Form I-539 for themselves.
What Documents Are Required for an I-94 Extension?
You will need the following supporting documentation for your extension of stay:
Visa statusapproval notices. These notices from USCIS need to show you have a valid visa.
Passports. If applicable, this includes both your old passport and your new passport. You need to include the one with your U.S. visa stamp.
Your I-94 card. You can print out this information from the online system or bring your paper form.
Proof of the address where you reside in the United States. Evidence can include utility bills or rental agreements.
Additional documents depending on your visa category.
If you have an H1B, L1, or other work visa, you must bring three to six recent pay stubs proving your U.S. employment. You will also need an employment verification letter from your employer and a copy of Form I-129 from your employer. H1B workers must also bring the Labor Condition Agreement (LCA) tied to the H1B visa. If you work on an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) with an H4 or L2 visa, you also need to bring your employment letter and three to six recent pay stubs.
What Is the Processing Time for an I-94 Extension?
Usually, the extension will take at least 45 days, depending on how many applications USCIS has to handle. There is no guarantee that USCIS will approve your application, so applying early is important. If your I-94 expires before you hear back from USCIS, do not worry about deportation. If USCIS approves your I-94, the time you were here with an expired I-94 is still legal.
Applying for an I-94 extension can be complicated, but help is available. If you are eligible, our free web app will walk you through the application process and help you prepare and file your application with the U.S. government. If our app isn’t a good fit, we may be able to refer you to an experienced immigration attorney to help. Click "Get Started" to see how we can help make your American dream come true!