28

My wife and I are Indian citizens with valid USA B2 visas. We came to visit our children on December 8, 2019. Our authorised stay ends on June 8, 2020. We have planned to return on June 3, 2020. We have valid return tickets.

Now, due to the COVID-19 lockdown, we are not sure if we will be able to fly as planned.

So, we are considering applying for an extension of stay by applying for an I-539 visa extension. When is the best time to apply? I mean, should we apply now, or wait for some more time to pass to see if the lockdown is relaxed and we can fly as planned?

Another problem is that my Indian passport expires on July 21, 2020.

Can anyone suggest the best course of action for us please?

  • I forgot to say that our USA visa is valid till June 2027. Do we have to still apply I-539 for extension of say? Kindly comment please. – user18846 May 7 at 21:48
46

I would recommend you file for an extension as soon as you are sure you are not likely to be able to leave on time. All things considered, this will probably be early May.

Here is the current situation:

  • India has suspended all commercial flights in and out of the country through 3 May 2020. By 4 May at the latest, there should be a new announcement, and you should know if the suspension remains in place or has been lifted. If the suspension gets extended into June, your flight will almost certainly be cancelled.
  • In normal circumstances, your I-539 extension of stay must be filed and receipt acknowledged by USCIS before your I-94 authorized stay ends. Given the coronavirus, they are giving some flexibility for late submissions, but it's still a good idea to file early. It is currently taking several months to process these applications. You can remain in the US until your application is processed and you receive the decision, but if it is refused you must leave immediately.
  • Repatriation flights are still flying, in both directions. You can contact the Indian embassy to find out if a repatriation flight is available and what the requirements are.

With regard to your passport:

  • The Indian embassy in Washington has suspended passport services except for emergencies. Because it is more difficult to renew an Indian passport outside India after it has expired, you should contact the embassy as soon as possible regarding a possible passport renewal. Don't follow the normal passport instructions on the website unless instructed by the embassy as that process has been suspended.
  • You can use the existing passport to return to India all the way up to 23:59 on its expiry date. But if you are not able to get a new passport and you are stuck in the US after your passport expiration, the embassy can still issue an emergency travel document to allow your return to India after flights eventually resume.
| improve this answer | |
18

Michael's answer is very thorough, but I wanted to pop this up top:

If you want to go home now, contact your government about a repatriation flight. Governments are working hard to get citizens home.

Otherwise I would file that I-539 extension absolutely as soon as possible, and state the reason as fear of ability to get a flight home due to the virus, and a wish to keep your immigration record in good standing. The reason is the backlog of these requests.

I don't know how immigration law will treat this. My dealings with regular law is that courts seem to be treating the crisis as a tolling (stopping of the clock) on matters that have a time limit. I would hope that in the future, immigration officials will likewise "stop the clock" on evaluating overstays.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    If you can stay in the country while the extension is being processed, then why is it better to file it ASAP? Wouldn't it be better to wait and hope it takes them longer to process it than it does for you to get home? – Kat Apr 23 at 15:48
  • 8
    @Kat The root of a very good defense in court is: "Your honor, I filed for an extension as soon as I became aware that my flight might be cancelled. It was not my intent to overstay my travel visa. My country and your country were effectively closed for non-emergency travel. As soon as travel restrictions are eased, I intend to return home expeditiously. Clearly I am not guilty of anything more than a technical violation of the law." At least I would prefer starting that way to "I hoped it would take them longer to find me." – Elliott Frisch Apr 23 at 16:59
  • 2
    @Kat And it improves your case even further if the extension has been apprvoed. Given the backlog, the sooner you apply, the sooner you're approved. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Apr 23 at 18:23
  • 1
    @emory That depends entirely on how long it takes for the travel restrictions to ease. Also, I agree, it's unlikely to end up in court. But it could. And having an pending extension means they didn't overstay. So it's really a case of planning for the worst. But the postmark on the extension application may be the difference between legal and illegal. So wouldn't you say it's worth a stamp? – Elliott Frisch Apr 23 at 22:37
  • 1
    @emory Well USCIS or an executive order can loosen the requirement for a simple visa extension and get the biometrics out of the equation. Anyway, "court" is not where these things go. Far in the future, arriving at JFK airport and hearing "We are refusing you entry today. You will now take the next plane home, at your expense" is the outcome here. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Apr 23 at 22:59

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.