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The US Visa Procedure - Extending a Visa

A complete guide on how to extend the US VIsa. The US is very understanding and considers extending visas for international students to continue their education and/or training.

Antony Chacko

If you wish to extend your stay in the US, you must file a request at the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) using Form I-539, before your visa expires.

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While in the US there will be situations when you have to extend your stay in the US for education and/or training purposes. But as an international student you may be burdened and limited to pursue your academic endeavours. The US is very understanding and considers extending visas for international students to continue their education and/or training. Students can apply for visa extension easily and continue to study or continue with their training without any hassles.

How Long Can Students Stay on an F-1 Student Visa?

When you enter the US on a student visa, you will be allowed for the duration of your student status i.e. you may stay as long as you are a full time student, even though the F-1 visa expires while you are in the US. If you have completed the course of studies shown on the I-20 and any authorized practical training is to be taken, you will be allowed additional time before departure. As an F-1 student you will get additional 60 days to prepare to leave the US or to transfer to another school.

Optional Practical Training and Curricular Practical Training

You can receive work authorization for training related to your course like the optional practical training (OPT) and curricular practical training (CPT). You should be enrolled in a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) certified school as an F-1 student for one whole academic year to qualify for either type of training.
OPT should be related to your major or your course and an EAD card is essential before you start working. You can apply for 12 months of OPT at each academic level. To get an EAD card you need to get a new Form I-20 from your DSO and a recommendation for employment. You must submit a Form I-765 to USCIS with the new Form I-20 and the DSO’s recommendation. OPT restricts students to a 20 hour work week while attending school.
CPT should be related to your major and the experience should be part of your curriculum. Unlike OPT, CPT can be full time and is not restricted to 20 hours a week. To qualify for CPT your DSO should provide you with a Form I-20 and a recommendation for employment. 

17-Month STEM Extension 

Students graduating with Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) degree are qualified to stay in the US for an additional 17 months upon completion of 12 months of OPT on an Optional Practical Training (OPT) STEM Extension.
You qualify for an OPT STEM Extension when:
  • You have completed a course and the OPT is a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree in a STEM program listed in the STEM designated degree programs
  • Your future employer uses the E-Verify Program
  • You have not received an extension of OPT before
On approval your DSO will provide a new Form I-20 and you should electronically file a Form I-765 with USCIS and pay a filing fee for your EAD.
When the EAD for OPT expires, you can work up to 180 days while your 17-month extension is pending. You are eligible when:
  • You are at present in a period of completing OPT
  • You have filed your application for extension with USCIS on time.

How Students Can Extend Their Stay?

If you plan to extend your stay in the US, you must file a request with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Non-immigrant Status before your stay expires. If you remain longer than the authorized period, you may be banned from returning and/or be deported immediately. Always check the date in the lower right-hand corner of Form I-94 for the expiry date. You can apply to extend your stay in the US if: 
  • You were admitted into the US with a non-immigrant visa 
  • Your non-immigrant visa status is still valid 
  • You have not committed any crime
  • You have not violated your admission conditions
  • Your passport is valid

How Can Students Change Their Visa Status?

If you want to change the status of your visa while in the US, you or your employer must file a request with USCIS before your authorized stay expires. Until you receive an approval from USCIS do not resume work or education in the US. On failing to maintain your non-immigrant status, you may be barred from returning to and/or deported. 
While applying to USCIS for approval of change of status before your authorized stay expires and when you are in the US, does not by itself require you to apply for a new visa. Nevertheless, if you are unable to stay in the US while USCIS processes your change of status request, you will need to apply for your visa at a US Embassy abroad.

To understand the complete process involved to stay, work and study without any pressure as an international student in the US.

Have you picked the institution of your choice to study in the US? If not, try downloading the prospectuses of US institutions.
All the Best.
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