The tourist visa allows people to stay in the United States up to 90 days. However, sometimes, travelers decide to remain longer than permitted. We are going to explain you how you can do this legally.

Foreign tourists must request an extension of their stay at the USCIS by submitting the following documents:

  • The I-539 form.
  •  The I-94 document that you received when you entered the United States.
  • A letter, written in English, explaining the reasons for the renewal, and indicating the exact date of your departure.
  • A $290 bill to prove that you paid for the procedure.

The American visa expiration date does not imply that you are staying legally in the U.S. In fact, it is possible to be in the country legally while holding an expired visa or holding a valid visa and still have an illegal status.

In order to avoid problems like having your visa cancelled or being forbidden to enter the United States again for three or ten years, you really need to understand what the expiration date on your American visa really means.

Expiration Date

The expiration date printed on your visa means that, on that day, you cannot request to enter the country at any U.S. airport, seaport or land port. When you enter, the immigration officer indicates you how long you are authorized to stay in the U.S. The most common period of time is 180 days. In the past, they used to give you a small paper at the moment of arrival, then, you had to return it when departing. Today, this is a digitalized process.

Expired Visa, Legal Stay

This is possible if the visa expiration date comes before the date indicated on the I-94 document. For example: if your visa expiration date is September 24th, 2011, but on the I-94 document, it is indicated that you may stay until November 24th, 2011, you are authorized to stay until this last day.

Even if the expiration dates of both the American visa and the I-94 document have already gone by, it is possible to keep a legal status. For this purpose, you need to request an extension of your visa, and have it approved by the Immigration Office.

Unexpired Visa, Illegal Stay

It is possible to be “out of status” in the United States, even when the visa expiration date has not gone by yet:

  • If the date on the I-94 comes before the visa expiration date, you may leave the country as indicated on the former document. Remaining longer than permitted has really serious consequences.
  • By violating your visa conditions. For example: when students on an F-1 visa skip classes for several months, they are invalidating their visa through their behavior.
  • If you have a temporary work visa and you are fired, you must leave the United States following the period of time indicated on the corresponding type of visa. It is not right to think that you can stay in the U.S., because your visa expiration date comes later.


You must take into account that you need to begin this procedure before your visa expires. When it does, you are automatically considered an undocumented immigrant.