Can one extend visitor visa beyond the allowed 6 months? Yes you can. And there is NO penalty or impact on their future visits to USA if they decide to do so. You must follow the right steps and provide an honest and compelling reason for the extension. The extension requests are filed with USCIS along with a cover letter stating clearly the reason for extension. From what I have seen and heard, USCIS grants the extension without any fuss. Follow these steps:
- Fill out I-539 form (http://www.uscis.gov/i-539)
- Write a letter that explains the reason for your extension request. You can find one sample letter here: http://www.immihelp.com/visitor-visa-extension/sample-cover-letter.html
- Pay the applicable fees
- Collect the documents required. You can get a list of documents here: http://www.immihelp.com/visitor-visa-extension/visitors-visa-extension-documents.html
Some helpful tips:
- Do not apply for an extension within 3 months of arriving in US. USCIS may conclude that you were planning to extend it before even coming to US.
- You can stay beyond the I-94’s final date as long as you have filed for an extension. If the decision of approval/denial is pending, your stay in US would still be valid. Some people file for extension just a week before final date, but I wouldn’t recommend this approach.
- In my personal experience, I was able to extend visitor visa for my parents once without any issues. I live in Seattle area and asked them to extend the visa as my parents could not visit US tourist spots due to harsh winter.
- If you are planning to get a new I-94 without filing for extension by going to Canada/Mexico, it won’t work. You will have to travel outside of North America or stay outside for at least 30 days before a new I-94 gets issued.
- The maximum you can stay on visitor visa is 1 year. So, do not request extensions more than 6 months.