What is Form I-539?
Form I-539 is an application form used by individuals physically present in the U.S. to request a change of their nonimmigrant status or an extension of their stay.
Nonimmigrant status is the legal classification given to foreign nationals who are visiting the U.S. for a temporary purpose, such as tourists, students, exchange visitors, and workers on various types of visas.
Here are some common situations where Form I-539 might be used:
- Change of Status: Individuals on one type of nonimmigrant visa (e.g., B-1/B-2 tourist visa) may use Form I-539 to apply for a change of status to another nonimmigrant category (e.g., F-1 student visa, H-1B work visa, L-1 visa).
- Extension of Stay: Foreign nationals who are already in the United States on a nonimmigrant visa and wish to extend their stay beyond the date originally authorized can use Form I-539 to request an extension.
- Dependents: Dependents of certain nonimmigrant visa holders, such as the spouse and children of an F-1 student or an H-1B worker, can use Form I-539 to request dependent status and an extension of stay.
- Reinstatement: F-1 or M-1 students who have violated their nonimmigrant status may use Form I-539 to request reinstatement.
- “Bridge a gap” – if you are approved for another nonimmigrant status in the future, you must file Form I-539 to “bridge” any gap that might arise.
Who can file Form I-539?
Form I-539 can be filed by individuals in the U.S. who meet specific eligibility criteria and have a legitimate need to request a change of nonimmigrant status, an extension of stay, or other related actions.
Here are the categories of individuals who can file Form I-539:
- B-1/B-2 visitors
- F-1 students
- H-4 dependents
- J-1 exchange visitors
- L-2 dependents
- M-1 vocational students
- O-3 dependents
- P-4 dependents
- TD dependents
- Dependents of E nonimmigrant
- R-2 dependents
- T nonimmigrants
- T derivative nonimmigrants
- U nonimmigrants
- U derivative nonimmigrants
- V nonimmigrants
- A, Ambassador, Public Minister, or Career Diplomatic or Consular Officer and their immediate family members
- A-3, attendant or servant of an A nonimmigrant and the A-3’s immediate family members
- CW-2 dependents
- G, Designated Principal Resident Representative of a Foreign Government and their immediate family members
- G-4, Attendant or Servant of a G nonimmigrant and the G-5’s immediate family members
- I, Representatives of Foreign Media and Dependents
Immediate family members include spouses and unmarried children under 21.
Who cannot file Form I-539?
The following individuals cannot file Form I-539:
- Visa Waiver Program (VWP) Travelers: Individuals who entered the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP or ESTA) generally cannot apply for an extension or change of status using Form I-539. Exception: if you are an immediate relative of a US citizen (spouse, unmarried child under 21 or a parent) and want to apply for a green card in the U.S., you might be eligible to file Form I-485 instead.
- Immigrant applicants: Form I-539 is designed for nonimmigrants only. If you intend to apply for permanent residency using Form I-485 or already have a pending Adjustment of Status application, you don’t need to file Form I-539.
- Alien in transit (C visa)
- Transit without a visa (TWOV)
- Crewman (D visa)
- K-1 fiancé(e) visa. K-1 visa holders must apply for Adjustment of Status. See our Adjustment of Status for Fiancé(e)s guide.
- K-2 visa (dependent of a fiancé(e)). K-2 visa holders must apply for Adjustment of Status. See our Adjustment of Status for Fiancé(e)s guide.
- K-3 visa (spouse of a US citizen). K-3 visa holders must concurrently file Forms I-130 and I-485. See our Married to a U.S. Citizen and Living in the U.S. guide.
- K-4 visa (dependent of K-3 visa). K-4 visa holders must concurrently file Forms I-130 and I-485. See our Married to a U.S. Citizen and Living in the U.S. guide.
- Violators of Visa Terms: If you have violated the terms of your nonimmigrant status or overstayed your authorized period, you may not be eligible to use Form I-539 to change or extend your status. You may need to consult with an immigration attorney to discuss your options.
How to include family members using Form I-539A?
Form I-539A, Supplemental Information for Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, is a supplementary form used in conjunction with Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status.
Form I-539A is designed to collect biographic information about the co-applicant (typically a dependent family member), who is included in the primary applicant’s Form I-539 submission.
You can include your spouse and unmarried children under 21 in your Form I-539 application only in the following situations:
- You and your family members are all in the same status now (for example, everyone is in B-1/B-2 status), or
- Your family members are all in derivative status (for example, you are in F-1 status and your spouse and children are in F-2 status)
Form I-539A must be completed for each family member separately.
Extensions of status will be granted for the same period for all family members.
How to apply for a change of status using Form I-539?
Applying for a change of status using Form I-539 involves several steps, and the process can vary depending on your specific situation and nonimmigrant category.
Here is a general overview of how to apply for a change of status using Form I-539:
Step 1. Form I-539 must be received by USCIS BEFORE your current status expires. You can find your authorized period of stay on your Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record) online. It’s listed under “Admit Until Date”. Your properly filed Form I-539 must be received by USCIS at least 45 days before your stay expires or as soon as you determine your need to change or extend status.
Late filings. USCIS might excuse the late filing of Form I-539 only if you can demonstrate the following circumstances:
- The delay was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond your control (for example, hospitalization, long-term illness, death of a family member, the recent birth of a child)
- The length of the delay was reasonable (for example, a few days or few weeks)
- You have not otherwise violated your status (for example, worked with authorization)
- You are still a nonimmigrant (you have good faith intention to stay in the US temporarily and return to your home country when the nonimmigrant status expires)
- You are not in removal proceedings (deportation proceedings in immigration court)
Step 2. Review Eligibility: Ensure that you meet the eligibility criteria for the requested change of status. The specific requirements can vary depending on your current nonimmigrant status and the new status you wish to obtain.
Step 3. Complete Form I-539: you can file this form online (recommended). You can also download the latest pdf version of Form I-539, sign and date it. The application can be submitted to USCIS by mail.
Step 4. Gather Supporting Documents: Collect all required supporting documents, which may include, but are not limited to:
- Proof of financial support (bank statements, financial sponsor documents).
- A copy of your current nonimmigrant visa.
- A copy of your Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record).
- Any required forms or evidence specific to your requested status change (e.g., Form I-20 for F-1 students, Form I-129 for H-1B workers).
- A cover letter explaining the purpose of your application.
Step 5. Check Filing Fees: Review the USCIS website to determine the current filing fees for Form I-539s. If you file Form I-539 online, USCIS accepts credit card payments. If you mail the application, payments can typically be made by credit card authorization (Form G-1450), check or money order payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Step 6. Submit the Application: if you filled out an online Form I-539, upload the requested documents, make the payment and submit the form electronically. If you decide to mail the application, then send the signed and dated Form I-539, supporting documents, and filing fee payment to the address specified on the USCIS website. Be sure to make copies of the application for your records.
Step 7. USCIS Processing: After USCIS receives your application, they will process it and may request additional documentation and schedule a biometrics appointment if needed. You can pay a Premium Processing Fee to significantly reduce the waiting time, check the Premium Processing page for more details.
Step 8. Biometrics appointment: If scheduled, you must appear for a biometrics appointment to provide your photograph and fingerprints. Address and the time of appointment will be provided in USCIS notice. Attending a biometric appointment is mandatory. The appointment can be rescheduled if you cannot attend it. Follow instructions for rescheduling the appointment either in your online I-539 application or hard copy biometrics appointment notice.
Step 9. USCIS Decision: USCIS will review your application and make a decision on your change or extension of status request. This process may take several months. You will receive a notification of the decision in writing.
Step 10. Departure or Further Action: Depending on the decision, you may need to depart the United States and obtain a new visa abroad, or you may be granted the new nonimmigrant status, in which case you can remain in the U.S. and follow the terms of your new status.
Note: if you have accrued unlawful presence in the U.S. (you overstayed the authorized period of stay) we highly recommend you to consult an immigration attorney before departing the U.S.
Departing the US after unlawful presence might trigger a 3 or 10-year ban (you will be banned from entering the US for 3 or 10 years).
Form I-539 filing fees
The filing fees for Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status are as follows:
- Form I-539 Fee: $370
- Form I-539 Premium Processing Fee: $2,500 (optional)
USCIS fees are subject to change. USCIS adjusts its fees periodically, so it’s crucial to check the most up-to-date I-539 fee information on the USCIS website.
The following categories of applicants do not need to pay Form I-539 fees:
- A-1, A-2, A-3
- G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, G-5,
- B-1 Observer Mission
- NATO-1, NATO-2, NATO-3, NATO-4, NATO-5, or NATO-6
Form I-539 checklist of required documents
Here is a general checklist of documents that may be required when filing Form I-539 (submit photocopies only):
NOTE: a change of status may be granted for a period of up to 30 days before the start of your academic program.
If you file Form I-539 too early, USCIS might deny your request to change status to F-1
|To request a change to F-1 status:
To request F-1 reinstatement:
|H-4 dependents||Dependents of H-1B visa status holders can request extension/change of status:
|J-1 exchange visitors
NOTE: a change of status to J-1 may be granted for up 30 days before the start date of the exchange program
|Requesting change of status to J-1:
Requesting J-1 extension:
Requesting J-1 reinstatement:
Note: spouses of L-1 visa holders can apply for employment authorization by filing Form I-765
|M-1 vocational students
NOTE: a change of status to M-1 may be granted for up 30 days before the start date of the exchange program
|Dependents of E nonimmigrant||
Note: if a T nonimmigrant has a pending Form I-485 then filing Form I-539 isn’t necessary
|Requesting extension of status:
Requesting extension of status based on exceptional circumstances:
|T derivative nonimmigrants||
Note: if a U nonimmigrant has a pending Form I-485 then filing Form I-539 isn’t necessary
|Requesting extension of status:
Requesting extension of status based on exceptional circumstances:
|U derivative nonimmigrants||
|A, Ambassador, Public Minister, or Career Diplomatic or Consular Officer and their immediate family members||
|A-3, attendant or servant of an A nonimmigrant and the A-3’s immediate family members
Note: there’s no I-539 filing fee in this category
|G, Designated Principal Resident Representative of a Foreign Government and their immediate family members||
|G-5, Attendant or Servant of a G nonimmigrant and the G-5’s immediate family members
Note: there is no I-539 fee in this category
|I, Representatives of Foreign Media and Dependents||To request change of status or extend status due to a change of employer or information medium:
Form I-539 processing times
Form I-539 processing times can vary significantly depending on several factors:
- Type of nonimmigrant status change or extension being requested
- The service center processing your application
- Volume of applications being processed at any given time
- Whether you have paid a Premium Processing Fee.
To check the processing times for Form I-539, follow these steps:
- Visit the USCIS website’s “Check Case Processing Times” page
- Select “Form I-539” from the drop-down menu
- Select your category from the drop-down menu
- Enter the Service Center: your service center is printed in the left bottom corner of your I-797C notice (Form I-539 registration confirmation)
- View Processing Times: After entering the required information, the tool will provide an estimated processing time range for your application based on the
How to expedite my Form I-539?
There are two methods you can use to expedite the processing time of your Form I-539:
- Pay the USCIS Premium Fee of $2,500 (recommended). Currently, applicants in F-1, F-2, M-1, M-2, J-1, or J-2 status are eligible to pay the Premium Processing Fee to reduce the processing time down to 30 calendar days. Note: you must attend the scheduled biometrics appointment to receive the premium processing service.
- Request expedited processing of Form I-539 with USCIS ($0). Such requests are reserved for cases involving significant humanitarian or emergency reasons. If you have a compelling reason to expedite your application, you can make an expedite request by following these steps:
- Submit a Well-Documented Request: You will need to provide a detailed and well-documented request explaining the specific reasons for expediting your application. Your request should clearly demonstrate that your situation qualifies for expedited processing.
- Prepare a Cover Letter: Include a cover letter with your application that explains the nature of the emergency or humanitarian situation and why you believe your case warrants expedited processing. Be concise but thorough in your explanation.
- Gather Supporting Documents: Depending on your situation, provide supporting documentation that substantiates your request for expedited processing. These documents may include medical records, letters from medical professionals, legal documents, or other evidence relevant to your circumstances.
- Contact USCIS: Once your Form I-539 application has been submitted, contact USCIS to request expedited processing. You can do this by calling the USCIS Contact Center at 800-375-5283.
- Provide Proof of the Emergency: Be prepared to provide any necessary documentation to prove the urgency of your situation. USCIS may request additional evidence to support your request.
- Wait for the decision: Be patient, as USCIS will review your request and make a decision based on the information you provided.
You can learn more about Expedite Requests on the USCIS website.