How to Extend a Student Visa

A student visa, including an M-1 Visa and an F-1 Visa, will generally allow you to remain in the US for your studies for as long as your program of study continues.

Your Arrival-Departure Record (Form I-94) will generally indicate how long you are permitted to remain in the US. If you are a student, it is important to leave no later than this day or to get an extension of your visa if you need it. Overstaying your visa by even one day is considered a serious violation of immigration laws and can make it difficult for you to re-enter the US if you decide to visit or study in the US again. Staying past your required departure date can make you ineligible to receive a visa in the future. Overstaying even one day can also mean that your visa is automatically voided.

In some cases, Arrival-Departure Record (Form I-94) will indicate “Duration of Status” (D/S) instead of a specific date. In these cases, you will be eligible to remain in the US as a student for the entire length of your studies, as long as you maintain your status as a student. In addition, you will have some time to leave the US after your duration of study is up. With an F-1 visa you will generally have 60 days to transfer schools or leave the US after you finish your studies. With an M-1 visa, you will have 30 days to leave the US.

Since the penalties for overstaying your student visa are so severe, you will want to make sure that you extend your stay legally if you need to. You are generally eligible to extend your student visa if there is a compelling reason to do so. Usually, this includes a valid academic or medical reason. For example, if you have been ill, have transferred schools, have changed majors, or have embarked on extra studies or research, this may be considered a valid cause to extend to your visa. To extend your F-1 Visa or M-1 Visa you will need to have remained a full-time student and not have missed 5 months or more of classes. If you have, you will need to apply for a new student visa.

If you are eligible and want to extend your student visa, you must file an extension of stay with the Department of Homeland Security. You can download the form and instructions online. You will need to include a letter explaining your request, two passport photos, your passport, and all the documentation you needed for your student visa, as well as any additional documentation the instructions outline. You will generally need to prove that you are maintaining a permanent residence outside the US, plan to return to your home country, and have enough funds to support a longer stay in the US. You will also generally need to file Form I-20 to extend your student visa.

In some cases, you may want to enter the US before your student visa takes effect. If this is true for you, you will need to file Form I-539 (Application for Change of Nonimmigrant Status) and Form I-20 to the Department of Homeland Security.