Can I extend my J-1 visa?
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Generally, timeframes and timelines for a J-1 visa are strictly adhered to because they exist for a limited purpose. Consequently, it tends to be difficult to add time even at the beginning or the end of a J-1 visa. For example, you cannot arrive more than 30 days before your exchange program begins. Once the purpose and time period for your J-1 visa has expired, you must return to your country of origin.
J-1 Visa Extension Procedures
The U.S. Information Agency may grant an extension beyond the usual program maximum where sufficient need is shown. The request for an extension must come from the sponsor agency. The sponsor agency is the business, school or other organization in whose program you are sharing the information exchange. The State Department has specific forms and procecures for obtaining an extension. The State Department maintains an online program in which the sponsoring agency requests a new date and re-submits the DS2010 form, signed in blue ink. Any requests for extension of a J-1 visa must be made before the end of the original program end date. For example, if your program is scheduled to begin on September 1 and end on December 2, the J-1 visa extension request must be made before December 2; any requests after December 2 would be considered untimely and denied.
Other Options to Extend Your Stay
Generally, extensions are rarely provided even when timely filed. If you have a specific need to stay in the United States for a longer period, you should consult with an immigration attorney to see if other types of entry or programs may be applicable to your situation. For example, if you enter the U.S. with a J-1 visa in order to study at a college and the college decides that it would like to hire you as a teaching assistant, you may be able to obtain a work permit or employment authorization document. Essentially, you would convert the temporary status of your J-1 visa into an extended - but still legal - status. Although it may be tempting to stay beyond the period designated in your J-1 visa, failure to depart the country within 30 days of the end of the program will change your status from legal to illegal. Even falling into illegal status for one day can prevent you from obtaining legal status at a later date. As such, it is extremely important that you keep track of your deadlines and begin processing requests to extend or change your status as soon as you discover the need to extend your stay.