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Here’s a fast and easy way for foreign visitors to extend their stay in the U.S.

A Customs officer checks the passport of an international traveler at Hollywoood-Fort Lauderdale Airport. Many foreigner travelers who enter the U.S. with non-immigrant visas such as visitors for business or pleasure can apply to extend their status online with new USCIS technology.
A Customs officer checks the passport of an international traveler at Hollywoood-Fort Lauderdale Airport. Many foreigner travelers who enter the U.S. with non-immigrant visas such as visitors for business or pleasure can apply to extend their status online with new USCIS technology. Candace West/Miami Herald staff

Foreign nationals who enter the United States with non-immigrant visas sometimes want to remain in the country longer than authorized by officials upon admission to the U.S. at an airport, seaport or the border.

The length of time they can legally stay often does not coincide with the limits of their visas, but one of the key U.S. rules is never to overstay the period imposed by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent upon arrival — even if the visa is still valid.

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That’s why the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) allows foreigners to request stay extensions, as long as their purpose is to continue the same activities for which their visa was approved and issued.

And now a new USCIS technology makes it faster and easier for international visitors with tourist, business and student visas, among others, to request extensions to remain in the U.S.

Read more: It’s not so hard for an immigrant to become a U.S. citizen. Here’s what you have to do

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) component agency recently announced the launch of eProcessing, a digital immigration processing system that expands online filing.

This new technological system to handle benefits requests will help visitors who came for business or pleasure, as well as international students, to submit their applications for stay extensions.

Other types of visa classifications will be added to this groundbreaking digital processing system soon.

“eProcessing connects previously separate technology systems within the agency to ultimately improve decision timeliness, increase transparency during the application process, and to accelerate the availability of online filing for all immigration benefits,” the agency said in the announcement.

“Each year, USCIS receives more than 8 million requests for immigration benefits. Improvements to USCIS technology will continue to enable more applicants to submit many of these requests online,” it added.

Read more: Here are some of the worst mistakes immigrants make applying for legal papers

Since the U.S government has given legal immigrants the ability to apply for immigration benefits online, more than a million people have used the online tools available at the USCIS website.

“Online filing is a more convenient and interactive way for applicants to submit applications, check the status of their case, and receive notices from USCIS,” said agency spokeswoman Jessica Collins in a statement sent to el Nuevo Herald to celebrate this milestone.

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Visa categories that qualify

Foreign nationals who want to extend their stay in the United States can file Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, online if they have the following types of non-immigrant visas:

B-1 temporary visitor for business

B-2 temporary visitor for pleasure

F-1 academic student with a specific status expiration date

Read more: Here’s what it takes for an immigrant to get a green card — and not lose it

F-2 spouse or child of an academic student with a specific expiration date

M-1 vocational student

M-2 spouse or child of an M-1 student

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The first step is to create a personal account with USCIS by going to https://myaccount.uscis.dhs.gov and using an email address to register.

If you need help, these are the official instructions to fill Form I-539.

Read more: It is hard for immigrants to get green cards and other benefits. These tools help.

Advantages

USCIS says that submitting applications for immigration benefits online has these advantages:

It starts the process more quickly than sending the paperwork by mail delivery

It allows direct follow-up communications with USCIS without notification letters

It allows applicants to receive online updates about their cases

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Daniel Shoer Roth is a journalist covering immigration law who does not offer legal advice or individual assistance to applicants. Follow him on Twitter @DanielShoerRoth.

Read more about legal, travel and immigration issues in Spanish at AccesoMiami.com

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Daniel Shoer Roth es un galardonado autor, biógrafo y periodista con 20 años en la plantilla de el Nuevo Herald, donde se ha desempeñado como reportero, columnista de noticias y actual productor de crecimiento digital. También es coordinador de AccesoMiami.com, una guía sobre todo lo que necesitas saber sobre Miami, asuntos legales e inmigración.
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