Foreign nationals with one of the various nonimmigrant U.S. visas may be unaware of the term I-539. However, a time may arise for those in the aforementioned category when a visa extension or change is desired. In order to accomplish this, familiarization with the I-539 form is essential since it is the official application administered by the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) to extend or change nonimmigrant status.
Prior to submitting an I-539 form, careful and thorough examination of the official instructions should be made, as the instruction supplement is, in fact, twice as long as the application itself. A thorough review of all the regulations, restrictions, and documentation required for filing can have a great impact on whether or not one receives an I-539 RFE response from USCIS after submission.
If and when an I-539 RFE response arrives, the next question will be: What is an I-539 RFE? Namely, RFE is an abbreviation for Request for Evidence and it signifies that additional clarification regarding a submitted form is needed in order for the USCIS to make a final decision -- in this case, a decision on an I-539 submission requesting a visa extension or change. Details regarding the required information will be noted in a RFE. Aside from the requested official documentation, USCIS will ask for a written synopsis as to justify one's visa extension or change. If at first glance a RFE appears simple and straightforward, be forewarned -- foresight, swiftness, and accuracy are necessary for the provision of requested materials.
In actuality, the maximum response time an applicant has to an I-539 RFE is 30 days and the main challenge is largely the difficulty to obtain necessary documents in a timely manner. For example, the procurement time of an official birth certificate of a dependent (e.g., a son or daughter born outside of the U.S.) who is included in a visa renewal application may be unforeseeable. Further, a certified and verifiable translator must be used to translate all official documents, such as a birth certificate, if written in a foreign language. Unfortunately, the punctual processing of the standard I-539 form means the I-539 RFE response time must, too, be prompt to accommodate the large number of overall I-539 forms received each year.
The small window of time allowed to submit I-539 RFE documentation can greatly jeopardize an application's approval. In order to facilitate potential problems, the USCIS recommends applicants to file I-539 forms at least 45 days prior to a visa expiration date. After a closer look, however, exhaustive and meticulous pre-planning of an I-539 submission is imperative to improve the chances of a visa approval, rather than risking a denial solely due to confusion, a mishap, or lax behavior.