I-539 Applications to Extend/Change Status
For now, all spouses and dependents requiring either a change to O or P status or an extension of stay must file an I-539 application. I-539s are family-specific and thus include only the spouse and dependents of one principal alien. If the stays of multiple beneficiaries are being extended, and some have dependents, each set of dependents must file an I-539. I-539 applications should be filed together with the underlying petition for the principal alien; if not, proof of that filing must accompany the I-539. The documentation is as follows: I-539 application with attached fee; copy of each dependent's I-94 (front and back); proof of the prior filing of the underlying petition for the principal alien by means of the I-797 filing receipt or the new I-797 approval notice, passport biographical data page(s), and a short letter explaining the basis of the requested action. Adding a copy of the marriage certificate or, in the case of children, birth certificate, can save time by documenting the relationship.
It is all too easy to deal with the principal alien's status and forget the spouse and dependents. However, given the current penalties for overstays and other omissions, it is critical that someone pay attention to their status, lest they be relegated to their home country consulate for all future visas or, worse yet, barred from re-entry into the U.S. for three, or even ten, years. Remember, too, that the status of the spouse and dependents is, indeed, dependent on that of the principal. If the principal changes status and the others do not, they risk automatic loss of status and a consequent overstay.
Important note: All petitions to change status or simply extend stay must be filed before the alien’s original stay expires, as noted on the I-94 card. That the visa and/or underlying approval classification period may last longer than the I-94 is irrelevant. Otherwise, the same rules that apply to the change of status or extension of stay of the principal alien apply to that alien’s spouse and dependents, so please review carefully the information under the “Important Note” to both sections.