Apply for tourist visa in USA

Raju writes, "I am nearing the end of my H1B stay, but after my job ends and before I head home, I would like to take a coast-to-coast road trip with my family.  I think everything is in place for us, we have a car, we are already here, we have time, so it will be great if I can get a tourist visa right here in the United States.  That way I don't have to deal with the nightmare of getting an American visitor visa in India.  Also, once I go back to India, my family may get tied down with schools and jobs and we may have difficulty having a trip like this.  Is is possible for someone to apply for B1/B2 visitor visa while already in the United States.  I tried to research the State Department website and it keeps suggesting only overseas consulates.  Please help."



As you found out, typically a tourist visa is issued overseas.  If you are already here, it sounds illogical to apply for a visitor visa.  However, for aliens like you, who entered the United States legally, have always been in lawful status (generally speaking if you have already passed the date of legal stay on I-94, you application will be rejected), have not broken any other laws, the USCIS offers an excellent shortcut because you have already undergone the scrutiny that is associated with a tourist visa.  So what you will need to do is to file a Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status using USCIS ELIS, an online system.



What are the things that you should be aware of?  You should apply as early as you after you have made up your mind, but definitely at 45 days ahead of the expiration of legal stay indicated on your I-94 stamp in the passport. If the USCIS does not approve the application before your I-94 duration date expires, there is no reason to panic, because you will still be considered legally present in the country till the decision on your change of status is made.  In other words, you will not be deported, but be prepared to leave immediately just in case the application is denied.  But remember that it is always a good idea not to mess with these dates and it is best to apply several months ahead and leave before the I-94 expiration.  That will ensure that your stay in America was always legal.