Requirement for Dependent Status
Unfortunately, US immigration law does not allow “dependent status” visas (F-2, J-2, H-4, etc.) for anyone other than spouses and children under the age of 21 of a principal visa holder (F-1, J-1, H-1B, etc.). A “spouse” is any married partner for whom there is a marriage certificate, including same-sex spouses. However, cohabitating partners, “common law” partners and other partners who are unmarried cannot qualify for dependent statuses. For those who do not qualify for dependent status, including parents, unmarried partners and friends, the visitor status is usually the best option.
B-2 Tourist Status
Visitors who are eligible for a VWT but would like to stay in the US for more than 90 days, and all other visitors who are not eligible for a VWT must apply for a B-2 visa. The B-2 visa stamp may be issued by the US Embassy for up to ten years of repeated entry into the US but upon entry to the US, the maximum stay granted will be 6 months. The length of stay granted will be decided at airport inspection in the US and will depend on the visitor explaining his or her travel intentions and the length of stay requested; proof of sufficient funds to stay in the US for the time period requested; and possibly other factors that the CBP officer will determine. Since some visitors may not be able to explain themselves well in English, it is sometimes helpful if the person inviting them to the US sends them a letter, making an invitation and explaining the circumstances. This letter can be presented at the US Embassy when applying for a B-2 visa and again at passport inspection when entering the US.
- Visiting Scholars can find a sample letter, visit our forms page under "Other".
- Students can find either a sample letter OR special information about commencement.
Visa Waiver for Tourism
The VWT does not require that a visa is requested prior to arrival in the US. However, it is only an option for people with specific countries of citizenship; the status cannot be extended once granted; the status cannot be changed to any other status inside the US; and the maximum stay allowed is 90 days. Visit the Department of State website for a list of citizens who would be eligible for a VWT and additional information.
Extension of B-2 Status
Regardless of the length of stay granted when the visitor enters the US, it is possible to file for an extension of B-2 status while inside the US, as long as the extension petition is filed prior to the expiration of the current status. To verify the expiration date of the stay granted, the visitor should review their online I-94 record. There is information on extending B-2 status on the USCIS website. Finally, a memo issued by the USCIS in August 2011 indicates that if an extension of B-2 status is requested with evidence that it applies to cohabitating partners, the extension request should be looked on favorably, even if extensions are requested multiple times. For more information, review the USCIS memo.