"I have a nephew who just arrived in the U.S.  He is 22 and of course loves it here. He would like to stay into the fall, and I have a feeling even longer. He was told that his 90 day legal period ends on July 15. His mother is frightened about him becoming illegal over here and so am I, especially if someday he would like to return for good. Is there any way he could get more time on his visa than 90 days?  If there was something even available to him for six months or a year he would love that – anything to keep him legal over here.  He is also thinking about going to Canada for a short while to get another 90 day extension when he returns here, so as to avoid having to apply for a new visa. Is this possible?”

Your nephew entered the U.S. on the visa waiver program, available to citizens of Ireland and 36 other countries. The program allows travelers to visit the U.S. for up to 90 days for business or pleasure without having to obtain a visa from a U.S. consular post.

That’s the good part of the program – ease of travel.  The not so good part is that the 90-day permissible stay is not extendable for any reason other than a medical or transit emergency (i.e., airport worker strike, inclement weather resulting in cancellations.)

Not only that, those who entered the U.S. on the program cannot change status to that of another visa category while here.  For instance, if the opportunity to study here arose, the visa waiver traveler would have to return home to apply for a student visa, instead of changing status while still here.

Many visa waiver visitors who wish to extend their stay think that traveling outside the U.S. to Mexico or Canada for a few days will result in another 90 day waiver approval when they return to here.  This is not so.

When the traveler returns here, the period of legal admission will continue only until the end of the original 90 day period.  So if your nephew visited Canada now and came back in a week, he would still have to leave the U.S. by July 15.

Your nephew doesn’t really have options to legally remain here after July 15.  When he returns home he can look into applying for perhaps a B tourist visa at the American Embassy in Dublin which will give him at least 90 days here. 

With a B visa, or any other type of visa, the holder can apply for an extension of stay while here, or switch to another visa type if the opportunity is there.

The visa costs $160 to apply for and is relatively easy to obtain – applicants are required to attend the embassy for an appointment, though.

They must also prove that the trip to the U.S. is intended to be short-term.  This means they must expect to provide evidence of ties to where they live abroad, such as a record of continued employment, education, a lease or mortgage on a residence and things of that nature.

Once the visa is issued it is good for 10 years, and allows for multiple entries to the U.S. during that time.

For more information, visit http://dublin.usembassy.gov/how_to_apply.html.