Do you want to know how you can change your status from a B1/B2 tourist visa to F-1 international student from inside the United States? If so, then this is the right video for you. In this video, we answer this important topic and discuss some important considerations you may want to know if you are interested in changing your status while inside the United States.
When you enter the United States in B1/B2 nonimmigrant status, you do so for a specific purpose – to remain temporarily for business, tourism, or a combination of both. But what happens when after you have entered the United States, you decide that you want to enroll in a course of study in the United States? Is this possible?
The short answer is yes, however there are some important considerations.
To begin, it is important for you to understand that you cannot file a change of status application while inside the United States during the first 3 months (90 days) of gaining admission to the United States. Doing so may trigger a presumption that you misrepresented your true intention for entering the United States and could land you in hot water with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
However, if, during the course of your remaining duration of stay in the United States (after those 90 days) you become interested in studying in the United States, it is possible for you to apply for a change of status while remaining in the United States. Please note that you must have a good reason for changing your status to F-1 from inside the United States, instead of opting to apply for your F-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas. For instance, if you could not return to your home country for political or legitimate medical reasons.
Form I-539 Change of Status from inside the U.S.
The first step to apply for a change of status from inside the U.S. is for applicants to search for a U.S. government-approved, fully accredited educational institution and apply for admission to the institution. Once accepted, the applicant will be able to work with the designated school official (DSO) at the educational institution who can help issue the Form I-20 Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status. Form I-20 is a document issued by the institution that certifies that a student has been accepted to a full-time study program and has demonstrated sufficient financial resources to remain in the United States. Once received, the I-20 allows the applicant to apply for a change of status with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) while inside the United States, by filing Form I-539 Application to Change Nonimmigrant Status.
Please note that B1/B2 visa holders may not enroll in a course of study before their change of status application is approved by USCIS.
Once you have been accepted to the educational institution and received Form I-20, the second step is for you to pay the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVIS) fee and file Form I-539 Application to Change Nonimmigrant Status with USCIS to change your status from a tourist to a student. As part of the application process, you must demonstrate that you can support yourself financially while inside the United States and pay for your educational expenses by providing recent bank account statements showing sufficient income/financial resources to sustain your educational pursuit.
The processing time of the I-539 change of status application depends on the service center processing your case but generally can take anywhere from 9 months to 25 months.
Maintaining Your Underlying Status
While you are waiting for the I-539 change of status application to be processed, you must maintain the validity of your underlying B1/B2 visa status. You can verify the expiration of your B1/B2 duration of stay by reviewing the I-94 arrival/departure stamp on your passport, or retrieving your I-94 arrival/departure record online (click here).
Important Considerations Before Applying for Change of Status Inside the United States
One of the most important considerations to keep in mind is that filing the Form I-539 Application to Change Nonimmigrant Status with USCIS, solely allows you to gain a new “status” to remain lawfully present in the new status, while you are inside the United States. Essentially, this means that once your I-539 change of status application is approved, you will only receive a change in your nonimmigrant classification to F-1 student. You will not receive a new visa to allow you to return to the U.S. after temporary foreign travel. U.S. Visas are only issued outside the United States at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas.
Another important consideration is that you must remain inside the United States while your I-539 change of status application is processing with USCIS. If you depart the United States at any time during processing, your application will be considered abandoned. Additionally, the moment you leave the United States (even after approval) you will lose your I-539 status. This is because I-539 approval is NOT a visa. It only allows you to remain lawfully present in F-1 status while INSIDE the United States.
Finally, if your I-539 change of status application is denied, you must immediately depart the United States.
Departing the USA after I-539 approval of the change of status from inside the U.S.
Those who wish to depart the United States after receiving their approved change of status to F-1, must keep in mind that they will lose their F-1 change of status upon their departure to the United States. Such applicants will need to apply for the F-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas to be interviewed and receive an F-1 visa printed in their passports. Once an F-1 visa is issued inside the passport, the applicant can depart the United States and re-enter using their F-1 visa, for as long as the visa remains valid.
However, please note that there is an inherent risk to consider when applying for an F-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate overseas following approval of Form I-539 change of status with USCIS, while inside the United States. Certain Consular posts have been scrutinizing these applications more and more, leading to higher denial rates.
Accordingly, before deciding to change your status to F-1 student inside the United States, you should consult with an experienced immigration attorney who can help you navigate the process and evaluate whether it is best for you to apply for a F-1 student visa at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy overseas, instead of filing for a change of status inside the United States.
Your Frequently Asked Questions
When should I apply for the I-539 application to change my status?
You must file Form I-539 Application to Change Nonimmigrant Status before your I-94 duration of stay expires – see the stamp on your B1/B2 visa or retrieve your I-94 arrival/departure record online.
What if I have not received approval of my change of status by the time my course of study begins?
If you have still not received an approval notice from USCIS within two weeks prior to the start of your course of study, you must contact your Designated School Official (DSO) for further instructions.
What if my B1/B2 duration of stay runs out before receiving approval of my change of status with USCIS?
If your B1/B2 I-94 duration of stay expires before you have received approval of your I-539 change of status, you can file an extension of your B2 status by filing another I-539 application. Alternatively, you may consider departing the United States and applying for your F-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country. However, you should speak to an immigration attorney before making a final decision.
Need immigration help? If you would like to know more about filing for change of status, please text 619-483-4549 or call 619-819-9204 for a consultation
- I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status
- The Student and Exchange Visitor Program
- Students and Exchange Visitors USCIS Webpage
- I-94 Arrival/Departure Retrieval
- December Visa Bulletin
- USCIS Processing Times
- U.S. Embassies and Consulates
- Immigrant Visa Backlog Report
- DOS Visa Services Operating Status Update
- ImmigrationU Membership
- Success stories
- Youtube channel
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