Can I change from a Visitor Visa to an F-1 Student Visa?
Visitors or tourists (B-1/B-2 visa-holders) who come to the United States may want to stay in the U.S to study to further their education. In order to study in the United States, B-1/B-2 visa holders must change their status by obtaining an F-1 student visa, which authorizes studying in the United States. You must file the appropriate applications and documents to change nonimmigrant status with USCIS before you can start studying.
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How do I change my nonimmigrant status?
In most cases, it will take about 3-4 months to gain approval for a change from B-1/B-2 to F-1. In some cases, it may take even longer. This is problematic because a 6-month visitor's visa will expire while you are waiting for USCIS to approve the change. Thus, you are left without a valid visa to re-enter the U.S. if you leave the country while waiting for the change to be approved.
While waiting for USCIS to approve the visa category change, you will remain in B-1/B-2 visitor status. You cannot obtain employment authorization or a Social Security number while you are in B-1/B-2 status. You can apply for a social security card using an online application, but the chances of your application getting accepted till your visa status changes is extremely bleak. Since many states in the U.S. will not issue a driver's license to persons without Social Security numbers, you may run into transportation difficulties. So that you don't run into this sort of difficulty again as a United States citizen, you will need to know how to order new social security card so that you are still eligible to apply for things like student loans and filing medical forms. Again, this may take some time depending on the status of your application.
What are the requirements to change from a visitor to a student visa?
In order to gain approval of a change from B-1/B-2 visitor status to F-1 student, your application will have to convince USCIS officials that you did not enter the U.S. on a visitor's visa because you could not, or thought you could not, obtain a student visa.
If you apply for a change from B-1/B-2 to F-1 very soon after arriving in the U.S., USCIS officials will probably deny your application, because it may seem like you are trying to obtain the student visa through fraud. USCIS considers that a rapid change from visitor's status to student status is evidence that you misrepresented your purpose for coming to the US and that you should leave the country and apply for a student visa in the normal manner.
Even after USCIS approves the change, you are still left without a valid visa. After approval, you will be legally present in the U.S. as a student. But if you leave the U.S., you will have to obtain a new visa in order to re-enter this country. There is no guarantee that officials at consular offices and embassies will agree to issue the new visa. For more specific information on student visas, please read more here.
What is "Immigrant Intent" and why would USCIS deny my application based on that?
U.S. Immigration law does not permit "immigrant intent" for any nonimmigrant status holders. This means that if an application for immigration (immigrant visa, green card) has been filed for the applicant, USCIS may deny the application to change to F-1 student status on the basis that the applicant has demonstrated immigrant intent by filing an immigrant visa petition with USCIS. Read more about immigrant intent.
Can my spouse and children also change status on my application to change or extend nonimmigrant status?
Your spouse and children (must be unmarried and under 21) are also included on your application to extend or chance nonimmigrant status. If approved, spouse and children's immigration status will be changed to the derivative status of the principal application. For example, a tourist who decides to study in the United States can file a change of status application to change status from B-2 to F-1, and his spouse can change status to F-2, a dependent status to her husband's F-1 status.
Can I appeal a USCIS denial of my Application to Change Status to F-1?
USCIS may deny the application to change to F-1 status for various reasons, such as insufficient evidence or failure to respond to request for evidence. A letter of denial will be issued along with the application for motion to reopen. The appeal must be filed on the correct application or else it will not be accepted by USCIS. Unless the motion to reopen is to correct a service mistake, you must pay the applicable filing fee with USCIS. Under immigration law, the motion to reopen must be filed within 30 days of the decision, with 3 extra days taken into consideration for mailing.
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