I AM A NONIMMIGRANT.
HOW DO I CHANGE TO ANOTHER NONIMMIGRANT VISA STATUS IN THE UNITED STATES?
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visas are issued to foreign citizens who intend to remain in the
United States for, depending on the particular nonimmigrant classification,
a temporary period or otherwise less than permanent period of time.
There are more than 40 nonimmigrant
US visa categories; each is used for a different, but very specific
purpose. For example, some authorize temporary employment in the US;
others permit tourists to visit, students to study, and diplomats to
serve their home country’s interests.
The immigration authorities understand that plans can change. If your
original reason for coming to the US changes, you may be required to
change your nonimmigrant status to a different one before you may lawfully
begin to engage in the activities you want to pursue.
How do I know if I am eligible to change my status in the US?
You may apply to change your status in the US if you:
• Were lawfully admitted into the US; and
• You have not committed any act that would make you ineligible
to receive an immigration benefit; and
• There is no other factor that, in the sole discretion of US
Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), would warrant requiring
you to depart the US prior to making a reentry pursuant to a different
classification. For example, an immigration officer may determine for
any number of reasons that you should obtain a new visa prior to being
readmitted into the US; and
• You submit an application for a change of status before the
expiration date on your Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record. There are
certain very limited circumstances under which USCIS will excuse a late
filing of such an application.
Please note: Your passport must be valid for your entire requested
period of stay in the new nonimmigrant classification in the US.
How do I know if I am not eligible to change my status in eligible
to change my status in the US?
If you were admitted in any of the following nonimmigrant categories,
you will not be able to change your nonimmigrant status:
C (Aliens in Transit)
K1 Fiancee or K2 Dependent of Fiancee
S (Witness or Informant)
TWOV (Transit without Visa)
WT or WB (Under the Visa Waiver Program, you would have been issued
a green Form I-94W, Nonimmigrant Visa Waiver Arrival-Departure Record
J1 (Exchange Visitor subject to the 2
year foreign residence requirement)
M1 (Vocational student changing to F1 or H – if the M training
helped him or her qualify for the H classification)
Q2 (Irish Peace Process Cultural and Training Program Participant –
subject to two-year
foreign residency requirement)
Please note: If you are in any of the above categories, you must depart
the US on or before the date your I-94 expires.
How do I change my nonimmigrant status?
How you apply depends on the nonimmigrant status to which you want
to change –
If you want to change your status to one of the following employment-based
nonimmigrant categories, your prospective employer should file a I-129
petition for nonimmigrant worker on your behalf before your Form I-94
expires. This form serves two purposes: it is used to establish that
(1) you will be performing the type of work covered by the new nonimmigrant
classification for the petitioner, and (2) you personally meet the requirements
for changing your status. You cannot begin work in the new classification
until the USCIS approves the change of status.
E1 Treaty Trader or E2 Treaty Investor
H1B, H2A, H2B or H3 (Temporary Workers)
L1A or L1B (Intracompany Transferee)
O1 or O2 (Aliens with Extraordinary Ability)
P1, P2, or P3 (Athletes and Entertainers)
Q1 (International Cultural Exchange)
R1 (Religious Workers)
TN (NAFTA Canadians and Mexicans)
Each of the above categories has specific requirements and limits,
including those on length of stay in this country.
Please note: If your prospective employer files an I-129 petition to
change your status, and your husband or wife and/or unmarried children
under age 21 also want to change status to remain as your dependents,
they will need to file an I-539 application to extend/change nonimmigrant
Note that they can all be included on one I-539. It is best to file
the I-129 and I-539 forms together, so that they may be adjudicated
on or about the same time. Remember, though, that they are separate
applications, and, therefore, you and your family members (and your
employer) should follow the instructions and file all the supporting
documents with each application, even when filing forms together.
If you wish to change your status to one of the following nonimmigrant
categories, you should file Form I-539:
A (Diplomatic and Other Government Officials, Immediate Family members,
B1 and B2 (Visitors for Business or Pleasure)
E (Treaty Traders and Investors dependents)
F (Academic Students and dependents)
G (Foreign Government Officials and Certain Immediate Family members)
H4 (Temporary Worker dependents)
K3 Spouse of US Citizen and K4 Minor Child Accompanying or Following
L2 (Intracompany Transferee dependents)
M (Vocational and Language Students and dependents)
N (Parents and Children of Certain People Who Have Been Granted Special
NATO (NATO Representatives, Officials, Employees, and Immediate Family
O3 (Aliens with Extraordinary Ability dependents)
P4 (Athletes and Entertainer dependents)
R2 (Religious Worker dependents)
TD (TN dependents)
Please note: All family members (husband or wife and unmarried children
under 21) who are requesting the exact same change in nonimmigrant category
can be included on one I-539 application.
Can I get a change of status if my status already expired?
If your status expired before you filed an application with USCIS to
change your status, or if you have otherwise violated the terms of your
status, such as by working without authorization, then you are out of
status. If you have fallen out of status, except in certain limited
instances related to circumstances beyond your control, the USCIS cannot
change your status. Staying longer than the period of time for which
you were granted admission may also have a negative effect on your ability
to get other benefits or to return to the US at a later time.
When should I file, and how long will it take to process my
The USCIS processing times can vary. You can check the current processing
times at http://bccvisalaw.com/ins-processing.php. You should apply
no later than 60 days prior to your I-94 expiring to change your status.
You may also apply up to six months before your I-94 expires to have
your status changed.
If I am eligible for a change of status, and file on time,
will my application be approved?
A change in status is not automatic. The USCIS will look at your situation,
your current status, the reasons you want to change your status, and
the reasons you did not apply for this kind of visa before you entered,
and will decide whether to grant your application and, if the USCIS grants it,
how long the USCIS will extend your stay in the new nonimmigrant status. The
USCIS will not grant a change of status for a reason inconsistent with
the terms of the requested status, or where circumstances suggest it
would be inappropriate.
When can I engage in the activities for which the new nonimmigrant
status I am applying for is required?
You may not do so until the USCIS approves your application for change
What if I file on time but USCIS does not make a decision before
my I-94 expires?
If the USCIS receive your application before your nonimmigrant status
expires (or, in exceptional cases, the USCIS excuses filing after your
status expires due to circumstances beyond your control), and if you
have not violated the terms of your status and you meet the basic eligibility
requirements, then you may remain in the US until the USCIS makes a
decision on your application. But remember, you cannot start the activities
allowed by the status you are applying for until the USCIS approves
your application and change your status. Further, once your original
nonimmigrant status expires, even though you will generally be allowed
to remain in the US while your extension of stay application is pending.
You will not be deemed to be in any nonimmigrant status until such time
as the USCIS may approve your change of status application. Therefore,
you may not, for example, engage in employment during this period, even
if your original nonimmigrant status would have allowed you to do so.
If the USCIS denies your change of status application, you will be considered
to have been “out of status” for the entire period following
the expiration of your original nonimmigrant status and will be required
to depart from the US immediately upon notification of such denial of
THE INFORMATION ON THIS WEBSITE IS NOT TO BE CONSIDERED LEGAL
ADVICE. SUCH INFORMATION IS INTENDED TO EDUCATE MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC
GENERALLY AND IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE SOLUTIONS TO INDIVIDUAL PROBLEMS.
READERS ARE CAUTIONED NOT TO ATTEMPT TO SOLVE INDIVIDUAL PROBLEMS
ON THE BASIS OF INFORMATION CONTAINED HEREIN AND ARE STRONGLY ADVISED
TO SEEK ADVICE FROM AN EXPERIENCED IMMIGRATION LAWYER REGARDING SPECIFIC
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