USCIS FAQ on Change of Status from B Visitor to F1/M1 Student

 

Introduction

On April 5, 2017, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a document titled “Special Instructions for B-1/B-2 Visitors Who Want to Enroll in School” [link]. The document, posted in question and answer format, addresses several questions of interest to B1 and B2 visitors who want to study in the United States. In this article, we will examine the questions and answers provided by the USCIS.

For more comprehensive guidance, please see our full article titled “Change of Status from B Visitor to F1/M1 Student” [see article].

Extension of B1 or B2 status

Study not Permitted on B1 or B2 Status

The USCIS explains that under 8 C.F.R. 214.2(b)(7), study in the United States is prohibited while on B1 or B2 status. In order for a B visitor to study in the United States, he or she must acquire either F1 or M1 student status. Studying while in the United States on B1 or B2 status will constitute a violation of such status. Furthermore, studying on B1 or B2 status would render the B visitor ineligible to extend B status or to change status to F1 or M1.

Please see our comprehensive articles regarding permissible activities on B1 status [see article] and B2 status [see article] to learn what types of activities are allowed while in B visitor status.

Obtaining F1 or M1 Status as a B Vistor

A B visitor may apply to change to F1 or M1 student status under the following circumstances:

  • The B visitor has not yet enrolled in classes;
  • B status has not expired; and
  • The B visitor has not engaged in unauthorized employment.

An application for change of status is filed with fee on the Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. Please see our full overview of change of nonimmigrant status to learn more about the Form I-539 [see article].

While a change of status application is pending, a B visitor will be required to maintain his or her B status. Under the following circumstances, a B visitor with a pending change of status application must file a separate Form I-539 with a separate fee to request an extension of B1 or B2 status:

  • The B visitor's status will expire more than 30 days before the initial F1 or M1 program start date. The USCIS may only approve the Form I-539 change of status request if the B visitor is maintaining his or her B1 or B2 status up to 30 days before the F1 or M1 program start date. If a necessary extension request is not filed on time, the USCIS will deny the Form I-539 change of status request. The USCIS advises that B visitors consult the processing times to determine if an extension of status application will be necessary.
  • The F1 or M1 program start date is deferred to the following academic term or semester because the USCIS did not render a final decision on the change of status application in before the original F1 or M1 program start date. In such event, the B visitor may need to file a second Form I-539 requesting an extension of B1 or B2 status in order to bridge the gap between the expiration of B status and the 30-day period before the F1 program start date.

The USCIS makes clear that if a B visitor enrolls in a course of study before a change of status application to F1 or M1 status is approved, the change of status application will be denied. An application for an extension of B1 or B2 status would also be denied.

For B Visitors Ineligible to Change Status

A B visitor who cannot procure a change of status to F1 or M1 status may apply for an F1 or M1 visa at a U.S. consulate abroad. The USCIS encourages prospective students to work with their designated school official (DSO) for guidance.

Conclusion

Before seeking to change status from B1 or B2 visitor to F1 or M1 student, a B visitor should consult with an experienced immigration attorney. An attorney may assess the case and determine whether it is worthwhile for the B visitor to seek a change of status, or whether he or she would be best served seeking a student visa from a U.S. consulate abroad.

There are a couple of important points to note regarding B visas. First, as we explain in our article on change of status from B visitor to F1 or M1 student, it is possible to obtain a B2 visa as a prospective student. In order to do so, the prospective student must properly represent his or her intentions at the consulate [see section].

Additionally, a B1 or B2 visitor may not misrepresent his or her intentions for seeking a B visa when procuring the visa. For example, in the Matter of Hsu, 14 I&N Dec. 344 (RC 1973) [PDF version], a then Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) Regional Commissioner denied an application for change of status from B1 to F1 because he found that the applicant had obtained his B1 visa under false pretenses in order to “[evade] the normal visa-issuing procedures for obtaining a student visa.” Additionally, the USCIS often uses a Department of State (DOS) adjudicative principle titled the “30/60 day rule,” and this will generally lead to the denial of a change of status application from B visitor to F1 or M1 student made within 30/60 days of entry unless that was the B2 visitor's stated reason for entry [see article]. To learn more, please see our full section in the article on change of status from B visitor to F1/M1 student [see section].

Finally, in order for the change of status application to be approved, the B visitor must satisfy all of the requirements for F1 or M1 student status. Notably, this includes the requirement that he or she have adequate financial support to engage in the intended course of studies.

In short, it is best for a B visitor to consult with an experienced immigration attorney before seeking a change of status. Additionally, an individual seeking B2 status as a prospective student should consult with an attorney before applying.