Who is Eligible to Change Their Immigration Status to F-1?
“Who is eligible to change their immigration status to F-1?” Read this article to learn more about applying for a change of status and to learn who is, and who is not, eligible to apply for an F-1 Visa. Today, we will just give you general information about the process of changing ones status and applying for a “student” F-1 Visa. If you have any specific questions, please contact a lawyer or an appropriate government official. Please visit our Visa Information section to learn more about what is required for students applying to study English with Language On.
As most readers of this blog already know, an F-1 (student) visa is the type of visa required for nonimmigrants to enter the United States in order to study full-time at an SEVP (Student and Exchange Visitor Program) approved academic or language institution, such as Language On. Upon commencing their course of studies, full-time nonimmigrant students gain F-1 status. There are only two ways for an individual to acquire F-1 status: (1) the person must either apply for an F-1 visa from abroad (this means from outside the United States) and then enter the United States using that F-1 visa within 30 days of their program’s scheduled start date; or (2) for many individuals who are already lawfully present in the United States with another active immigration status, apply for a change of status (also called an adjustment of status) from their current status to F-1. This blog post will explain who is legally eligible to change their immigration status to F-1 (stay tuned for a future blog post that will address how nonimmigrants can change their status to F-1).
Under United States immigration law, most nonimmigrants who are lawfully present in the United States with an active immigration status are eligible to apply for a change of status (COS) to F-1 in order to study full time (those with an expired status, such as a tourist who has overstayed his or her six months of eligibility to remain in the United States, are not eligible to apply for a change of status). However, there are two major exceptions to this generalization. The first major exception applies to vocational and technical students with M-1 status. M-1 students studying in an SEVP approved vocational or technical program are not eligible to change their immigration status at all (to F-1 or any other status), as this is specifically prohibited by U.S. immigration law. If an M-1 student wishes to study in an academic or language program, the student must return to his or her country of origin and apply for an F-1 visa as an initial attendance student.
The second major exception involves foreigners who entered the United States without a visa by participating in the visa waiver program (or VWP). Visa waiver program participants can only apply to adjust their immigration status if they have an immediate relative who is a United States citizen, and even then there are very strict application and timing requirements. Otherwise, VWP participants are ineligible to apply for a change of immigration status. As is the case for M-1 students, if visa waiver program participants decide to pursue full-time academic or language study at an SEVP approved school, they must return to their home country and apply for an F-1 visa from abroad.
If you would like to learn more about changing your immigration status, you can visit the USCIS website.