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 Language On English Schools.

F-1 Student Visa to study in the USA

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 English Schools. 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.

F-1 Visa to study in the USA

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.

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