A J-1 student visa is a non-immigrant visa that provides international candidates the opportunity to travel and participate in an Exchange Visitor Program in the United States. Foreign nationals may also acquire a B-1 visa that allows them to enroll in a recreational study for a short period. However, the USCIS allows non-immigrants with a J-1 or B-1 visa to seek a change to F-1 status, provided:
- You have lawfully entered the United States using a non-immigrant visa
- You have not violated the conditions mentioned as per U.S. non-immigrant status
- Your non-immigrant status is still valid
Here are some important things you should know before applying to change your status to an F-1 visa.
Why Should You Apply for a Change of Status from J-1 to F-1 Visa?
If you are already holding a valid J-1 non-immigration visa and pursuing an academic study program in the U.S., you are eligible to change your status to an F-1 student visa. This enables you to pursue education in the United States as a full-time, academic student for the following:
- High school
- University or college
- Private elementary school
- Language training program
A change of status to F-1 prolongs your stay in the United States and also allows you to pursue full-time education in the country. F-1 visa holders are also eligible to work on campus for 20 hours or less per week. After completion of the first year, they can apply to work off-campus. Thus, changing to an F-1 visa will help you get admitted to a full-time academic course and also gain work experience.
Important Things to Know Before You Apply
- Know the differences between a J-1 visa and F-1 visa
- If you are seeking a change of status while being within the United States, then speak to immigration lawyers who have experience in this field
- It may take 6-12 months for USCIS to approve the F-1 student visa application and during this time, you should maintain the appropriate legal status
- Matriculating foreign students residing in the U.S. and holding a valid non-immigrant status should file for a change to F-1 status. Other students should apply for a visa stamp abroad
- You should not travel abroad while your application is being filed with the USCIS. It may lead to termination of status
- If you are holding a B-1 visa, you may not begin with your studies until the change of status is approved
- Your change of status to an F-1 visa may not commence before 30 days of the start date mentioned on Form I-20 or Form DS-2019
- You must maintain your current U.S. non-immigrant status when applying for the change of status
How to Apply for a Change of Status to F-1 Visa?
Discussed here are the steps to apply for a change of status to an F-1 student visa:
- Talk to the best immigration lawyer and ensure you meet all the criteria before you may apply for a change of your non-immigrant status.
- If you are a J-1 status holder subject to a 2-year home residency requirements, then you can change to F-1 status only through consular processing. If not, apply through USCIS.
- Obtain the original Form I-20 – Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant Student Status – from a SEVP-certified school where you have got admitted for an Exchange Visitor Program.
- Demonstrate receipts that confirm payment of the I-901 SEVIS Fee
- Submit financial documents that validate you can cover the cost of attending a school or university in the United States
- Submit Form I-539 with the USCIS website – Application to Extend/Change Non-immigrant Status
If you are applying for a Change of Status by travel, you must depart the U.S. after you have obtained the initial I-20. Wait until you receive an F-1 student visa and re-enter the country with the new status
Two-Year Home Residency Requirement for Change of Status to F-1
One of the biggest challenges that many J-1 visa holders face is the 2-year home residency requirement. This mandates the applicant the J-1 status holder to spend 2 years in their respective home country before they can return to the United States.
However, the candidate can still apply for a change of status to F-1. As an applicant, you should apply for a waiver of this 2-year home residency requirement by the USCIS.
In this regard, you may seek expert consultation from an immigration lawyer who specializes in student visa.
Onal Gallant and Partners PC is a law office specializing in Real Estate Law, Intellectual Property, Corporate and Business Law, Immigration Law, and the US Visa Processes. We deliver reliable advice in a large variety of subjects ranging from forming a corporation, and buying a house in the US to trademark registration and Green Card applications (e.g., EB3 Visa or DV Lottery). With exceptional knowledge and insight into immigration law, our experienced lawyers at Onal Gallant and Partners PC are ready to help and respond to all of your inquiries.