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Many nonimmigrants in the U.S. for tourism, medical treatment or some other work-related program (Au Pair) end up deciding to stay a little longer to either pursue other opportunities or to just visit with family a bit longer. If done the right way, a visitor can remain in the U.S. without having to spend the time and money returning home to obtain another visa.
A nonimmigrant can apply to change their status while remaining in the U.S. if they were lawfully admitted to the U.S. in a nonimmigrant status, their nonimmigrant status remains valid, they have not violated the conditions of the status and if they have not committed any crimes or engaged in any other actions that would make them ineligible for the change of status.
The most common extension of a tourist visa is to convert to a student status. Although it permissible to enroll in school while in a nonimmigrant status, the rules are very restrictive depending on your visa. Some statuses permit enrollment with no limitations, while others do not. For example, the law specifically prohibits a nonimmigrant from enrolling in a course of study in the Unites States while on B-1 or B-2 status, but there are no prohibitions for those in an E status, for example. So, individuals here on an investor visa can freely enroll in school as long as it does not interfere with their ability to maintain their E status.
For those in the U.S. on a tourist visa, you must first obtain F-1 (academic student) or M-1 (vocational student) status before enrolling into school or a training program. If you go ahead and enroll in a course of study while in a status that does not permit schooling, you will be in violation of immigration law and will be punished for that violation. Punishment can either be the revocation of your tourist visa, being prevented from extending your current status or stopped from changing to an F-1 or M-1 visa while remaining in the Unite Staes.
It is very important to know that those attempting to change their status while in the U.S. must wait until they receive their approval from USCIS before enrolling into school. Violations of immigration law are never forgotten by the government and often come up in the future preventing nonimmigrants from obtaining benefits later on when they least expect it. Do not ever assume the requested status has been approved and figure you can just move forward with school.
If USCIS has not adjudicated your change of status at least 15 days before the program start date on your Form I-20, contact the designated school official (DSO) at your new school and let them know of the potential problem. If USCIS does not grant your request to change status prior to the start date of classes, you will need to defer attendance and wait until the following term in order to begin your studies at the school in the proper status.
For some nonimmigrants, it may be necessary to apply for an extension of their underlying status to make sure they are not at risk of violating the terms of the current visa. Since immigration is very slow these days, it is not uncommon for an approval to be received before the underlying status expires. If this becomes your reality, you may be required to leave the United States and return at a later date in order to avoid immigration violations.
I always advise my clients to apply as soon as possible once they decide to pursue a change of status or if they want to extend their stay a bit longer. Contact our office to see how we can help you change or extend your status while remaining in the U.S. You can do this by contacting our office to schedule a consultation at 616-805-3435 or by using the following link to schedule an appointment online: https://marvinlawoffice.com/schedule-a-consultation/