How to Change Your US Visa Status: A Step-by-Step Guide
If you are in the United States with a nonimmigrant visa and wish to change your status to a different nonimmigrant visa or an immigrant visa, you can do so by following the right procedures. Changing your visa status can be complex and time-consuming, but it can also be the beginning of a new chapter in your life in the US. To help you through the process, we have created a step-by-step guide that will tell you everything you need to know about how to change your US visa status.
Step 1: Understand the Process
Before you start the process of changing your US visa status, you need to understand the basics of the process. You must know the requirements for the visa you want to change to, understand the deadlines and filing fees, and determine whether you can remain in the US during the application process. Immigration laws and procedures can be complex, so seek professional guidance from an immigration attorney if you need clarification on any aspect of the process.
Step 2: Determine Your Eligibility
To change your visa status, you must meet the requirements for the new visa classification. The eligibility criteria vary depending on the type of visa you are seeking to change to. For instance, to change your status to an F-1 visa, you must be accepted by a US school and have sufficient funds to support yourself while studying. Similarly, to change your status to an H-1B visa, you must have a job offer from a US company that qualifies for this visa category. Review the eligibility criteria for the new visa carefully before beginning the application process.
Step 3: File the Application
After determining your eligibility, you can file the application to change your visa status by completing Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. You must submit the form along with all other required documentation, including proof of financial support, passport, I-94 Arrival/Departure Record, and any other applicable documents. You must also pay the filing fee when submitting the application. The USCIS will review your application and notify you of a decision.
Step 4: Wait for Approval or Denial
After submitting your application, you must wait for the USCIS to review and process it. The time it takes to process the application can vary, and it is crucial to remain patient and not bother USCIS by calling to know the status of your application. If your application is approved, you can start enjoying the benefits of your new visa status. However, if your application is denied, you will need to prepare to leave the US before your authorized stay period expires.
Can I change my visa status while in the US?
Yes, you can change your visa status while in the US. You must decide which new visa category you want to apply for, determine that you are eligible, and file a Form I-539.
How long does it take to change my visa status?
The processing time for a change of status application can vary from several weeks to several months, depending on various factors such as the USCIS caseload and COVID-19 measures.
Can I work while my visa status change is being processed?
You can work while your visa status change application is being processed only if you are eligible to do so per your previously granted visa.
What happens if my visa status change application gets denied?
If your visa status change application gets denied, you must prepare to leave the US before your authorized stay period expires. You may also seek the help of an immigration attorney to file an appeal if you believe the denial was unjust or wrong.
Can I travel outside the US while my visa status change application is pending?
It is not recommended to travel outside the US while your visa status change application is pending because this could lead to complications in the processing of your application. By travelling outside the US, you may be deemed to have abandoned your application, and you may be denied entry at the port of entry upon your return.
Do I need to hire an attorney to change my visa status?
It is not mandatory to hire an immigration attorney to change your visa status. However, since immigration laws can be complex, it is recommended to seek the help of an experienced immigration attorney to guide you through the process and ensure that you comply with all requirements and deadlines.
What if I accidentally overstayed my authorized stay while waiting for my visa status change application?
If you overstay your authorized stay period while waiting for your visa status change application to be approved, you may be subject to a bar from re-entering the US. Therefore, you should consult with an immigration attorney to explore your options or to apply for an extension of your authorized stay to remain lawfully in the US while your application is being processed.
How do I know if my visa status change application was approved?
The USCIS will notify you of the decision by mail. You can also check the status of your application online by entering your receipt number on the USCIS website.
Do I need to renew my visa once I change my visa status?
Once you successfully change your visa status to another nonimmigrant visa status, you do not necessarily need to renew your visa. Nevertheless, if you plan to travel outside the US and then return, you need to apply for a new visa with the US embassy or consulate in the country you will be visiting.
In summary, changing your US visa status is a complex but rewarding process. You can hire an immigration attorney to guide you through the process, or you can follow the above guide to submit your application and wait to hear from the USCIS. Remember to only travel outside the US if necessary, and always maintain legal status to avoid complications.