Integrity Legal

23rd August 2010

Laypeople sometimes confuse the process of adjustment of status with the change of status process. This confusion is directly related to the subject of this post: change of status from US Tourist Visa status to US Student Visa status. Many are under the mistaken impression that it is legal to attend school in the USA on a tourist visa. This is not the case. In a recent announcement promulgated by the US Department of Homeland Security and distributed by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the question was posed: “Is it permissible to enroll in school while in B-1/B-2 status?” The answer is quoted directly from the aforementioned announcement:

No, it is not. The regulations, at 8 CFR 214.2(b)(7), specifically prohibit study in the United States while in B-1 or B-2 status.


Before enrolling in classes, individuals who are in B-1 or B-2 status must first acquire F-1 (academic student) or M-1 (vocational student) status. Enrolling in classes while in B-1/B-2 status will result in a status violation. Individuals in B-1 or B-2 status, who have violated their nonimmigrant status by enrolling in classes, are not eligible to extend their B status or change to F-1 or M-1 status. Theseregulations provide no exceptions.

If you currently hold B-1 or B-2 nonimmigrant status and would like to enroll in classes, you may apply for a change of status to F-1 or M-1, as appropriate, if:


You have not yet enrolled in classes
Your current status has not expired
You have not engaged in unauthorized employment


To change your nonimmigrant status from B-1/B-2 to F-1 or M-1, you must file an Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status (Form I-539), and include the required fee and documents listed in the filing instructions.

Please Note:


If you enroll in classes before USCIS approves your Form I-539, you will be ineligible to change your nonimmigrant status from B to F or M. If you are applying to extend your B-1/B-2 stay and you have already enrolled in classes, USCIS cannot approve your B-1/B-2 extension because of the status violation.

For some, the change of status process can be confusing and difficult as few are familiar with DHS forms and protocols, but for those who obtain an F1 visa, the educational rewards can offset the time and resources expended obtaining the visa. Those who are not eligible to receive a change of status may find the following excerpt from the previously mentioned announcement helpful:

If you are not eligible to change your nonimmigrant status to F-1 or M-1, you may apply for an F-1 or M-1 visa at a consular post abroad…We encourage all students and prospective students to work closely with their designated school official (DSO) to coordinate the timing of applying for change of status and enrolling in classes.

Those staying in the United States on any type of visa are required by law to fully comply with the terms of their visa. Failure to do so could lead to severe civil and criminal penalties. Those wishing to travel to the United States of America are well advised to seek the type of visa that truly comports with proposed activity in the USA. As extraneous circumstances can cause unforeseen problems it may be necessary to apply for a change of status if one’s current visa does not provide proper benefits.

Adjustment of status, which can be confused with changing status, is the process of switching a foreign national from a non-immigrant visa to Lawful Permanent Residence (Green Card). Those traveling to the United States of America on a K1 visa must adjust their status within 90 days of their arrival after their marriage to the US Citizen petitioner.

For more about adjusting status please see: adjustment of status.


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