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Going From Tourist Visa to Student Visa

Many would-be students enter the United States on a tourist (B-2) visa and later decide to swap it to a (F-1) student visa. It should be noted that the B-2 visitor visa is intended only for nonimmigrants visiting the U.S. on a temporary basis, whether it is for pleasure, tourism, or medical treatment. Be forewarned, you face an uphill battle to change the status of your visa, even if you did not enter the U.S. with the intent to study in the first place. A “preconceived intent to study” may bar you from changing your status altogether.

Hope is not lost, though. In general, persons with a tourist visa may be eligible to change their immigration status; for example, in the past, U.S. visitors have successfully swapped out a visitor visa with a changed intent to file for student visa and have gotten it approved. However, recent changes made by the Trump administration have adversely affected these cases and, in many cases, those who request a change in status are denied. The Trump administration has made a more recent policy that an applicant for student visas must change their status within 30 days of the school’s program start date, which can be a catch-22 if the student has no time to do so.

In application, this means that if a student visa takes many months, often over 6 months, by the time the application is decided, the person will no longer be in visitor visa status and within 30 days of the program start date. In effect, this has resulted in many applications being denied; so much so that it could be argued, depending on each individual circumstance, that it would be better to leave while still in visitor visa status and apply for a student visa while abroad.

If you can demonstrate that your intent to study arose after you entered the country, you may be able to change your status by submitting the Form I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status to USCIS, through the mail if all eligibility criteria are met, including, but not limited to, being in status within 30 days of a school’s program start date. It is highly advised that because each case depends on individual circumstances that you seek out a consultation with a competent immigration attorney if considering the possibility of changing your tourist visa to a student visa.

Disclaimer: Please note that this is not legal advice but general advice only, and policies may change after the publication of this blog.

If you are interested in swapping a tourist visa to a student visa, please contact The Modi Law Firm, PLLC to learn more about how we can legally guide you. Call (832) 514-4030 or contact us online and schedule a consultation with a Houston visa lawyer.

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