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Changing to Nonimmigrant Student Status?

Written By The Shapiro Law Group on August 12, 2019

Not all immigrants who are in the U.S. on nonimmigrant visas are allowed to enroll in school, but it is possible for some people who have nonimmigrant visas to apply to change their statuses to M-1 to enroll in vocational programs or F-1 to enroll in academic courses. Immigrants who are in the U.S. on E visas are not prohibited from enrolling in college and can enroll without first applying for an adjustment of status.For the other types of nonimmigrant visas, including B-1 and B-2 visas, people must apply to adjust their statuses before they will be allowed to enroll in vocational schools or colleges.

Applying For a Change in Status

A person who is in Illinois on a nonimmigrant visa that forbids him or her from enrolling in school is able to apply for a change in his or her status to an F-1 or M-1 visa while he or she is in the U.S. as long as he or she meets certain criteria. The person must have been lawfully admitted into the country and have a nonimmigrant visa that is still valid. He or she must not have committed any crimes while in the U.S. and cannot have violated the terms of his or her visa. 

To change to a nonimmigrant student visa, people must first apply to and be accepted by a school that is approved as student exchange and visitor program. The approved school must provide a Form I-20 and list the reason as a change of status. People must then pay the I-901 SEVIS fee and complete and submit a Form I-539 application to change his or her nonimmigrant status with the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service.

If the person’s nonimmigrant visa will end more than 30 days before the start date of the F-1 or M-1 program, the person will either have to leave the U.S. until the decision is issued or try to have the current visa extended. To extend the visa, the person will have to submit a second I-539 application to extend his or her current status.  If the USCIS does not process the application in time for the person to begin his or her program of study, he or she will need to apply for an extension up until 30 days or less before the first day of the program the following semester.