As of 2017, more than 1.1 million international students were enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities. The United States remains the world’s leading destination for those who want to attend institutions of higher learning abroad.

However. replacing the B-2 tourist visa with an F-1 student visa in the U.S. might be trickier than you think. You must demonstrate to the immigration authorities that when you arrived here, you had no “preconceived” intention to study here or to become a student in the United States.

If you’ll keep reading, an immigration attorney from Las Vegas will teach of what it takes to exchange a tourist visa for a student visa, and you will also find out where to turn for the legal help and advice that you’ll need to obtain the F-1 student visa.

WHAT IS A “PRECONCEIVED” INTENT TO BECOME A STUDENT?

A B-2 tourist visa is meant only and exclusively for those nonimmigrants who are entering the U.S. temporarily for tourism reasons or for medical treatment. This type of visit to the U.S. may not include any type of course work or classes that may count toward a degree.

Tourist Visa

In the past, some people have misunderstood the terms and conditions of the B-2 tourist visa. They assume that you can enter the U.S. with a B-2 visa while you are planning to become a student, and they assume that they may simply change their status after they arrive in the U.S.

Do not make that assumption. Exchanging a B-2 tourist visa for an F-1 student visa is a great deal more complicated than that. Any preconceived intention to study in the United States is in conflict with the purposes and terms of a B-2 visa.

If you have not taken the proper steps, you will not be approved for an F-1 student visa.

HOW CAN SOMEONE OBTAIN AN F-1 STUDENT VISA?

You are the only person who knows what your real intentions are when you enter the U.S. If you in fact did enter the U.S. with a preconceived intent to study, the best way to handle the matter is to return home and to apply from there for the F-1 student visa.

Another option – while still in your home country – is to apply for a B-2 “prospective student” visa. Keep reading – both of these options will be briefly explained below.

But first, here’s how to apply for a change of status if you are already in the U.S. with the B-2 tourist visa.

HOW DO YOU APPLY FOR A CHANGE OF YOUR IMMIGRATION STATUS?

If you had no preconceived intention to study in the U.S. when you arrived, but since that time, you have decided that you would like to be a student in the U.S., you will need documentation regarding the circumstances that led you to change your mind and to decide to become a student.

You will need to file by mail Form I-539 (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status) with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). As you prepare Form I-539, you must simultaneously maintain your B-2 tourist status.

As you complete Form I-539, you should have the help of an experienced Las Vegas immigration attorney who will ensure that no mistakes or misunderstandings cause any unnecessary delays in the processing of your change of status application.

WHAT ELSE DOES A CHANGE TO F-1 STUDENT STATUS REQUIRE?

Do not forget to include the documentation that demonstrates your eligibility for an F-1 visa, including:

  1. a Form I-20 from the college or university that you expect to attend
  1. documentation of liquid assets to pay educational expenses and living costs
  1. proof of substantial ties to your home nation and proof of your intention to return there immediately upon completion of your course of study

If you do not qualify for a change of status, or if your change of status application is denied, and if you still want to be a U.S. student, you will have to return to your home country and pursue one of these two options – obtaining a B-2 “prospective” student visa or an F-1 student visa.

HOW CAN YOU OBTAIN A B-2 “PROSPECTIVE” STUDENT VISA?

If you’re honest from the start when you request a B-2 visa, and if you would like to enter the U.S. with both a tourist visa and with an intention to study in this nation, you may apply for a B-2 prospective student visa if you:

  1. are undecided regarding which educational institution you want to attend
  1. have a good reason to enter the United States more than thirty days before your course of study begins, or if you must be here for an admission interview or an entrance exam

By acquiring a B-2 prospective student visa, you will improve the chances that a change of status application will be approved after you have entered the U.S.

B-2 Visa

HOW CAN YOU OBTAIN AN F-1 STUDENT VISA?

If you do not qualify for a change of status, or if your change of status application is denied, you may have to depart from the U.S. and apply for the F-1 visa from your home nation.

Applying for the F-1 from your home nation can have some advantages. Preconceived intent will not be a concern, and your application will probably be processed more quickly than a change of status application in the U.S. would be processed.

You may request a change of status for up to six months before the expiration date on your Form I-94, and you should make the change of status request a minimum of sixty days before that date.

Have patience. The time that USCIS requires for processing a change of status request varies greatly. That’s why your Form I-539 must be complete, accurate, and on time. If it isn’t, your request may be delayed or even denied.

WHEN SHOULD YOU SPEAK TO AN IMMIGRATION LAWYER?

If you are in the U.S. and you are seeking to exchange a B-2 for an F-1 visa, until you hear from USCIS, you cannot presume that your F-1 student status will be approved, and you must not start taking classes or change in any other way your visa-related activities in the United States.

Every immigration procedure takes time and patience. Do not hesitate to seek an immigration lawyer’s help – at once – with any matter related to your visa or your immigration status.

If you are an immigrant who is seeking to become a university or college student in this country, or if you need legal advice or representation regarding any other immigration matter, you must seek the help of an experienced Las Vegas immigration attorney. That is your right.