On April 5, 2017, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a document titled “Special Instructions for B-1/B-2 Visitors Who Want to Enroll in School”. The document presents important changes and is a must read for anyone who intends to study in the United States.
STUDY NOT PERMITTED ON B1 OR B2 STATUS
The USCIS explains that under 8 C.F.R. 214.2(b)(7), study in the United States is prohibited while on B1 or B2 status. Although this is not new, this a good reminder to so many immigrants who just pack their bags and arrive in the U.S. with the intention to study, but lacking the proper visa. In order for a B visitor to study in the United States, he or she must acquire either F1 or M1 student status. Studying while in the United States on B1 or B2 status will constitute a violation of status which could have many negative consequences including rendering the B visitor ineligible to extend B status or to change status to F1 or M1.
OBTAINING F1 OR M1 STATUS AS A B VISTOR
If you came to the U.S. as a tourist, and your intentions changed once being here, as a B2 visitor you may apply to change to F1 or M1 student status under the following circumstances:
- The B visitor has not yet enrolled in classes;
- B status has not expired; and
- The B visitor has not engaged in unauthorized employment.
So far, this is business as usual. Now, the following piece of information is the one you MUST read, review and keep in mind! While a change of status application is pending, a B visitor will be required to maintain his or her B status. Under the following circumstances, a B visitor with a pending change of status application must file a separate Form I-539 with a separate fee to request an extension of B1 or B2 status:
The B visitor's status will expire more than 30 days before the initial F1 or M1 program start date. Then USCIS may only approve the Form I-539 change of status request if the B visitor is maintaining his or her B1 or B2 status up to 30 days before the F1 or M1 program start date. If a necessary extension request is not filed on time, the USCIS will deny the Form I-539 change of status request. The USCIS advises that B visitors consult the processing times to determine if an extension of status application will be necessary.
The F1 or M1 program start date is deferred to the following academic term or semester because the USCIS did not render a final decision on the change of status application in before the original F1 or M1 program start date. In such event, the B visitor may need to file a second Form I-539 requesting an extension of B1 or B2 status in order to bridge the gap between the expiration of B status and the 30-day period before the F1 program start date.
The USCIS makes clear that if a B visitor enrolls in a course of study before a change of status application to F1 or M1 status is approved, the change of status application will be denied. An application for an extension of B1 or B2 status would also be denied.
Thus, before you start packing your bags to come to the U.S. with the idea of perhaps enrolling in school once you are here, you may want to apply for an F1 or M1 visa at a U.S. consulate abroad before you travel. The USCIS encourages prospective students to work with their designated school official (DSO) for guidance.
If you are considering the possibility of studying in the U.S., we suggest to schedule an appointment to discuss your plans with an experience attorney BEFORE arriving in the U.S.
For more information, contact us at Schonberg & Timerman, PL.