Visa – the overpriced, overrated gate pass, is just about the first spear-laden guard you will encounter at the entrance of the kingdom of the USA. And there are many varieties of the same. The H4 and other dependent visas, F1 or J1 student visas, L1 exchange work visa, and the ever sought after H1B temporary work visa for specialized workers.
Among all of these, H1B offers the opportunity of realizing your American dream – a coveted job with a salary in the high dollars. It comes with a stamp of three years of permitted work status, with the possibility of renewing it for another three years. The process of getting an H1B starts with an employment within America where the employer sponsors your petition with the US Immigration Department. In the petition approval process, normally, 65K petitions are approved from a regular quota “lot” in a powerball style lottery while another 20K are shortlisted from the more advanced Master’s degree cap. And when that approved I-797, what is a petition and not an aircraft, shows up, you are eligible to start working and getting your regular salary (More about H1B process here).
While H1B may sound like a happily ever after, every good story has a tragedy or at least a villain. In this case, the H1B is now seeing the underside of a microscope, a lot. And thanks to impending changes in its eligibility, viz an IQ of 199 and a salary of major proportions, H1B holders, prospective and current, are looking to find ways to make their situation less precarious. At least that’s the practical move anyone can seek in light of the new Update on the USCIS page stating that all expedited H1B Petitions will be suspended. And to make it torture lite, the suspension has been termed temporary.
So what can be the most reasonable move to make your situation seem less drastic than a fall from an edge into an abyss? How about a visa status change, say from an H1B to a student F1? For instance here is how you can change status from F1 to H1B. It is legal, at least now, and gives you the opportunity to enhance your skills while letting you figure out that thing you hold dear, your life!
Note: Do keep in mind the risk involved. If your change of status is denied, you will have to leave your job and head home effective immediately. There is no mercy and no grace period.
Let’s begin by getting acquainted with the process. Say you are already employed and working, in the US, with an ongoing H1B visa tenure, you can make a decision to go back to school. That would require a change of status if you are within the US, or an F1 Visa Stamp if you are outside the US.
There is no reason why you cannot seek a change while you are punching in your office hours. All it needs is for you to be in a legal status to begin with. So if you are thinking of resuming your frat days, you will have to go through some paperwork hoops and be prepared to shed some of your wallet weight.
Here are the things you will need.
Once all your paperwork is ready and copies are shelved in your folder for your bookkeeping, you should send in your documents (Read for address):
[For US Postal Services – Express or Slow Coach]
P.O. Box 660166
Dallas, TX 75266
2501 S. State Highway 121 Business
Lewisville, TX 75067
It is possible that you are required to make the change from outside the US. Trying this stunt on your vacation in Cancun is certainly not advised. The best way to do it is to go back to your home country. At worst, your visa rejection will not leave your fate hanging in a foreign country. This will require pretty much the same bells and whistles, minus the I-539 change of status form, and consequently its fees.
Also you should fill in the G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance for electronic notification when USCIS accepts your immigration application.
It can take several months to process the status change. In that case, the only solid piece of advice would be to provide a return address which is not due to change in the near future. If you are planning a residence move, try the option of stating your friend/relative address. Be sure to let them know that you have just revealed their home address to US Immigrations, you know, just in case they were planning to keep it a secret!
Don’t complicate your life by traveling in the period while your status is pending. As long as your H1B is valid, you can continue to work to at least 30 days before the start, or report, date listed on your I-20. If you have lost your job, chances are that your change of status will be denied on account of your lack of respect for US Immigration laws by continuing to reside in the US beyond the valid H1B. For the same reason, don’t overstay your Visa period and then expect USCIS to take you back with open arms.
If your situation is further complicated by the expiration of the 6 years of H1B tenure, then one of two things could be true for you.
In this case you will have to go back to your country and apply for an F1 from outside the US, as if a fresh candidate. It is only if you are re-entering the US on an H1B is when you will have to abide by the 1 year gap between fresh H1B applications.
Even though this may seem like a good thing, as long as your I-140 is filed/approved, you will be in what is commonly known as a soup. That’s because F1 is a non immigrant Visa and one of its most significant features is the intent of the F1 applicant to not stay in the US. If you have already filed for a permanent residence, you will have to think of a way to avoid that awkward discussion which is most likely going to go as Well we already know that you are full of BS…so…
The best recourse, in this case, is to hire a good Immigration Attorney to sort out your situation. And don’t panic, we are sure that these lawyers will have tons of preceding experience in taking you out of the proverbial soup.
Changing status has its risks but provides the option of a less dramatic transition from H1B to no visa at all. So, try this option after much consideration. Keep an Immigration Lawyer on speed dial for all the impossible to imagine nuances that US Immigration is famous for.
Research your options, and procedures, well and always, always check the USCIS website or other immigration resources for updates.
You know, ‘coz you can never be too sure about visas…to be or not to be.
Disclaimer: We aren’t visa experts. The data and policies may have changed. Do not rely on this article to make your important decisions. Check out the official sources for the latest status.