Recent changes in the U.S. Immigration laws have hampered the lives of many H1B visa holders. Moreover, due to COVID-19, the situation has turned out to be more difficult. Some businesses have been forced into shutting down resulting in layoffs of many such visa holders, which means the H1B visa holder has to find a new employer to sponsor his/her H1B in order to maintain a valid legal status in the United States.
What If You Cannot Find A New Employer Who Is Willing to Sponsor You? “The good news is that you can extend your stay in the U.S. by getting your visa status changed from H1B to F1 student visa. This change will not only help you enhance your skills but will also provide you with enough time to decide what you want to do next while still staying in the U.S.” (1)
How You Can Get Your Visa Status Changed from H1B To an F1? If you are in the United States in valid non immigrant status for a purpose other than to attend school and wish to change your non immigrant status (PDF) to a student status while remaining in the United States, you must meet the criteria below and submit an application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to change your status.
In general, you may apply to change your non immigrant status while remaining in the United States if:(2)
you were lawfully admitted to the United States in a non immigrant status;
your non immigrant status remains valid;
you have not violated the conditions of your status; and
you have not committed any crimes or engaged in any other actions that would make you ineligible for change of status.
Degrees to Pursue: By far the most common option which individuals pursue while on H1B is either Master's or PhD. We at August Network are here to help you navigate your educational and professional plans. From start to finish, we will guide you through the process of getting into the right program and help you get the most out of your international student experience.
Process of Transfer: Until you receive notice of approval from USCIS, do not assume that your request to change your status (COS) has been approved. Before USCIS may approve your application, you must take the following steps if you meet the criteria above:3
Apply to and receive acceptance from a U.S. Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified school.
Obtain an initial Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, from the SEVP-certified school. The Designated School Official (DSO) should give change of status in the Issue Reason section of the Form I-20.
Pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee.
File a Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, with USCIS.
Please note that you must maintain a valid nonimmigrant status (h1B in this case) while your Form I-539 change of status application is pending with USCIS.
Timeline: As per USCIS processing times it usually can take anywhere from 3 to 8 months for a decision. You may attend classes while you are on H1B and your F1 status is pending with USCIS. It is highly encouraged to work closely with your school designated school officials (DSOs), to coordinate the timing of applying for change of status and enrolling in a course of study.
Documents Required for H1B To F1 Change of Status:
Copy of I-20 from a SEVP approved school
I-901 SEVIS fee RECEIPT
Copy of passport
Copy of all prior H1B approval notices
Copy of I-94
Copy of pay stubs
Financial Affidavit with proof of funds to cover the cost of education shown in I-20
Cover letter indicating the reasons for the change of status from H1B to F1.
Applying for F1 Visa from Outside The United States: In case you must leave the country, you can also get your F1 visa stamped at a US consulate abroad to change from H1B to F1 status. Below are the steps involved.
Apply to and receive acceptance from a SEVP-certified school.
Receive a new initial Form I-20 from your DSO
Pay the I-901 SEVIS fee
Apply at a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad for an F-1 visa to seek admission as a student
If you are from a country where no visa is required, such as Canada, you may proceed directly to a U.S. port of entry and apply for admission to the United States as an F-1 student.
Once admitted by an immigration officer in F-1 status, you may begin your studies.