I am often asked to assist people who are lawfully present in the United States and would like to change their status so they can attend school. In addition to meeting the normal requirements that apply to most visas, the following are relevant issues specifically for changing status to a student.
- Prove that you do not have “immigrant intent”
One key requirement to student status is that United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has to be convinced that you do not have “immigrant intent.” If USCIS feels that your current intention is to actually immigrate to the United States then that would be a ground for denial of your request. The burden is on the applicant to show that their intention is to not reside permanently in the United States. One way to help address this issue is to include a detailed statement describing your past and future goals and why you want to go to school in the United States.
- Prove that you will be able to financially support yourself
This requirement is partially tied to proving you do not have immigrant intent, because if you can not show that you have the financial means to pay for school and living in the United States, USCIS could conclude that you also do not have the financial means of returning to your home country once you complete your studies. USCIS will try it’s best to make sure that you will not become stranded in the United States. USCIS wants to make sure that you will not become any sort of financial burden to the United States or become a public charge. One way to help address this issue is to provide original bank statements from you or your family showing that you have the necessary funds to pay for school and support yourself. Alternatively, a family friend or other relative inside the United States could complete an Affidavit of Support on your behalf showing USCIS that someone has offered to help you with funds, if needed.
- Provide complete copies of your other US Immigration Documents
You must also make sure to provide clear copies of your passport (specifically, at least the biographical page, current visa, I-94 card, and entry stamp) and any other immigration forms, like the form DS-2019 if you are in the United States in J-1 status. Also make sure to include verification that you have paid the SEVIS Fee (Form I-901) if that applies to your situation.
- If you return to your home country then you must obtain a Student (F-1) visa to return
If USCIS approves your change of status then that approval will remain in effect while you are in the United States. If you leave the country, you will need a student, F-1, visa to return to the United States before applying for admission back into the country. Keep in mind, that when you apply for a student visa, the Consular Officer at the United States Embassy or Consulate can review your case all over again and can choose to deny your visa request. In other words, by no means is it automatic that you will receive the student visa. It is important to keep this in mind when planning a trip back home and to prepare for it appropriately.
These points are meant to provide a quick overview of some of the main items required when applying for a change of status to a student from within the United States. Please keep in mind that other items are required in your application (like the actual form to request the change, proper government filing fee, and actual Form I-20 with original signatures, etc.,). If you have questions or would like assistance with applying for this change of status, please contact Alan Reiter, PLLC at 313-963-2505 .