My wife entered in US on H-4 visa in May 2007, after getting married with me. (I am on H-1B visa.) After coming here, she wanted to pursue Master’s degree in Architecture. She could, in fact, study while being on H-4 visa, but there were some drawbacks in doing so: She would not be able to work (part-time on campus, or full-time internship etc.) if she’s on H-4 visa, and (2) She would not become eligible for OPT (Optional Practical Training, which allows students to work for any employer, without requiring any sponsorship, for one year after the completion of studies) if she studies while on H-4 visa. You have to be on a Student visa in order to become eligible for OPT.
There’s a form called I-539 that the applicant has to submit to apply for change in non-immigration status (this is the same form that one would submit for extension of non-immigration status. You can go the the following link and click on “Immigration Forms” to download I-539 form: http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/usci
Here’s a list of all the documents that we submitted (sent by FedEx) to the service center:
- Copy of non-blank pages from applicant’s passport. No need to send copies of empty pages.
- Applicant’s original I-94 (front & back) Upon approval you’ll receive a new I-94 card which will reflect your new F-1 status.
- My (applicant’s sponsor) Bank Statement/Proof of funding (notarized) The balance should be more than enough to cover the studies and living expenses.
- Financial Support Statement (signed by me, notarized) This is where the sponsor (if any) puts in writing that he/she will take care of the applicant’s studies and living expenses.
- Copy of my I-94 (front & back)
- Copy of my I-797 (H1-B approval notice) This is important, because if H-1B visa holder has maintained a legal status in US, that means that the applicant also have maintained his/her status.
- Copy of my I-129 (Petition for Non-immigrant worker)
- Copy of our marriage certificate
- Original I-539 application form
- Original Student copy of I-20 You will receive this I-20 back reflecting the new status.
- A Cover Letter This is where you would mention your purpose for applying for change of status/further studies. You can mention here that you have no intention to stay in US after completion of your studies (remember, unlike H1-B, F-1 is not a dual intent visa), you can also re-affirm here that you will maintain your status as a full time student.
- Check of $300 made payable to USCIS
We submitted the application on October 23, 2007 (receipt date) and the case was approved on January 10, 2007. The F-1 is valid for the entire duration of her studies (specific date is not mentioned). Her original I-20 was returned with the approval notice (I-797).
Once the application is filed, within two weeks you’ll receive a receipt issued by the service center. This receipt will have your case number that you can use to check the status using the following link: https://egov.uscis.gov/cris/jsps/index.jsp. You might just want to create a customer portfolio account and add your case number. You can enable the e-mail notification option so an e-mail will be sent to you every time there’s any change in the status of your application.