Did you know that if you enter the U.S. on a B-1 or B-2 visitor visa, you can have your status changed to an F-1 or M-1 student visa to pursue educational opportunities in the United States? If you wish to become a student in the U.S. after entering as a visitor, you can obtain student status by meeting certain criteria and submitting required documentation. Read on to learn more about how to become a student visa holder!

Overview of Changing Your Visitor Status to Student Visa Status

In the United States, federal regulations do not allow people on B-1/B-2 visitor visas to enroll in school. Instead, they need to obtain an F-1 visa (academic student) or M-1 visa (vocational student). It’s important to get your status changed before you intend to enroll, otherwise you will not be able to register fully and could have an immigration violation. Both visitor and student visas grant you what is known as nonimmigrant status, which means that you are a foreign national intending to stay in the U.S. temporarily as opposed to permanently settling in the U.S.

General Eligibility and Requirements to Change your Status

The general eligibility requirements for changing your status from a visitor visa to a student visa include the following:

  1. You were lawfully admitted to the United States with nonimmigrant status;
  2. Your nonimmigrant status is still valid;
  3. You have not violated the conditions of your status; and
  4. You have not committed any crimes or taken any other actions that would render you ineligible to change your status. 

You also need to adhere to the terms of your F-1 or M-1 visa, specifically staying enrolled in an academic program. 

How to Apply 

To apply for a change of status to a student visa, you first need to apply to and receive acceptance from a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified school. Once you have been admitted, you will need to obtain a Form I-20 from the school, and the school will need to note “change of status” in the Issue Reason section. From there, you pay the I-901 fee and file Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change nonimmigrant status, with USCIS.

If you would like to learn more about how to change from a visitor to a student nonimmigrant visa, please contact us for an assessment. We are happy to walk you through the process and help you take advantage of educational opportunities in the United States.


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