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Attending School as a Tourist: What B-1/B-2 Visa Holders Should Know Before Enrolling at a School in

Individuals on a B-1 or B-2 visa are not permitted to participate in academic studies while in the United States. If a B-1 or B-2 visa holder would like to study without departing the United States, they must acquire F-1 or M-1 status. B-1 and B-2 visa holders can file Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status with USCIS to change their current visa status to a student F-1 or M-1 visa.

Prior to April 5th, 2017, I-539 forms would be readily approved as long as the applicant maintained lawful status of their B-1 or B-2 visa on the date of filing and if they submitted a completed Form I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, and Form I-539. Applicants cannot start their academic studies until the approval of their I-539.

As of April 5th, 2017, B-1 and B-2 visa holders must maintain lawful status at the time of filing their I-539 and up to 30 days prior to the beginning of the F-1 academic program start date. If an applicant risks falling out of status before 30 days of their program start date, they must file another I-539 requesting an extension of their B-1 or B-2 visa. If an extension request is not completed and the applicant risks falling out of status, their change of status request will be denied by USCIS.

If an applicant has to defer an academic semester because their I-539 is still pending past their expected F-1 or M-1 start date, they must submit a second I-539 to request an extension of status. This extension will give the applicant more time in between their pending I-539 and the 30 day window to maintain lawful status before their program start date. Filing multiple I-539 forms may be necessary until the initial change of status petition is approved to ensure not falling out of B-1 or B-2 status.

Individuals that have filed an I-539 application before April 6th 2017 and did not maintain B-1 or B-2 status within 30 days of their program start date may be issued a Request for Evidence (RFE). The RFE’s that are currently being issued are requiring applicants to send out a late I-539 to extend their status if the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances, they have not violated their immigrant status, is currently a bona fide nonimmigrant, and they are not a subject of deportations under the INA. Applicants should demonstrate the start date of their program by obtaining a Form I-20.

If you have any questions regarding the adjustment of status for academic studies purposes, please contact Attorney Nicholas Mireles at

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