Dear Mentor:

What documents are needed to change H4 to F1?

I am in US on the H4 visa. I will be going to school and would like to change my visa status to F1. I am planning to go to Canada and getting it done. Can you help me with what documents are required and how should I get prepared?

Converting H4 to F1, Acton, Massachusetts, USA

Dear Converting H4 to F1:

First of all, we should make it clear that we are not immigration lawyers. We offer free, but informed, advice and suggest you to take it for what it's worth. Second, you should really contact a US INS (Immigration & Naturalization Service) office in your area to get the complete and correct information. The International Student advisor at your prospective school would also be an extremely valuable source for complete and reliable information.

A comment for those who may not know what this discussion is all about. The F1 visa in the US is a temporary residency visa for international students for the sole purpose of pursuing education at a particular school and in a particular program. The H4 visa in the US is issued to the dependents of the H1 visa (temporary foreign workers). The holders of the H4 visa are not authorized to obtain employment or pursue studies without obtaining an explicit and documented change in the visa status from the US INS.

You must have an offer of admission from an INS-authorized school to obtain the F1 visa. If your school is authorized to issue the I-20 (a required document for the F1 visa), then your school is INS-authorized. You are issued the F1 visa upon entry to the US. Not all visa changes require that the applicant must be outside the US. The INS office or your International Student Advisor would be the authority on this issue.

You are typically expected to bring:

  • Valid passport for you and each accompanying relative
  • One passport-type photo of you and each accompanying relative
  • Long form birth certificate for you and each accompanying relative
  • Marriage certificate if you are married and bringing your spouse
  • Transcripts and diplomas showing your previous education
  • Proof of financial support: Financial documents showing sufficient funds to attend school for at least one year without working
  • Documents showing that close family members or property are being left behind in your home country
  • Documents showing a job is waiting on your return to your home country

The last two documents are not required but would facilitate the visa process if there were questions about your intentions of entering the US for temporary purposes.

There is no particular preparation necessary. You know that immigration officials will interview you. You may be granted the visa in a few minutes or you may face a lengthy interview; it is the luck of the draw. Any immigration official will want to see the required documents, but the duration and the tone of the interview depends on which immigration official you happen to encounter. Most of the officials are reasonable, but, frankly, some are jerks, pardon our rude language. Just like the rest of the world, they come in a variety of attitudes. The difficult ones, it seems, want to show their authority and let you know who the boss is for that instant in time. You are, after all, at this person's mercy at that moment. So stay calm, answer the questions to the best of your ability, and ask for clarification when you do not understand a question. No need to be nervous, just be yourself.

One item of note: Understand that the F1 visa stipulates that you will depart the US upon the completion of your studies. Regardless of future plans, stick to the story of intending to be in the US temporarily for the sole purpose of studies and being with your family. Any indication to the contrary and you will be rejected.

You may wish to read the US Student Visa Requirements and Process in the iMahal Education Channel.

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