Dear Mentor:

My F1 became H1, but my wife is F2; what do I do?

I was a student with the F1 visa and applied for H1. In the meantime, my wife came here on the F2 visa. Now I have got my H1 and I am confused regarding what to do to get the stampings on my passport for H1 and H4 visas. My friends said that I should have applied for H4 also along with my H1, but she was not here to apply. Also they say that since I got my H1, my F1 got void and so was the F2 of my wife. So she is out of status and will be sent out of the country. Can you help me?

A Visa Dilemma, Manchester, New Hampshire, USA

Dear A Visa Dilemma:

First, some terminology for those not familiar with the alphanumeric gibberish of the US visa codes. The F1 is a student visa. The F2 visa is issued to the dependents of the F1 visa holders. The H1 is a temporary worker visa. The H4 visa is issued to the dependents of the H1 visa.

Second, we should note that we are not immigration lawyers. We have some general knowledge and understanding of how the US immigration system works, but we are by no means experts. You would be well advised to contact an immigration lawyer, or at least contact the nearest US INS (Immigration & Naturalization Service) office for information and help.

We can certainly offer you our understanding and opinion. What your friends have told you is correct. You can only have one US visa at a time. When you got your H1 visa, your F1 visa became invalid. Since the F2 for your wife was issued on the basis of your F1, the INS requires that you must inform them immediately when a change in status occurs and obtain appropriate legal changes in the status of your dependents. You should have applied to the H4 for your wife at the same time as you applied for you H1

So what can you do for your wife? She must not be in the US on an illegal status at any time. Once that happens, the future grant of any visa becomes very complicated. Your best bet is to contact an immigration lawyer at once. If you do not wish to do so, you should, at the very least, visit an INS office immediately. You may not have much choice but to have her leave the country and return on an H4 visa. Alternatively, you may wish to have her leave the country immediately on your own, apply for the H4 and have her return to the US on an H4.

Regardless of how this situation resolves itself, here is a very important lesson. When it comes to immigration requirements and procedures, be extremely careful because the consequences can be great.

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