Dear Mentor:

How do I change H4 to F1 in a short period of time?

First of all, I want to convey that you are doing a wonderful job. I have seen so many sites but I can very well say that yours is the one that really helps the students. I got admission for January 2002 and the I-20 [eligibility for non-immigrant F1 international student visa status] from CMU, Michigan as well as the assistantship. But now I am in an H4 visa [for the dependents of the H1 temporary worker visa-holder] and I want to change my status to F1, otherwise it will effect my assistantship. Through the University, if I am going to change my status, it will take 2-3 months. If so, I cannot accept the assistantship. To avoid this, how can I change my status? Can I go to Canada to get the F1 stamp and come back to US? Since the time period is too short (I have to register for my classes on Jan 2,2002), I cannot go to India and come back. Please advise for this problem. I will be grateful to you if I get the F1 within this period.

Pressed for Time, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA

Dear Pressed for Time:

Congratulations on obtaining admission and securing financial aid. Very well done indeed!

We would like to thank you for your kind words. We rely on our audience to spread the word about iMahal to others. We hope that you and others would do so. Thank you.

You must not start your studies in the US, and thus the assistantship, until you have obtained the F1 international student visa. You are not allowed to pursue education or employment in the US on the H4 visa status. Any violations of the visa restrictions can cause you a lot of trouble in the long run. So, be careful.

Given the challenges with time, you have few options, but not all is lost. First, obtaining the F1 visa does not typically take 3 months; it is a stated position of the US INS (Immigration & Naturalization Service) but the visa can be processed in much less time. Going through your school, with appropriate guidance from your International Student Advisor, is your best bet. Going to Canada or India to obtain the visa is not going to improve the lead time for the visa.

Should you not obtain the F1 visa in time to start your education in January 2002, you can obtain an official delay for the start of your program from your university. Most universities look upon such requests rather favorably, particularly given your circumstance.

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