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Change of Visa Status

Individuals present in the U.S. on a valid visa who wish to stay in the country and are not in a position to return home may petition the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to approve a different visa status for them without the need to travel home and process a new physical visa with their embassy or consulate.

For example, a student holding an F visa or a tourist holding a B visa may receive a job offer for which an H-1B, TN, O visa, or other work visa is an option. Or an individual present on a work visa may wish to begin studies and switch to an F visa status or any number of other conceivable transitions to a different purpose for which they are present in the U.S. and a new visa type is permissible. The solution in this situation is to file to change visa status directly to USCIS in lieu of returning home.

Change of Visa Status Requirements

Four principal requirements exist which the applicant to change visa status from within the U.S. must show USCIS in order for that application to be considered by that agency:

  • The applicant was originally lawfully admitted to the U.S.;
  • The applicant has consistently maintained lawful visa status during their entire time present in the U.S.;
  • The applicant must show that there are no grounds of inadmissibility under Section 212(a)(9)(B)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act present in his or her case;
  • The applicant must show that she or he meets all of the elements and requirements present in the law for the new visa classification for which they are applying.

Change of Visa Status Restrictions

There are six categories of individuals who are, as a matter of law, precluded from filing for a change of non-immigrant status from within the country:

  • Individuals engaged in immediate and continuous transit through the U.S.;
  • Individuals classified as non-immigrants under Section 101(a)(15) of the INA such as crewmen and informants;
  • Individuals admitted without a visa as per the Visa Waiver Program;
  • Individuals classified as non-immigrant K visa holders (fiancées);
  • J-1 visa holders subject to the two-year bar;
  • J-1 visa holders who traveled to the U.S. for graduate medical education or training, whether or not they are subject to the two-year bar.


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