1. Can I Change of Status From Tourist Visa to Student Visa?
I came from Hong Kong 3 months ago to visit friends in the U. S. and was just about to go back when I looked at this school and was interested in their arts program. My stay does not expire for another 3 months. If I obtain an I-20 school acceptance form from the school, can I change my status in the United States to F-1 student rather than going back to Hong Kong just to interview for the F-1 visa and come right back? It would seem like quite a waste of time and expense for me to go out and come back in.
Mr. Lee answers,
If you are fairly certain that you can obtain the F-1 visa at the American consulate overseas, that may be the better choice regardless of the extra time and expense. That is because U.S.C.I.S. processing times on change of status to F-1 student are uncertain, e.g. Vermont service center processing times are 6.5-8.5 months/California service center 2.5-4 months, and the agency many times does not adhere to these timelines. During the time of processing, U.S.C.I.S. insists that persons in the U. S. on B-1 or B-2 statuses keep maintaining those statuses through extension until the agency makes a decision on the change of status request. In addition, you are not allowed to go to school until the time that the change of status is approved. Finally a change of status is not a visa, and if you leave the U. S. at any time in the future, you would have to interview and receive a F-1 visa in your passport even if you had a change of status with U.S.C.I.S. An exception to the requirement of obtaining a new visa for F-1 students who received a change of status would be those taking trips to Canada or Mexico or the Caribbean islands (not Cuba) for 30 days and less.
2. I Am Worried About My Political Asylum Application That I Filed in December 2017 – Is It Lost?
I filed my political asylum application with the Vermont service center of the U.S.C.I.S. in December 2017 and received a receipt. Soon after, I was asked to do fingerprints and photographs. Since that time, I have heard nothing, and am worried that my case is lost. What can I do?
Mr. Lee answers,
You can now check your case online with U.S.C.I.S. As of January 2019, the agency is allowing affirmative asylum applicants (those who apply for the first time at U.S.C.I.S. and not the immigration court) to check their cases online through the U.S.C.I.S. online status system – https://egov.uscis.gov/casestatus/landing.do. You can input your asylum receipt number (it begins with 3 letters and the first letter is “Z” followed by 10 numbers). Although it may not give detailed information, it will generally give an idea of where your case is at in terms of action.
3. A Company is Offering to Change My Visitor’s Visa to H-1B Specialty Worker – Can It Be Done Now?
I came to the U. S. in February under a visiting visa and was given 6 months to stay. A friend of a friend recommended me to a company which said that they could get me an immediate H-1B visa status. I was surprised because I thought that companies could only do this in the first part of April every year under some type of selection process, and it is now June. The company said that they were exempt because I would be placed on the campus of a college to take care of some of the software development necessary for the school’s IT system. Is that possible?
Mr. Lee answers,
There is indeed an exception under the circumstances that you describe above. Under the rules, a college is an institution of higher education exempt from the requirement of having to file H-1B’s under the April selection process. A private employer can qualify for the institution’s exemption when it places workers on campus. The factors that U.S.C.I.S. looks at are that the majority of the worker’s duties must be performed at the qualifying institution, and the job duties must directly and predominantly further the essential purpose, mission objectives or functions of the qualifying institution. In your case, performing software development to improve the school’s information systems would appear to help the functions of the college. (I note that there are other issues that U.S.C.I.S. examines with reference to third-party placements, especially in the computer area, such as whether this is a specialty occupation and whether there is sufficient petitioner control over the worker who goes onto a third-party site – but I imagine that those are issues for another day).