F-1, J-1, Adjustment of Status common questions and answers

F-1, J-1, Adjustment of Status common questions and answers

Disclaimer: All advice given here are strictly as is without any guarantees and reliability. The advice below is solely from personal experiences in filing such applications and process. The best and most reliable advice is always from a good immigration lawyer. 

Q: After applying for Adjustment of Status (AOS) for green card, I got a different alien number than my previously received F-1 OPT EAD card, will it affect my OPT and job status? Is my OPT EAD card still valid?

A: When you applied for AOS, you should have also submitted I-765 to get ANOTHER EAD card for you to work in America while your AOS application is pending. The reason for this is not only because it is free to get another EAD card, but once you apply for AOS, or any other immigration status, your current visa/immigration status is revoked. That means your previous F-1 visa is now invalid, your OPT EAD card is also invalid, because you are adjusting out of that status. Therefore, once you apply for AOS, you must stop working under your original EAD card from your OPT authorization and begin working on the AOS EAD card. Continue working on the OPT EAD card and associated alien number is not technically legal however I believe they do give a little bit of grace period until you get your AOS EAD card and permanent alien number.

Q: My wife originally came to the US on a J-1 visa. After completing it, she went home for three months and returned to the US on an F-1 visa for her PhD. She has accumulated the two years outside the US since she gave up her J-1 through summers at home and currently 1.5 years of time abroad conducting dissertation research. We want to apply for the green card through concurrent filing of I-485 and I-130. The question is: will we need to prove that she has fulfilled the two year home residency requirement? if so (and I assume we will), how should we prove it? are passport stamps and flight itineraries enough? is there a special form to do so, or questions asked about it on the I-485 form? or will the immigration officers contact us or figure it out themselves?

A: Yes, she has to prove that she has fulfilled the 2 year foreign residency requirement. You have to provide things you mentioned like passport stamps, flights records, even that study abroad evidence. There isn’t a special form to fill out, you just have to document the times in a concise statement and attach that with your application. Chances are if you don’t add this clarification with your application, they will simply request for evidence of the fulfillment of the 2 year requirement and then you can do so again.

Q: I was involved in helping a rebel group in my country against a brutal political regime that resorted to military action against peaceful civilians protest. My help involved only helping rebels but without direct engaging in the armed conflict. Will this render me inadmissible since Homeland Security could very likely categorize that as an act of terrorism?

A: Make sure you fully disclose what was your involvement and provide a thorough explanation on what you did and why. If you stand for democracy and oppose tyranny and you tried to help your country rather than bring it down, chances are the USCIS won’t immediately declare you inadmissible. They will likely look at your file closely to understand and make a decision. DO NOT HIDE ANY INFORMATION. This is the most important piece; just be honest about it if you have nothing to hide.

Q: If someone is currently applying for a student (F-1) visa, upon completion of studies would the individual be able to live and work in the U.S? What would be there options if they were able to do so.

A: After F-1, you should apply for OPT to begin working in the US. However this only gives you 1 year of work and possibly another 17 month extension if you are in a  Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) field of study. While working on OPT, you should be working for an employer that will first sponsor you for a H-1B visa and eventually a green card to permanently immigrate to America. Check out my guide here on applying for OPTgetting a job on OPT after you graduate.

Q: I’m currently in the situation where I received an offer for a traineeship of 12 months with a Fortune 500-company. They want me to work with one of their staffing agencies for all admin, I would need to submit the J-1 Visa request with that staffing agency as the host company, as that will also be the company that pays my stipend.  Does anybody have experience with staffing agencies as the host company of J-1 trainees? 

A: It doesn’t sound like you are being employed by a staffing agency. The law regarding exchange visitors state that companies may NOT use staffing agencies to recruit trainees. However in your case, it looks like you are being employed by the Fortune 500 company to work in one of their staffing agencies to help recruitment for other companies. Therefore it should be perfectly fine and you shouldn’t have the staffing agency as the host company but rather the Fortune 500 company.

 Q: On my I-20, page 1, section 7 and section 8 regarding my financial information to attend school is completely missing, what should I do?

A: Section 7 and 8 of the I-20 is meant for the school to fill out exactly how you will pay for your first year’s education, as well as any scholarships or fellowships awarded to you by the school. You should not be filling this out because the school should have taken a look at your financial statements and filled this out for you. If this is blank, the school did something wrong. Please contact the school’s International Student Center or the DSO and ask them to send you a new I-20 with the sections filled out correctly. Without these sections, you will not receive a F-1 visa from the US consulate, because USCIS immigration officer wouldn’t know if you have any money to support your studies and also pay the tuition.

Q: I am a student on F-1 visa . Currently I am on OPT after completing a one year professional certificate from a college in Seattle. I also just completed my online – part time MBA from a university in India. Now I would like to know if my employer can apply H1B visa for me. Am I eligible for the same.

A: H-1B is a non-immigrant visa intended on allowing skilled workers who are not US residents or citizens to work in America legally. It can be granted to anyone who has the skills necessary to fill a job in which there are no other US resident or citizen that can perform that particular job. Because most people go from F-1 to OPT to H-1B, it is easy to be mistaken that you must complete a undergraduate or graduate degree in America before you can get H-1B. In reality, H-1B can be awarded to anyone, even someone who has never been to America. As long as you have the skills and got a job in America that absolutely only you can perform, and there are still H-1B visas available (capped each year at 65,000), you can receive a H-1B visa.

 Q: My daughter has a valid F-1 Student visa until August 2015. She also has a valid Visitors B1/B2 visa until 2017. She is taking a year off from her studies, and intends to return home shortly. International Office at her school says she has to leave USA within one month. If you are not attending classes, they have told her that she must leave within 4 weeks of classes having started for the new semester. She is trying to get stuff sold etc, and would like to stay longer. Bearing in mind that her visitors visa is still valid, can she stay until then, or does she have to leave by the said date ?

A: It sounds like school has filed for her leave of absence and her F-1 visa is now is a temporary hold status, which means the USCIS DHS has been informed that her F-1 status is now on hold. The school is right that she must now leave before the school starts. Technically she can stay until the 1st day of classes but not beyond, because otherwise she would be in America but not studying, which is a violation of the F-1 visa. The school is playing it safe to ask her to leave as soon as possible. She must have entered America on her F-1 visa, which means although she has a valid B1/B2 stamp, it does not mean anything because she did not enter in that status.

Q: I had visa stamped and valid for 5 years but my school forced me to defer to the next year. They told me they will issue me an I-20 with the same SEVIS number on my visa. Do I have to reappear for visa interview again ? This question came to my mind as there is a law saying that this is a must in case of breaking studies for more than 5 months. I have doubts regarding this situation since this case is not a breaking of study as I didn’t start it in the first place. 

A: Your F-1 visa status does not start officially until you report to school on the first day. Seeing that they are deferring you, I believe your visa is still valid but just not activated. The school also needs to activate your SEVIS record when you start school and since you never started, it is likely that it isn’t even activated. Therefore, it is fine and wait for the new I-20 to arrive and I think with the I-20 and the visa stamp you already received, you can be admitted into America without issues.

Q: I would like to help my brother-in-law come over to US to study at the local community college or wherever (as long as it meets the requirements). However, as a young guy (21, single, etc, etc) he doesn’t really have strong ties. He has some college, he lives with his mom (who rents), not much money to speak of. (I will help or pay for the Uni). So, how strong of ties does a young college student need to show? The rest of his family (brother and other sister and mother) is still in Costa Rica, is that enough?

A: Actually, the fact that his immediately family is still in Costa Rica really is enough to demonstrate strong ties. Money isn’t actually an indicator of strong ties but rather if he would have enough money to support himself while studying. Other things that can be demonstrated as strong ties are any church or local organization that he belongs to and is an active participant. He can also document his plans upon graduation, his intended career field in Costa Rica and how the US education will help him be competitive. Most of all, he must tell the USCIS immigration officer that he plans on returning to Costa Rica upon graduation. Remember, they don’t just deny your application without interviewing you. The interview is your (your brother-in-law) opportunity to show the USCIS immigration officer strong ties based on his plans post-graduation.

Q: My cousin will be getting married next year May/ June . She was looking at doing MS from a US univ . The issue is that she will most probably be joining class in August . Her husband too would be pursuing MS degree from US . Will there be an issue in getting the student Visa for both or either of them ?? It is a Catch 22 for us, as  her father will not let her go to US without marrying , and postponing the marriage might not be a choice.

A: It is a possibility that your cousin may get the F-1 visa and her husband does not, or her husband got the visa and your cousin got denied. This is completely up to the USCIS immigration officer conducting the interviews, and how much your cousin and her husband can demonstrate that they should receive the F-1 visa. Check out my 10 tips on the F-1 visa interview to help her. Either way, because they both want to study in America, both have to get separate F-1 visas. The dependent F-2 visa for spouse of F-1 visa holder does not permit the spouse to study.

Q: I am an F-1 visa holder on OPT. My OPT began Jan 25th, and it gives me 3 months to find a job. I have been with my US-citizen girlfriend for a long time and we are planning to get married. ‘When’ is not a problem – we can get married tomorrow if need be. But I am worried about gaining permanent residence status – specifically, I worry that I have left it too late, and that I may have to leave the country, even if we get married (under the assumption that I am unable to find employment). Can anyone tell me the process here? If my OPT expires April 25th, and I were to get married, say, tomorrow, what forms would I need to file? Would I be able to stay in the country until these forms are processed, even beyond April 25th?

A: There is nothing to worry about. As long as you file the I-485 for Adjustment of Status (along with all other necessary forms), and this was received by the USCIS and is under review, you can technically be in a limbo status where even if your OPT has expired or F-1 visa has expired, it is legal to remain in America while your AOS is pending. Therefore, file the AOS application and just wait. Keep in mind though, once you file, you are no longer in F-1 visa status and therefore your OPT is invalid. You have to wait until you get the EAD card with your AOS application to work.

Q: I am currently on a F-1 visa on OPT.  My husband whom I got married to while on this F-1 visa is an american citizen and we live in the US. As such we are looking at getting me residency so I do not have to leave the states after my OPT is up. I am a Trinidad and Tobago resident and citizen currently. Is there a timeline I should be considering? Are the forms to file the I130, I485, I765 and I864, or is there more? Should I do my medical exam before I file these forms, or should I wait until they request that I do one.

A: Timeline varies between individual applications. It can be as fast as 3 months or as slow as 10 months. Getting married to US Citizen is the still the fastest way to get a green card but it also depends on your particular situation and application. Check out my complete guide on applying for AOS to green card.

 Q: For I485  ’copy of passport with non-immingrant visa” and it says if the visa obtained within last year. My visa is obtained 7 years ago and it’s in my old passport, then I got another passport, and I’m here with my last (3rd one) passport, what should I do??

A: Just copy the the most recent visa stamp. There is no need to copy expired passports unless it has your most recent visa stamp and is the one you used to enter America.

Q: 1) I sent original IRS Return Transcripts along with my original packet, do I need to reorder and bring those again?

2) Do I need to bring my joint sponsors original W-2s?

3) Where can I find a comprehensive list of all the the documentation to bring? I know I have the checklist on the I-797 but I want to make sure I cover all the bases.

A: 1) No, because they are originals. You only need to bring originals if you sent in copies. Keep in mind they will keep the ones you sent in, in this case the originals

2) Yes

3) see my guide on preparing for the AOS green card interview

Q: I just got a notice that USPS left me a notice coz they did not meet me at home to deliver my EAD. I won’t b back until Monday. I just want to know if usps won’t return the package. Pls your response are needed. Thanks 

A: USPS holds mail for 15 days. Just go to your local post office that has your package and you can get it. Make sure you have an ID such as passport or drivers license.

Q: My fiancee/wife, a US citizen, and I were legally married last week and we are in the process of filing the I-130 and I-485 on our own.

1) Should we file for the I-130 and I-485 together, or do we have to file the I-130 first and wait for this to be approved before submitting the I-485?

2) Bona fide marriage – I moved in with my wife beginning of the year and we have lived together since, but all the utility bills are under her name and the she owns the apartment. We do not have joint bank accounts or car/insurance policies. We do have plenty of emails exchanges over the year, phone conversations on bill payment, text messages on the cell phone, photos of trips/dinner/parties together, and marriage photos with family, engagement ring for her and wedding band for me (receipts). Will these suffice?

3) Is the average wait time for the approved green card 5-6 months from filing/receipt of our application? Are there other forms besides I-130, I-485, I-765, I-131?

4) I have to apply for work permit and advance parole/travel abroad (I-765, I-131) immediately. What is the wait time to get these visas approved while my adjustment of status remains pending?

A: 1) File them together, concurrently. Saves time and postage. There is no need to wait for I-130 to be approved for AOS to green card via marriage to US citizen.

2) Yes, just bring all those and they should be fine. There is no need to have joint bank accounts if you do not have it. Most important are the photos and evidence of relationship. Remember that the USCIS has reviewed millions of cases, they can spot fake ones even if the fake ones have joint bank accounts or utilities.

3) Average is 6 months but it can be as fast as 3 months or longer than 6 months

4) EAD card which will also serve as your advance parole document will usually come within 2 months of application; of course this still varies dependent on your particular application.

Q: A couple years ago I applied for a tourist visa but was denied because of my father who is in America illegally. I now want to go to Dallas to study on a student visa. I’ve already received my I-20 and will now start the visa process. Will I be denied my student visa because of my father too?? I don’t even speak to him and I’m trying to study in Dallas which is a few states away from him in Florida. Any advice?? 

A: Yes, you will not likely get a visa due to your father. Unfortunately because he is still your father, you are still linked to him even though you don’t keep in contact. You can use the interview to try to tell them that you have no relationship with your father and that you won’t try to contact him while in America. You should attach some kind of statement to your application as well to explain that. Good Luck.

Q: My wife has graduated, got OPT approved, EAD in hand, but no job offer yet. She has until February to find a job. She has a couple of no-pay internship opportunities at the moment. But we’d like to go visit my family in Canada for the holidays. Will she have issues on reentry?

A: In this case, she must take one of those unpaid internship opportunities as long as they satisfy the requirements listed here. If she leaves the country with OPT approved but without any employment, she will be denied entry because her departure is considered termination of the F-1 visa and OPT status. Bring the offer letters for the unpaid internships with you and make sure to notify her DSO at the school of the unpaid internship that she is taking up, so the DSO can update her record.

Q: I’m currently doing an intern as a pre-completion OPT so I’m only eligible for 20 hours of work per week. But I accidentally turned in my timesheet as 21 hours, so I have been paid for an extra hour of work. I’m usually very careful about this, but made a mistake. Is it possible that the extra hour can be reversed by my employer? Thank you!

A: That is so insignificant it is likely not a problem. As long as you are aware of the rules fully and don’t consistently break the rules, I don’t see how USCIS can view that as a egregious violation. USCIS likely won’t even really ask for the timesheets anyway.

Q: I applied for a master’s degree in San Diego ,CA. I will take 1 class per week,and I’m paying my degree, do I need a student visa? Right now i’m living in Tijuana, Mexico (next to SD).

A: Yes and also you should make sure 1 class per week counts as full-time. I don’t know the specifics of your school and how does a class only last 1 week at a time, but just make sure whatever it is you are doing that it is a full time course of study, until the last semester which you can do part-time. Paying for your degree is expected and has nothing to do with your question.

Q: I have OPT which started on Feb 1st, 2013 (according to the date on my EAD card) and is set to end on Jan 31st, 2014. Now, my actual F1 visa in my passport is set to expire on April 15th, 2013. My I-20 is up to date and indicative that I am under OPT etc. What bothers me is that I am seemingly not able to fly in and out of the country once my F1 visa is expires. I am not really planning to leave the country unless there is an emergency back in France and was curious to know if I’d be able to renew my visa a few months expiration (let’s say June 2013 for example) or if it was an absolute necessity to renew before. What I am trying to avoid is leaving the country for the only purpose of renewing my visa, and rather killing two birds with one stone and using a scheduled trip this summer to take care of it.

A: You can renew your F-1 visa if you are on OPT. The process is similar to the initial application for F-1 visa that you have to demonstrate that you intend on returning to your home country after the completion of OPT. Also, as you are aware, you must do this in your home country and not in America. It seems that chances of denial is higher because it makes no sense that you need to extend the F-1 visa for OPT only since OPT is for work and F-1 visa is for studying. However it would make sense if you have a good case, such as necessary family and religious appointments in your home country that requires you to travel back and forth during OPT. The safest bet, as you have pointed out, is to just stay in America until you finish your OPT. Also if you are in a job where they will sponsor you for H-1B later, just return home AFTER you received your H-1B, in which case it would be perfectly fine.

Q: I am a Chinese citizen and I am here in the U.S. working on my masters degree. I came here with an F1 Visa in January. I just married my boyfriend who is a U.S. citizen. We are filling the I-130 and the I-485 concurrently. I do have a concern. I knew my boy friend before I came to this country to study. He had visited me in China a year before I came here. We did NOT have intentions of getting married until recently. Let me rephrase that, “I” did not have intentions of marrying him before I came here to the U.S. to get my masters degree. He may have had other desires. But now I want to marry him. My question is, will/could our relationship before I received my F1 Visa, cause us a problem in me getting a green card?

A: No, this is absolutely fine and in fact many people have already received green cards this way. Remember that this is America and even the government, USCIS, understands people change their minds and all that. What you described is exactly what you should tell the USCIS. There was no formal commitment when you came here to study and therefore it is absolutely fine that after a while you decided to marry your boyfriend. There will be no problems if this is your only concern.

Q: I got accepted into community college in SoCal about 3 weeks ago for English and Literature studies, which I always dreamed of studying. My friend sponsored me, though, because my minimum wealth job hasn’t provided me the chance to save enough for the college. He’s a very responsible person, with a great stable job, and out of pure good and willing to help, he decided to invest in my education in the U.S. Both him and his girlfriend wholeheartedly meant to just simply help me. My school could not be sponsored by any of my family members, since they’re not wealthy people; I still have to support them every now and then when they need money and I’m always willing to do that. My F1 visa interview took place yesterday and got denied under section 214(b), where I did not present ties strong enough to both origin and residence countries. The fact that I think had the strongest impact on the decision, though, was that my friend sponsors me for the large amount of money, is an unmarried young man, also willing to host me at his home during the time of my education. I think the consular office automatically assumed that I want to marry him and stay in the U.S. He didn’t say it straight, but I could clearly read between the lines. Now, he said that based on current circumstances, he cannot grant me a visa.

A: Your situation presents a suspicion to the immigration officer regarding being a single female in your mid 20s going to America to study at a community college. Generally immigration officers look more closely at single females going to America to study in very entry level colleges, such as community colleges. It is pretty risky to apply on that fact alone. On top of that, your sponsor is a random American male. That goes to show that you are attempting to get to the USA and use him to get a green card. That is what immigration officers don’t like the most, using a visa that does not fit your intention. I think though, your best chance to just get to America via F-1 visa would be to apply for short-term language school. Language school is usually a 5-6 week course and immigration officers grant that easily. Once you get to America, then apply to other schools and transfer. Transfer does not require you to be interviewed again. F-1 visas are a minimum of 2 years (not sure for Polish citizens) but you don’t need it to be valid if you are enrolled in a course of study with an active I-20.

Q: I was in the USA this year from the 1st January to the 6th July on a F-1. I am under the impression I am not allowed to reenter the country (on a tourist visa) until the next calendar year begins – that being the 1st Jan ’14.

A: I personally never heard of this restriction. As long as you did not violate your F-1 visa status and departed the US on time after your course of study has completed or at the end of your OPT, you should be able to re-enter America on a tourist visa any time after, even July 7th (assuming you have a valid tourist visa already).

Q: I have a problem at my current OPT status. I have accumulated 89 unemployment days. My current job started at Aug 12th and I found new one will start on Nov 4th. For the end date of my current job, may I choose Nov 3rd? (The problem about Nov 3rd is Sunday) However I have only one legal unemployment day. Under this circumstance, what should I do? Hope anyone can help me, many thanks!

A: Because you are so close to the maximum allowed days of unemployment on OPT, you absolutely cannot have a gap between employment. Yes, start the new job immediately after the current job. Not all jobs are M-F only, so I think it would be fine to start on a Sunday.

Q: Hi, Im currently in the United States. Been here for a month now. Can somebody tell me if i want to study a degree program in College, How can i get my visa converted to F1? Is it possible? What documents do i need to have?

A: Yes it is called Adjustment of Status. You need to first apply and be accepted at a school, provide financial documentation that you can support yourself during you studies, pay the SEVIS fee and the school will issue you an I-20. Once you have that, file I-539 http://www.uscis.gov/i-539 and explain why you changed your mind. Remember, USCIS really does not like people changing minds, especially on B-2 visas to F-1 or vice versa. It really all depends on how you can convince the USCIS that you did not intentionally enter the country on a different visa than your original intention. Keep in mind if you apply for this change within 60 days of arrival to America, it is likely to be rejected as it looks like you never intended on just coming to America for tourism.

Q: I am a 21 year old Mexican citizen and have been in the US for over 2 years now. I first came to the country under a J1 visa, and after a year and a half decided to change my status to F1. I received the F1 status on march, 2013, and haven’t visited Mexico since December, 2012; therefore, I don’t have nor ever had the F1 visa on my passport. I’m pursuing a Psychology major, and am currently attending my first semester at a community college. I really want to visit my family, but before I ask my question I want to explain my situation.

 Like I mentioned, I don’t have the F1 visa on my passport, I just have the status. For what I understand, I can legally keep studying in the US without the visa on my passport as long as I don’t exit the country. I know that if I want to visit my home country I need to go to the US embassy in Mexico and go through an interview. Currently, my sponsor is a US citizen, a 28 year old male that is also my boyfriend of 1 year. He offered to sign as my sponsor since neither my family nor I can afford to pay for education here.

 My question is, if I go to the interview in Mexico, am I in risk of getting the visa denied?

A: Yes, it is pretty high risk despite the fact that you have been studying already. I think its very dangerous to try since you have 1. a sponsor who is a USC and also related to you by a romantic relationship, meaning you are just extending your stay in America for him and the lifestyle, not really to study. 2. you are studying at a community college when you are already 21 years old. It only works if you transfer while in America, if you were to apply for the visa from overseas with a community college admission, it probably would be rejected. You never know until you try, so just make sure you know the possible consequences of being denied the visa and unable to return to America.

Q: I am a student on F1 . I have a 3 year bachelor degree from India and 1.5 years of work experience. Currently I am on OPT after completing a one year professional certificate from a college in Seattle. I also just completed my online – part time MBA from a university in India. Now I would like to know if my employer can apply H1B visa for me. Am I eligible for the same.

A: Yes, this is fine. As long as you have a undergraduate degree you can get H-1B skilled migrant worker visa. It all depends on your employer and the cap

Q: I’ve been in the U.S. for approximately 10 years on three different visas (A-2, F-2, and F-1).  My OPT will be expiring soon and I’ll have to return to my home country.  My mother has her green card, my brother is a U.S. citizen, and we plan to apply for my father’s green card soon. If I apply for a new visa for a US master’s program while I’m in my home country, would the USCIS deny my application because my visa history and family background indicates that I have “intentions to immigrate” based on the Immigration and Nationality Act?  Would they grant me the visa if I apply before my OPT expires?

A: Yes it is likely to be denied. You have a few options:

  • wait until your mother has citizenship and bring you over.
  • you can apply for the master’s program while in America as long as your F-1 visa is still valid and just continue your studies here. However you can never leave America after the visa has expired.
  • get a job that sponsors H-1B
  • marriage to US citizen (see guide here)

Q: Hello everybody I have a J-1 visa that ends Dec. 15th but I want to know if I can change my students visa to a work visa without leaving USA, I wants to stay there… I am thinking to leave USA and enter with a tourist visa at the beginning of next year and then change tourist visa to a work visa but I don’t know what to do

A: Don’t leave. Just attempt to apply for a job that will sponsor you for H-1B work visa. You can also try marriage to US citizen if you don’t have a 2 year foreign residency requirement. You can also try to do a AOS to F-1 visa.

Q: Suppose a person has 7 months left until existing F-1 expires.  They can travel back and forth from USA to home country. Now what if, when the person is on such a trip in their home country, they submit all documents to apply for a new F-1 for a new program in USA such as a PhD.  The F-1 for PhD is usually given for 5 years. The USCIS deny the new F-1 . What happens to the valid existing F-1 pasted in the passport that is still good for 7 months? Do they put a cancellation stamp on it or some such – – – or can the person travel back to the USA on this existing, unexpired F-1 ?

A: The existing F-1 visa will not be cancelled and will still be valid for another 7 months. If you are rejected for a visa, they would not take your passport and therefore would not have the chance to pt any type of cancellation stamp, if there is such a thing, into your passport. The person can definitely, assuming he has valid I-20 and has been maintaining status in America, travel back to America on the existing F-1 visa and enter without any problems.

Q: I am currently working using my OPT which will expire in December 2013. I can renew it for another 17 months (STEM extension). The problem is that my F1 visa expires in December as well, so I wont be able to fly overseas after that. The company will apply for the H1B visa in Spring 2014 so I can have it in October 2014. I am also engaged to a US citizen and we are planning to get married soon. The question is if there is a way to travel overseas for a few weeks during the summer 2014 and return without any problem. I would appreciate any help.

A: The only way is for you to be married to your US citizen partner ASAP and begin the Adjustment of Status process to green card right away. You should not even worry about the H-1B because as you have noted you won’t even receive it until October 2014. Also with a green card you wouldn’t need the H-1B visa anyway so I don’t know why you are counting on that. Just get married legally and start the AOS process. During your application, you would definitely be filing the I-131 Advanced Parole application would would add a note on your EAD card that you are approved for travel while your AOS application is pending. Getting approved on the I-131 is pretty easy as well, just write that you are looking to travel during the AOS application.

Q: I have plans to study in abroad, I have select two colleges  i.e Asia Pacific International College Pty Ltd and Carnegie Mellon University. In these colleges which one is the best and which college offer early student visa?

A: There is no such thing as early student visa. Carnegie Mellon is the higher ranked of the two.

Q: I am in states for more then a month now and wish to change my status from b1 to f1. Now I just want to know once my status is changed will I be able to visit my home country? or do I require a visa for that? if yes can I get it from the states after my status is changed? My b1/b2 is valid until 2020.

A: If you successfully change your status, and leave the country, you must apply for a F-1 visa at your home country’s consulate/embassy to re-enter as a F-1 student. Without the F-1 visa stamp, you cannot re-enter as a student and only as a tourist on the B1/B2.

Q: Can a visit visa  converted in to student visa? What documentation is required?

A: Yes, you need to be accepted to a school that offers F-1 visa. After they issue a I-20 for you, you can then file for Adjustment of Status using I-539 provided you have a good and compelling reason why you are changing status and all your required proof of finances as well as able to demonstrate strong ties to your home country.

Q: I am a grad assistant, but my hours are about to become very little (softball season nearly over in Montana). And I have agreed an internship, on campus with the IT department. The only question I have, as I will not be getting paid for this, and my hours will only be noted for the purposes of the internship, will I be restricted to 20 hours per week, or can I work more than that. My hours for softball from next week will be 3.5 hours a week, just supervising study tables, so I was hoping to be able to work at least 30 hours a week (class internship) to accelerate my knowledge so I can get a good reference , and also be used for future work.

A: No, unfortunately you will not be able to work beyond 20 hours a week even though it is unpaid. The only exception is economic hardship which would allow 40 hours a week during school, however it wouldn’t make sense you are working on unpaid internship to support yourself.

Q: Currently I have done a MBA in Finance. MBA is equivalent to 16 years of education in Pakistan. Could you please help me out about the following queries: MBA from Pakistan is considered to which grade in US.? As a MBA , Am I eligible to apply for an Associate in Applied Science degree in Business Management in a community college in US.?What is the grade level of this degree in US. ? Is this an Undergraduate degree? Is it better to obtain a 2 year Associate in Applied Science degree after a MBA? Should I apply for this degree ?

A: MBA is an advanced graduate degree in America, typically after 4 years of undergraduate studies. If you were to apply for an Associates degree from a community college, you would be admitted but USCIS probably won’t grant you the F-1 visa. Reason? You already completed very advanced degree in your home country, it looks very suspicious that you are going to America to study in a community college (which is even lower than 4 year undergraduate degree). If I was the USCIS officer interviewing you, I would definitely not give you the visa unless you have a very good reason why you are going to USA to study with 17,18 year old students.

 Q: I am looking to get some information about student visa for my brother. I would like him to come here for summer to visit me, improve his English and travel locally a little bit. I was thinking about some Summer ESL Program that he would enroll in and will probably need a student visa. He is 19 years old and currently enrolled in University back in Europe. He will have to go back to continue his studies after summer. What are the requirements in such situation? Do I need to find school for him and have the school fill out I-20? Please advise.

A: You just need to apply to be accepted to a ESL (or language school program) program, which will then issue an I-20 for him to apply for a F-1 visa to enter America as a student. Keep in mind he also needs to document his finances to support himself for the program; using you as a sponsor might not be too wise if you are a student as well since USCIS will probably think you can’t afford it. It would be best if he brings his own money. Also remember that he can attend English classes on a B1/B2 visa, which is the tourist visa, and this requires alot less documented finances if he really just wants to come here to visit and study English.

Q: I was a J1-Student, applied with I-539 for a change of status within my legal period, went on a raodtrip, flew back to Germany while my application was still pending, then it was denied due to me being stupid and not reacting on their request for mor evidence of financial funds… But I was not illegal during my stay! So far so good but my question is Can I still enter the USA even though my application was denied?

A: You cannot enter on the J-1 visa since it probably ended as your program ended. You can re-apply for F-1, J-1 visa or even B1/B2 visa. It shouldn’t be a problem that you previously had a denial on AOS. The next application you submit should still be looked at as independent of the AOS. Good Luck.

Q: Can some one please clarify if a green card holder can sponsor her sister as a student ? If so, does she need to file form affidavit of support I-134 or I-864 ? I strongly believe its not I-864 because its used for family based application, Please correct me if I am wrong? If it is I-134, I cant find any thing mention about F1, Is this the form?

A: When the student (your sister) applies for the F-1 visa, the school likely, after admission, require her to show proof of financial resources to support herself during her first year of study. On there, you can put that you are providing some financial help for her studies, and simply put the amount and relationship (which should be sister). There isn’t a need to file I-134 or I-864. In fact, the I-20 will clearly state which portion of her finances will be coming from you, the green card holder. Keep in mind, green card holder makes no difference. Anyone can help a student come study in America.

Q: I’m a US citizen with a wife from the Philippines. We’ve been married for over 2 years. We would like to know if it is possible to sponsor my wife’s sister to come here for school? Both my wife and I work, and we have a very good income. Can our income be used to satisfy the financial requirements for my wife’s sister to get an F1 visa?

A: As long as your income and savings are enough to cover your wife’s sister’s financial requirements during the first year of study, you and your wife can be sponsors for her education. You just need to tell the school of your intended support and relationship. The I-20 will reflect the portion of the financial assistance you and your wife are providing.

Q: I used to live and work as a postdoc in the US for 4 years under a J1 with the 2 year rule attached. I’m currently looking into getting the 2 year rule waived since my boyfriend and I are planning to get married and really don’t want to spend two years apart from each other. The German embassy lists a favorable recommendation of my J1 sponsor (the NIH, a US government agency) on their website as one of the requirements for a letter of no objection, but NIH only grants those if I would get an offer for a job in biomedical research. My questions are:

 1. Is my only chance finding a job for which I would get an O visa, or are other non-immigration work visas possible as well?

2. Is there any way to obtain a letter of no objection/waiver without the favorable recommendation from my J1 sponsor?

A: I don’t believe there are “easy” non-immigrant work visas available. The easiest one, H-1B, is not allowed under the 2 year foreign residency requirement. However, as you stated O-1 is ok, so are A-1 (reps of foreign government travelling to America), G-1 (Principal resident representative of recognized foreign member government to international organization, staff, and immediate family), T (victims of human trafficking), U (victims of crimes), E-1 (treaty traders). I don’t believe they are easy to get so you are really out of luck. You can’t get the waiver based on no-objection because as you stated, NIH won’t grant it to you unless you fulfill that requirement (which you don’t seem to want to do). There are other ways to get the waiver, check out my guide on waivers here.

Q: Please help me with answering this question . If a USC sponsor a family member as student and that family member/student for any reason overstays something out of USC’s control. Would this have any negative impact when the same USC try to sponsor another person since there is a question ”who did you sponsor before”. Or is this revoke the right from USC to sponsor another person since he/she (the USC) has history of a beneficiary being overstayed?

A: I don’t believe there is such a question as to who you have sponsored before. However I am sure the USCIS database has that information readily available. I don’t really know if they will deny your future sponsorships based on that situation, however it might hurt your chances. The only way is to apply.

 Q: I applied for advisory opinion a week ago. I sent request form and everything needed via overnight express mail. But check my statues on-line with my case number still shows “Currently, there is no information regarding the status of your case.” Is it normal?  How long did it take for you to see any “status” on-line? And, how long did it take to get the reply from the time you sent the application for advisory opinion?

A: It takes roughly 4 weeks to get a confirmation status on the case and some more to receive a decision. The process is a long one so prepare ample time for you to get the opinion and then apply for the waiver based on your own situation. If you are pretty certain you will get the 2 year foreign residency requirement, you should just go ahead and get the waiver process started while you wait for the advisory opinion. The waiver application fee is $200 dollars but this saves you the time of waiting for the opinion.

Q: I am a Canadian citizen who is studying in the USA under a F1 visa. I have been in the United States for about four months now. I am 20 years old, and school is getting pricey; with my motive to want to transition between being a full-time student and a legal citizen who can live and work, I am already considering other options for myself in how to go about that. So, what are my options to legally stay and/or work in the USA besides an F1 through a US college?

A: Honestly, if you don’t have a college degree, you probably cannot get the H-1B visa and then subsequently immigrate to America via your employer. Judging from what your financial situation sounds like, you probably cannot do investors EB-5 visa and also Canada is always one of the countries that do not qualify for the diversity visa program. IMO your only option is to get married to a US Citizen and apply for green card that way. Check out my guide on that here.

Q: I am currently pursuing a 4 year BA from a state university. I recently started my 3rd year. I am on an F -1 visa. Me and my girlfriend ( who is a US citizen ) are planning to marry soon . What is the process that needs to be done ? ( in terms of paperwork etc …) The goal is to become a permanent resident of the US so I could live with my girlfriend ( future wife ) …Will I need to leave the USA or will I  still be able to continue my studies ? 

A: Check out my most comprehensive guide on the application requirements to file an Adjustment of Status (AOS) from F-1 visa to Permanent Resident (green card holder). You can stay in the US the whole time during the application process. Expect it to take anywhere from 3 months to 9 months. Try not to move during this time as change of address is sometimes risky. If you need to leave the US during the application, you will also need to file I-131 Advanced Parole so that you can return from travelling abroad. If you do not do this in advance, you will be considered as abandoning the AOS application once you leave the country.

Q: I am writing in regards to my wife’s J1 visa waiver. The entire application packet was received by the DOS on August 23, 2013 and a favorable recommendation (on the basis of No Objection) was recorded as “sent” on September 23. However, we haven’t received the waiver yet (or receipt of the recommendation being sent to USCIS). We have been waiting for over a month now, which seems unusual based on what I’m reading in forums. Should I be concerned about this delay? Also, is there any way I can verify the status or expedite the process?

A: After approval, it is usual that you receive the waiver and the recommendation being sent to USCIS fairly quickly. All you can do is continue calling the Dept of State J-1 waiver hotline at 202-663-1225, ask them for an update and let them know that you still haven’t received the proper paperwork. Did you move during this time? If you did, you may already be screwed as USPS do not forward mails from USCIS or DOS.

Q: I have few questions. I am from India and I am a doctor(mbbs) here. I like to come to USA and like to get my USMLE done their and get my H1 visa. My plan is to get in to some college with some type of degree in medical line on student visa that I will follow and take USMLE on side with it.  Some of my friends are doing this currently in USA.  Do you know if this is legal? Would I get in any trouble if i do this or someone finds out? Do you think that it is possible to get your H1 like this?  Any help is greatly appreciated.

A: If you come here to study and take the USMLE, it is absolutely legal and fine. Just follow the process to get a F-1 visa and study in America. However, do not declare your intentions on the internet as USCIS can see it and see that you did not intend on studying and leaving, and that you are using the F-1 visa as a gateway to enter America. After you take the USMLE and do get a employment offer from a hospital that sponsors immigration visas, I don’t why they wouldn’t sponsor your H-1 visa. Good Luck.

Q: I have taken admissions at a college in LA for a 4 months english language course and have been granted a 1 year student visa. I have stayed and studied in corpus christi for a similar course and came back to thailand before my visa expired in april 2013. I am flying to usa again tomorrow and i will be landing at Dallas international airport and travelling to corpus christi straight away as my course starts only after a month and I want to meet my friends in texas. I am worried if I will be interrogated or deported because my college is in LA and I am landing at dallas. anyone advice please

A: It is ok to travel to America 30 days prior to the start of your classes. There is also no restriction on where you enter the country, so it is absolutely fine what you are doing. The immigration officer at the airport probably won’t even ask you twice since you may have a flight directly to LA after landing in Dallas. Everything is ok for you.

Q: I applied at Lincoln university in Oakland, CA for MBA program, Information Systems Management…. a 3 year program and (internship) means I work 40 hours/week but work must be in my field of study (called CPT program), I am working at Telecom Egypt, 31 years old , my IELTS score is 6.5 I am waiting for my I-20 as I payed the tuition do I have to get a promising letter from my company ? I mean it doesn’t make sense, no position will wait for me 3 years, I need to get the degree first then look for opportunity that fits my qualifications right ? I have my personal bank statement, but I am really really worried of the embassy stage !!!! I need advises on what to do

A: What do you mean the CPT internship with 40 hour/week? If it is during the school year, your CPT cannot exceed 20 hours a week. Now your main question seems to be about how to demonstrate strong ties to your home country. While it makes sense that no job will wait for you for 3 years, what you can do is ask your employer to issue a letter saying that they will be interested in hiring you upon return, that you were a good employee and such. For other methods, check out my guide on how to show strong ties.

Q: I am a full time student (not on OPT) and am planning to start a LLC. I know that I can’t work for my company. So I asked a friend (a US citizen) to join with me and he agreed. So here are my questions:

1. How much share can I own? Can I own 90′% and my friend own 10%? Is there a limitation?
2. Are there any problems with hiring employers if I own 90%?
3. Can I be the chairman or the president (only to oversee and will not be paid)?
4. My friend will be the CEO, the managing member. He don’t want to be paid. But that is not legal, right? So what is the lowest possible wage for him? Can I pay him only by some shares of the company? He is a member. Is it considered as a self-employment and no need to pay?

A: I believe you CAN be self-employed for OPT, but not too sure about if you are still in school since you cannot work over 20 hours a week and usually no off-campus work, unless doing CPT or economic hardship exception. I am not sure what you are trying to do here so be careful. If you want to start a company, you should do it after graduation since it may violate your status. Now, with the remaining questions, everything is possible. There are no rules in America to prohibit immigrants or foreigners are making a Fortune 500 and a billion dollars.

Q: Hello, I am wondering about this: My husband is on military training right now in another state, he cannot come back home for my Green Card Interview. I called the Military Help Line,and one of the ladies told me to submit my husband’s orders, a letter explaining why my husband couldn’t come, asking for a new date for the interview and a copy of the request to appear for initial interview. I sent all that info last week, as soon as I got the interview paper through mail. And I’ve been waiting for an answer, but I haven’t heard back from USCIS yet. I tracked the package and it got there safely (I sent it to USCIS Santa Clara, where my interview is supposed to be). Now, I’m wondering, The interview is on NOVEMBER 14, next week. Should I go by myself even if my husband is not with me? This is a little bit stressful right now. I would like to hear if other military spouses have attended the interview alone, without their husband/wife.

A: This is a tough situation. Bring the military order and hope the USCIS immigration officer will let you change the time of interview. No one can really offer you any advice here; you just have to try. Good Luck.

Q: I used to be a student at Arizona State University for two semesters but I got disqualified from fall 2013 semester (which starts on August 2013) and they terminate my SEVIS records. Than, I went back to my home country in June 2013 and it’s been almost 5 months since I left the US. However, I believe that I have been out of student status for only 3 months (since August 2013). So, my question is can I re-enter the US with the same unexpired VISA but with a new I-20 + new activated SEVIS number? or do I have to apply for a new F-1 Visa? or do I have to do reinstatement for my current VISA?

A: You need a new F-1 visa. Once you left the country in June 2013, the F-1 visa is also terminated. You need a new visa with a new I-20.

Q: Hi everyone, I have F-1 visa and my college is in Seattle. I have my family friends in Alabama. I am traveling from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Can I land Alabama first and then travel to Seattle before my course start? Will I be questioned at PoE I mean. Any advice.

A: Any Port of Entry is fine. There isn’t a restriction that you must arrive exactly at the location of your school. In fact, sometimes during transit, you enter America in another city first, go through immigration, then take another flight to your destination.

Q: I have been living in Philadelphia for three months with an american family working with them as an au pair. I’m not very comfortable with them and I’d really like to know if I have any other choices to work or study here. I want to know how my J1 visa works and what I can and I can’t do. I’m a graphic designer and I’d love to work as a graphic designer but I guess it’s complicated. And about studies I’d like to have more information too. And about the H visa, It’s easy to get it? How is the process?

A: First you must determine if you have the 2 year foreign residency requirement on your J-1 visa. If you do, your only other option is to adjust status to F-1. If you do not have the 2 year foreign residency requirement, then you can go either into F-1 or H-1B as a skilled worker. Keep in mind graphic design typically is NOT a skilled job, but if you know computer programming and can code computer graphics, then you may be able to find a job to sponsor you for a H-1B visa. Adjusting to F-1 is the easiest way but it also requires you to have money for tuition and living expenses.

Q: I am in a dilemma and would really appreciate your thoughts. I am an Indian national living in England. I am due to apply for a British passport in early 2014 and understand it can take up to 6 months. I am however going to the US for higher studies in June 2014 for 2 years. As such, I will need to get the US student visa on my current Indian passport and then visit UK to collect my British passport when it is ready. My questions are: 

1. Will I be able to transfer the US student visa onto my British passport? Note that since India does not allow dual citizenship, I will have to give up the passport. As such, I will either have to apply for a new student visa or transfer the one on my Indian passport. Does anyone know how it works? 

2. If I am able to transfer the visa, do you know how long it will take? I ask as I will be missing important classes during the time the transition happens 

A: Regarding the transfer question, no, you cannot transfer visas between passports even if you are the same person. Visas are stamped for a specific passport only. You must re-apply for F-1 visa on the British passport after you receive it. This is a tricky situation. What you have to do is this: begin your studies on the Indian F-1 visa, notify your DSO at the school of your situation. Fly back to England and get the British passport and at the same time apply for F-1 visa on the British passport, taking documentation from your DSO that you technically already begun studies and that you are simply continuing your education on a different passport. Because of the time constraint, you may not get your F-1 visa in England in time, and may have to take a 1 semester break which is allowed on F-1 visa.

Q:  I am candidate for an F1 visa,  there is information that is incorrect and specified wrong sponsor name on my I-20. I am afraid that Embassy Officer will reject my visa because of that confusion; Is there anyone else that also suffered from this problem and what happened when you entered to the Embassy?  

A: Chances are the immigration officer at the embassy may not catch whatever mistake you are seeing. If they do, simply explain to them the truth and that the information is wrong because the school typed in the wrong information. As long as you do not falsify information and be honest, the immigration officer usually wouldn’t deny you for other people’s mistakes.

Q: hi! just want to ask if im good if my j1 visa is not subject to 2 year homerule? both of my ds 2019 and j1 visa said so. but i heard that Am i still subject to stay here for 2 years? whats the truth? im goin’ to take my k1 interview soon. 

A: If both DS-2019 and your J-1 visa stamp says you are subject to the foreign residency requirements, you are most likely subject to it. The surest way to find out is to get an advisory opinion which is free. Take a look at my guide to get advisory opinion from the Dept of State. Keep in mind your K-1 will be REJECTED if you are subject to the 2 year foreign residency requirement and have not yet waived or fulfilled it.

Q: Hello, my nephew wants to come here to study because the university here is much better and his parents can afford it. But 5 years ago, I petition my sister to come here on Green card, and on the application she lists her husband and my nephew as her child (they are not here yet). Now that my nephew wants to come here to study, will that cause any issues? Can we check that box that ask “have someone petition you..? ” as yes?

A: Absolutely no issues for your nephew to come to the US on a F-1 visa for study. While they may see that he intends on immigrating to America eventually since there is an outstanding petition for permanent residency, it is also done via relative petitioning which is ok. Generally the USCIS like to deny those that have no ties to America and wants to just live and work here without any sponsorship and cause financial burdens for the US government. In your case, since you are likely sponsoring his parents and also his parents as you said have good financial situation, they would not be against such immigration.

Q: I am on OPT and my OPT is going to expire on dec 12-2013. My employer filed for my H1b in normal processing on april -01-13 . and my case is still under processing. I want to know can i continue to work if my case is under processing and my opt expires?. 

A: No, because H-1B won’t kick in until April 2013 which means you have no legal work status from Dec 12 until April. You must stop working and also return to your home country and then return to America for work on the H-1B visa after approval in April. You are confusing adjustment of status pending applications, which is different from your current situation.

Q: I am asking for a friend. She and her bf are on J1 visas in new york, and she would love to stay longer. But since this visa requires them to go back after the year has passed and stay for 2 years, is there any way to extend their stay? 

A: Yes, she has a few options. First is to transfer to a F-1 visa to study in America. This requires her to adjust her status to F-1 and also have money for tuition and living expenses. This is also a good way to begin a modern immigration to America. The second option is to transfer to B1/B2 tourist visa. However this will only allow her to stay 6 more months. The last option is to apply for J-1 foreign residency requirement waiver, see my complete guide here. After applying for the waiver, immediately apply for visas such as H-1B (skilled worker) or green card (through lottery or marriage). Keep in mind the last option requires her to have the H-1B job offer or the lottery/marriage green card process ready, otherwise she cannot stay beyond the J-1 visa duration anyway even if the waiver is approved.

Q: I attended school in the US, graduated and started my opt. During the second year of my OPT my student visa expired, however I did not go home to re-new it. While I was still on OPT, I applied for school and got accepted. So i terminated my opt, and re-enrolled in school as a full time student, but with the expired visa. Now I want to go home in December and re-new the visa, however I am wondering if the visa will get revoked because I started school with an expired visa.

A: The visa is already expired/revoked. After you go home in December, you MUST apply for a new F-1 visa to re-enter America. It is ok that you were attending school on an expired F-1 visa as long as you did not violate your status by working illegally, not going to school full time, etc.

Q: Next Monday I’ve got the interview at the Embassy because I’ll be traveling to New York on the Work and Travel program. I met this guy 3 years ago online and I’ll be staying at his apt during my trip there (4 months). What if the consular officer asks me where ill be staying? Should I tell them the truth or should I make up something? If so, what should I say?

A: Are you a female? If so, then why don’t you say a hotel or something similar? The reason is you don’t want to give any reasons for doubts that you may be attempting to immigrate to America by marriage, real or fake. America is a free country, so you can even say something like ‘I plan on booking a hotel in NY’ and then later stay at your friend’s place because you changed your mind. Remember, it is ok to change your mind.

Q: I have been an LPR since last August. I got my social security card a year ago when I started working on campus as an F-1 student, and I haven’t removed the “work authorization only” statement from the card. My question is, does it cost money to remove the statement? If so, how much? (I live in NY state) Also, can I order a new card without the “work authorization only statement” online, by mail,or by phone? I don’t have a car, so I was wondering if I could avoid going all the way to the social security center.

A: Contact the SSN office near you for information. Chances are they can issue you a new card (still the same number) but has the verbiage removed.

– See more at: http://www.immigratetoamerica.org/f-1-student-j-1-exchange-adjustment-of-status-common-questions-and-answers/#sthash.MGdxqNxv.dpuf

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