When a foreign national is admitted into the United States as a nonimmigrant, a U.S. official will assign a nonimmigrant category based on the purpose of the visit. If a nonimmigrant wants to change the purpose of his or her visit while in the United States, then the foreign national, or in some cases an employer, must apply to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to change their current nonimmigrant status before the expiration of their current authorized stay. (Please note that this is different from Adjustment of Status, in which a nonimmigrant requests that the USCIS convert his or her status to that of a permanent resident.) For example, if a foreign national arrived in the U.S. as a tourist, but then wants to study in the U.S., he or she must submit an application to the USCIS to change their status. If a foreign national does not apply to change their nonimmigrant status, he or she may be in violation of the U.S. immigration laws, i.e., engaging in an activity not specifically provided for by his or her current nonimmigrant status. Proof that one is willing to obey U.S. laws may be important if the nonimmigrant wishes to travel to the United States in the future. In many circumstances, a foreign national may also become subject to removal (deportation) if they violate the purpose of their current nonimmigrant status. Any of the immigration attorneys in our Michigan office can help with the process of change of status. Additionally, one of our Michigan change of status lawyers could handle any obstacles that may arise during this process.

Documentation When Filing for a Change of Status

Please note that the rules for changing nonimmigrant status vary according to the status one is changing from and/or to. Generally, you may apply to change your nonimmigrant status if you were lawfully admitted to the U. S. with a nonimmigrant visa, your nonimmigrant status remains valid, you have not violated the conditions of your status, and you have not committed any crimes that would make you ineligible.

To change status to the following nonimmigrant visa categories, an employer must file an I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, accompanied by any required supporting documentation:

  • E – Treaty Traders, Treaty Investors, and Employees of Treaty Traders and Treaty Investors, Skilled Professionals from Australia
  • H – Temporary Skilled or Unskilled Workers and Trainees
  • L – Intracompany Transferees
  • O – Aliens of Extraordinary Ability and their Assistants
  • P – Entertainers and Athletes
  • Q – International Cultural Exchange Visitors
  • R – Religious Workers
  • TN – Canadians and Mexicans Under NAFTA

If a foreign national, who is in the U. S., would like to change their status to one of the following nonimmigrant categories, he or she may file for a change of status on their own behalf, using I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, with supporting documentation:

  • A – Diplomatic and other government officials, and their families and employees
  • B – Visitors for business or pleasure
  • F – Academic students and their families
  • G – Foreign government officials and their families and employees
  • I – Representatives of foreign media and their families
  • M – Vocational students and their families
  • N – Parents and children of the people who have been granted special immigrant status because their parents were employed by an international organization in the United States

Also, a spouse and any unmarried children under the age of 21 may file for derivative nonimmigrant status based on the principal foreign national’s change of status. For example, if a nonimmigrant is applying for a change of status from a visitor (B-2) to a religious worker (R-1), then his or her spouse and child(ren) may also apply, concurrently, to change their nonimmigrant status from B-2 to R-2.

If the application to change nonimmigrant status is denied, there is no appeal. However, the applicant or employer, depending on who filed the original application, may submit a motion to reopen or a motion to reconsider with the same office that issued the denial. If you are interested in changing your status or any have any questions about this process, please call our Michigan change of status lawyer for more information.

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