How to Change Your Visa Status From H1B to F1

Updated on January 4, 2024

At a Glance

  • The H1B visa is a temporary work visa allowing foreign workers with specialized skills to work in the U.S. for up to six years.
  • The F1 visa is a non-immigrant student visa for individuals pursuing educational studies in the U.S., allowing part-time on-campus work.
  • Switching from an H1B to an F1 visa to continue education in the U.S. is possible, but it involves a time-consuming process and requires necessary documentation and fees.

Visas are capable of deciding the fate of a lot of people hoping to enter the United States. While there are various kinds of visas, from H4 and other dependent visas to J1 or F1 student visas, L1 exchange work visas and others, H1B appears to be the most attractive.

An H1B visa can help you get a much-needed high-paying job. Although this visa might sound like a happily ever after, that’s not the end of the story. This is because recent changes in its eligibility have made the situation more difficult.

But giving up is not yet an option. You could still pursue a visa status change from H1B to an F1 student visa. In this article, we will have a closer look at each of these terms, and how you can get your visa status changed from H1B to an F1.

H1B Visa and F1 Visa

Before we delve deeper into the details and understand the nitty-gritty involved in getting the visa status change done, let’s first learn more about each of these visas.

What Is an H1B Visa?

The H1B visa comes under the Immigration and Nationality Act that allows foreign workers to engage with U.S. employers temporarily in various specialized occupations. These occupations, generally, require that the foreign workers are well-skilled in their field, and have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent work experience to be considered.

An H1B visa allows you to stay in the U.S. for three years, which is further extendable to six years. Once you have completed six years in the U.S. on an H1B visa, you might need to reapply based on your individual circumstances.

However, gaining an H1B visa is not an easy task. Recent U.S. laws have limited the number of H1B visas issued each year. For the year 2017, only 180,440 H1B visas were issued.

What Is an F1 Visa?

Quite the opposite of the H1B visa, which allows you to work in the United States, the F1 visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows you to pursue educational studies in the U.S. This visa helps you enter a college or university, high school, language training program, or other similar academic institution in the U.S.

It is important to keep in mind that F1 visas are issued solely for the purpose of obtaining an education and cannot be used as work visas. This means students entering the U.S. on an F1 visa cannot engage in full-time employment.

However, they should still be able to work for around 20 hours per week on campus during an active school session, and full-time during recess. In order to be able to do this, students must obtain prior permission from the Department of Homeland Security and the school’s International Office first.

That said, you must avoid working illegally on an F1 visa without prior permission as any such action could result in deportation.

Can You Switch From H1B to F1?

The good news is that you can extend your stay in the U.S. by getting your visa status changed from H1B to F1. This change will not only help you enhance your skills but will also provide you with enough time to decide what you want to do next while still staying in the U.S.

How to Apply for F1 Visa Status

If you want to attend a university or college with an F1 visa, all you need to do is get the required paperwork done and pay the required fees. Here are the steps you need to follow:

  • Get acceptance from the college or university in the form of an acceptance letter. Additionally, you need a copy of a signed I-20 form reflecting your duration of status as a student and the department you will be enrolling yourself into. It is recommended that you inform your school about your intention of getting the visa status change done. Do not forget to sign the Student Attestation section.
  • Next, you need to fill out the I-539 form and pay a $370 filing fee as a check payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. You might also need to pay an additional amount of $85 for getting the biometrics done. Next, USCIS will keep you updated on where you need to show up for giving your blood and hair sample, fingerprints, and retina scan.
  • Get ready to pay another hefty check for your I-901 SEVIS fee.
  • You will then be required to provide financial evidence documents to assure the authorities that you will be able to support your studies financially during the course duration.
  • You also need to provide other important documents like a copy of your I-94, and photocopies of the I-797, your passport, immigration documents, and the like.
  • Keep all these important documents in a folder, and send it to the USCIS.

H1B to F1 Visa Processing Time

Be prepared, the entire procedure could take several months or more. But do not get disheartened and make sure you provide them with a return address which will not change in the near future, just to help them contact you with the final outcome, whether positive or negative.

If you are planning to return to your home country, you could also state your friend’s or relative’s address for easy communication.

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If you want to extend your stay in the U.S., changing your visa status from H1B to F1 can prove to be the exact course of action to take. Apply for the change and wait for the results.

Meanwhile, if your H1B visa is not going to expire anytime soon, it is highly recommended to wait for the change to reflect without leaving the U.S. In any event, if/when you have lost your job, it is highly recommended to move to your home country or else the change of status might get denied on the grounds of you ignoring U.S. immigration laws.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can I Change My Visa Status from H1B to F1?

Yes, you can change your visa status from H1B to F1 if you wish to study in the United States. This requires you to be accepted into an educational program and to follow specific USCIS procedures.

What are the Steps to Change from H1B to F1 Status?

  1. Get Accepted into a SEVP-Certified School: Secure admission to a program in a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified school.
  2. Obtain an I-20 Form: Once accepted, the school will issue an I-20 form, which is necessary for the F1 visa application.
  3. File Form I-539: Submit Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, to USCIS before your H1B status expires.
  4. Maintain H1B Status Until Approval: Maintain your H1B status until your F1 change of status is approved.
  5. Pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee: Pay the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) I-901 fee after receiving the I-20.

What is the Processing Time for Changing from H1B to F1 Status?

The processing time for changing from H1B to F1 status can vary significantly, typically ranging from 3 to 12 months, depending on the USCIS service center and individual case factors.

Can I Start Studying While My Change of Status is Pending?

You cannot start studying in F1 status until your change of status is approved. However, you may be able to start studying based on your H1B status if it allows for part-time study.

Do I Need to Leave the U.S. to Change from H1B to F1 Status?

You do not necessarily need to leave the U.S. to change from H1B to F1 status if you file Form I-539 for a change of status. However, if the application is denied or you prefer not to wait, you may apply for an F1 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.

What Happens if My H1B Visa Expires Before My F1 Status is Approved?

If your H1B visa expires before your F1 status is approved, you may be required to leave the U.S. and apply for an F1 visa from your home country unless you qualify for a period of authorized stay.

Can I Work on an F1 Visa?

On an F1 visa, you can work on-campus for up to 20 hours per week during the academic term and full-time during breaks. Off-campus work options like Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT) are available under certain conditions.

What are the Risks of Changing from H1B to F1 Status?

Risks include the possibility of the change of status being denied, leading to the need to leave the U.S., and the inability to work full-time as allowed under the H1B visa.

Should I Consult an Immigration Attorney for the Status Change?

Consulting an immigration attorney is advisable for a status change from H1B to F1, as they can provide guidance on the process, required documentation, and deal with any legal complexities that may arise.

How Does Changing to F1 Status Affect My Tax Obligations?

Changing to F1 status may affect your tax obligations, as F1 students are typically considered non-residents for tax purposes for a certain period. It’s important to understand the tax implications and comply with U.S. tax laws.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.