Sharlene Sharmila Richards

Q: What is an F-1 visa?
A: An F-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa which a foreign national obtains from the US Consulate abroad to enable him or her to pursue a full course of study at an academic institution or institution of higher learning in the United States.
Q: My cousin who lives in Pakistan is interested in applying for an F-1 visa. What does she need to do in order to apply for this visa?
A: To apply for the F-1 visa, she must first be admitted by an academic institution in the US which issues a SEVIS Form I-20 to her. She then applies for her nonimmigrant visa by submitting the appropriate nonimmigrant visa application (DS-160) and be prepared to submit the SEVIS Form I-20 to the consulate. She must also provide evidence that she has sufficient funds to cover her expenses and tuition for the academic program. In addition to that, she must show that she does intend to return to her home country after completion of the program (i.e. have nonimmigrant intent) and is English proficient unless she is applying to attend an ESL course. If the consular officer is satisfied with her application, she will be issued with the F-1 visa.
Q: How do I go about obtaining SEVIS Form I-20 from the school I am interested in attending?
A: The academic institution must first accept you into their program. Generally, you are accepted once you can show that you have the sufficient funds to cover living expenses and the tuition costs for at least the first year of your academic program. Most academic institutions which issue SEVIS Form I-20 have a DSO (Designated School Official) who can provide advice as to what is necessary for the institution to issue the SEVIS Form I-20. Please contact the school directly to inquire about this.
Q: I arrived in the US as a B-2 Visitor and applied to change my status to F-1 student. The school issued my I-20 to begin the program in mid-January 2017. I applied for this change of status before my B-2 authorized stay had expired at end of January 2017. The case was processing and suddenly, I received a request for further evidence asking me for proof of having applied for extension of my B-2 status because according to USCIS, I needed to have done that. Please can you advise what I need to do about this situation?
A: A change of status to F-1 from B-2 should be approvable as long as the applicant’s B-2 status at the time of filing was within 30 days of the program start date listed on the I-20. You may wish to point this out to them that your change of status request is approvable when filed. Here, USCIS is attempting to impose their new policy to apply to your case. USCIS updated their policy in April 2017 to now require an applicant who is changing from B-1/B-2 visitor status to F-1 status to file a separate I-539 ‘bridging’ application so that the B-2 status expires no later than 30 days before the program start date, including circumstances where the program start date had to be deferred to prevent the service record from canceling while the change of status application is still being adjudicated. In your case, your program may have to been deferred anyway because of the delay in USCIS processing which is through no fault of your own. So with that, you will need to file at least one more I-539 to extend your B-2 status for a further 6 months so as to bridge the gap in time between your present status expiry date (end of January 2017) and the 30 days period before your deferred F-1 program start date. Depending on when your actual deferred program start date is and if there is a further gap of 30 days from the date of the first B-2 extension intended expiry date, you may have to file an additional I-539 to request for a further 6 months extension so that the requirement that the B-2 status expires no later than 30 days before the program start date is satisfied. For the response to the request for evidence, you will then need to submit the I-797 receipts as evidence that these I-539 applications to extend you B-2 status have been done.
Q: My wife is on F-2 status. Can she work or study in the US?
A: An F-2 status holder cannot work in the US unless he or she is has valid employment authorization. He or she is also not permitted to study full time or part time at an academic institution unless he or she is approved for a change of status to F-1, M-1 or J-1.Disclaimer: Any advice provided in this article is general in nature and not intended to constitute legal advice for any specific case. Please consult with an immigration lawyer about the specific circumstances of your case.
My Bio
Sharlene Sharmila Richards is a licensed Immigration lawyer practicing in Houston, Texas. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. She was admitted to the New York State Bar in 2000 and is a member of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and a member of the US Supreme Court. You may contact her at telephone number 713-623-8088 or by email at srichardslaw@aol.com to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.

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