Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Can I change from H-1B to F-1?

I have written a couple of blog postings about the effect of layoffs on H-1B workers (see links below). Another common question in this regard is whether the H-1B worker can change to F-1 status and, perhaps, change back to H-1B again if they find another job. Some actual examples of the questions are:
"If I am on H1B visa but I have been laid off by my current employer and they will announce my leaving in one month. I am planning to change to F1 status. If I get another employer later on that sponsor again my visa. Do I get subject to a cap?"

"I have been on an H1B visa for 2.5 years; I am considering attending grad school in Minnesota for my MSME in the Fall, so I would be switching to an F-1 student visa.
My question is: if after I graduate with my Master's Degree, I apply for & get another H1B job - so I switch from F-1 back to H1B visa - do I get a fresh 6 year timeclock started on my new H1B? Or, do I only have 3.5 years left that I can be in H1B status - because of my H1B work time before the F-1/grad school?"

"I have been on the H-1B visa for 1 and a half years.I was laid off recently and am planning to attend school which starts in July 09.
i) Do I need a F-1 visa apart from an I-20?
ii) Do I need to go out of US for stamping?"

H-1B to F-1:

A H-1B holder can change fro H-1B to F-1 if she meets all the requirements for F-1 status, including having nonimmigrant intent. "Nonimmigrant intent" means that she needs to show that she intends intend to return to her home country at the end of her studies. Having been here in H-1B status, especially if she has been here a long time, makes it more difficult to show the required nonimmigrant intent. If the applicant or her employer has filed for permanent residence, this completely contradicts nonimmigrant intent.

Despite these warnings, it is not impossible to prove nonimmigrant intent. In addition to this evidence, the F-1 applicant needs to show (a) that she has enrolled in a school and has an endorsed I-20; (b) that she has sufficient funds to pay the expenses for and dependents while studying; and (c) that she will be maintaining status up to the start of classes.

Do I need to leave the US to get an F-1 visa?

The F-1 application could be decided in a number of ways, assuming it is not denied completely. At best, the foreign national could get approval for an automatic change of status to F-1. This would operate to automatically change the foreign national's status to F-1 without the need to leave the US.

However, if the applicant cannot prove maintenance of status,
CIS might just approve the F-1 part of the petition, but not the automatic change of status part. This means that the foreign national would need to leave the US and get an F-1 visa at a consulate before returning in F-1 status. The consulate will need eveidence of nonimmigrant intent, as explained above.

Please see here for the difference between "visa" and "status".

Changing back to H-1B later

If the foreign national finds a new employer who files a new H-1B petition, this new petition is not subject to the H-1B cap. The foreign national has already been included in the cap within the past 6 years, so he is not counted again. The only way that the employee would be subject to the cap again is if (a) he used a full 6 years in H-1B status, and then spent one full year outside the US; OR (b) was moving from a cap-exempt H-1B employer to a cap-subject employer.


Prior postings on layoffs here.

Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/david55king/


  1. Could you please tell us how CIS respoces has been so far for the cases you have submitted.
    It's obvious that they are getting quite a lot of these COS.And they know that people are just trying to be on status.
    I just wanyed to know whether they are very strick on this.
    Thank you.

  2. The cases I filed are still pending.

  3. I am working for a company in Illinois.I just got layoff notice. my last day is July 3-09.I am currently pursuing Part time MBA., If I convert it to full time MBA, i.e get an I-20 for a full time MBA,and the schools files for F1 COS, with in July 3, can I attend the Fall 09 semester(Aug-23 09)?
    1. will I be out of status for the month(jul 3 to aug 18) or should I find another suitable employer and file for H1 transfer(while my F1 COS is still pending).
    2. If my F1 is approved, my new H1b becomes invadid?
    3. if F1 is not approved, then can I continue to work for new employer?
    please answer my questions.would be really greatful!!

  4. Basu - Please contact me directly with specific questions. Thanks.