Switching US visas over
February 19, 2015 12:56 AM   Subscribe

YANM(Immigration)L: Is it possible to switch from an US student F-1 Visa to a tourist B1/2 Visa without having to travel far from or out of the US? And what's the deal with my OPT and my visa sticker?

I am currently in the US on OPT, which allows you to work for up to a year post-graduation. My OPT term ends in late August, I apparently have a 60 day grace period after that, and for some reason I still can't fathom the visa sticker - which I obtained specifically for OPT - expires in 2019.

I am considering attending a workshop in New York that would run from September to December. I could do it on a US tourist visa (I have done similar stuff without problems) and since it's not employment OPT rules don't apply. But given that my OPT runs out before then, and the 60-day grace period would end halfway through, I'm not sure that my visa sticker would allow me to stay even though technically it's not expired.

1. Could I just hang around in the US for a few more months to do this workshop, especially since the sticker is still valid? A friend said I could but it might mess up my ability to get a US visa in the future, is that true?

2. If I need to switch from an F-1 to a B1/2, can I do that while I'm in the US or do I have to leave the country?

3. If I have to get the new US visa elsewhere, where would be a good place to get it? I have a Malaysian passport with Australian permanent residency, and I need a visa to go to Canada but not to Mexico. I could also fly back to Malaysia/Australia but that's expensive.

4. Is there some 4th solution that I'm not seeing? (People have been suggesting H1B visas in general; I am looking for a job that'll sponsor me, but that's a different question.)
posted by divabat to Travel & Transportation around United States (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
1. Yes, overstaying your visa is a bad idea. In general, if you overstay by more than 180 days and less than a year, you will get a ban of 3 years and will not be eligible for entry into the U.S. during those three years. It seems like you will be overstaying by less than 180 days, but I still think it may cause you problems in the future with getting a visa and isn't worth the risk.

2. I'm not an expert on immigration law at all and I would recommend that you contact an immigration attorney to help you figure out the best solution. However, I believe you can adjust your visa status by filing the I539 form.
posted by Lingasol at 4:58 AM on February 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


When I had an OPT, my school's international studies/foreign student place was still helpful - could you check with them? My school even had a lawyer on staff for questions.
posted by hydrobatidae at 5:05 AM on February 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


If I have to get the new US visa elsewhere, where would be a good place to get it? I have a Malaysian passport with Australian permanent residency, and I need a visa to go to Canada but not to Mexico. I could also fly back to Malaysia/Australia but that's expensive.

I'm 90% certain that if you want to apply for a new US visa from outside the US, you have to fly back to a place where you are resident, so you'd have to apply from Malaysia or Australia.

If I need to switch from an F-1 to a B1/2, can I do that while I'm in the US or do I have to leave the country?

I know someone who did this in the US, so I'd advise trying this first and avoid overstaying.
posted by Enchanting Grasshopper at 5:05 AM on February 19, 2015


What an immigration attorney would tell you to do in this situation is have a discussion with your school's foreign student adviser. Your school will have people who have seen your situation many many times, and it will be a free resource for you. An immigration attorney will charge you and then tell you to double check everything with your school anyway.

There's generally some leniency on both sides of the F to provide for getting your affairs in order and arranging to travel home but it's not enough to provide for a workshop, and it's not in the spirit of a B visitor visa for you to use that time for that reason. So please talk to your foreign student adviser at school. You may find out that the workshop can be applied to your OPT time. Definitely ask.
posted by phunniemee at 6:51 AM on February 19, 2015


Long time director of graduate studies here. In recent years my institution has advised departments that we should never interpret immigration law for students on our own, and always refer them to the university's international students' office for official interpretations and legal guidance. If you're still a student, I'd recommend you find the equivalent office in your institution.

There are nine million ways a simple, common sense assumption about these rules can trip you up in ways that really disrupt your life, as some of the comments above point out. You either need to get the answers from US INS, from your school's official international student office, or from an immigration lawyer. Anything less ain't worth the pixels it's printed in.
posted by spitbull at 8:45 AM on February 19, 2015


I should have mentioned this in my OP, but I did ask my school, and while she was helpful I was a bit of an edge case and she wasn't entirely sure what my best options are besides going home and getting a new visa.
posted by divabat at 9:10 AM on February 19, 2015


(And no, it would not count as part of my OPT simply because it would take place after my OPT ended and I can't extend it - not a STEM student. I'm sure that I can do this on a B visa because I've done that before with no problems.)
posted by divabat at 9:12 AM on February 19, 2015


The visa is only good to get you to the port of entry (airport, land border crossing, etc.) - after that, the legal length of stay is determined by USCIS. The duration of the validity of the visa, in this case, is a red herring. If you are sure that the workshop qualifies as something you can do on a B1/B2, you can apply to adjust status with USCIS. It's much more common to go the other way - somebody enters on a B1/B2 and adjusts status to become a student - but a brief reading of the information here and here suggests it may be possible. Note that if you leave the country at all during this time, you will need the appropriate visa (obtained outside the United States) in order to re-enter.
posted by exutima at 3:18 PM on February 19, 2015


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