H4  to F1 Change of Status

Many H4 holders, despite being skilled and educated, face constraints due to visa limitations. How could H4 holder start working and accumulate experience while waiting for their EAD card?

Change to F1 status and use CPT to start your career in the U.S. today.

Reach out to our immigration specialists today! Call us at (818) 968-6536 or fill out the form for expert guidance tailored to your circumstances.

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What is an H4 Visa?

The H4 Visa is designed for family members dependent on individuals with H-1B, H-1B1, H-2A, H-2B, and H-3 visas in the US. This includes spouses and unmarried children below 21 years of age.

H4 Visa holder’s rights in the U.S.

  • Legal Residency: H4 visa holders have legal permission to reside in the U.S. while their H1B visa holder family member is employed. It's important to maintain this legal status by adhering to the terms and conditions of the H4 visa.

  • Study Opportunities: H4 visa holders are generally allowed to enroll in academic or vocational courses as part-time students in the U.S. They can pursue educational opportunities to enhance their skills and knowledge.

  • Healthcare Access: Many H4 visa holders can access healthcare services in the U.S. through employer-sponsored health insurance plans or other available options.

  • Driver's License: In many states, H4 visa holders are eligible to apply for a driver's license, which allows them to legally drive in the U.S.

  • Travel: H4 visa holders can travel in and out of the U.S. However, it's important to consider the timing of travel to align with their H1B family member's employment and visa status.

  • Employment Authorization (EAD): Under certain circumstances, H4 visa holders may qualify for Employment Authorization Documents (EAD). This allows them to legally work in the U.S., typically when their H1B family member is on the path to permanent residency (green card).

  • Protection from Discrimination: H4 visa holders are protected from discrimination based on their nationality or immigration status. They have the right to work and live free from harassment or bias.

  • Access to Legal Counsel: H4 visa holders have the right to consult with an immigration attorney or legal expert to understand their rights, options, and any changes in immigration policies.

It's important to note that while H4 visa holders have certain rights, their ability to work and other privileges can be subject to specific conditions and eligibility criteria.

The duration of the H4 Visa is directly linked to the primary H-type visa holder's permit. For instance, if an H1B visa holder loses his/her job, then the H4 visa recipient affiliated with him/her will have a 60-day window to secure another nonimmigrant status to remain in the US.

Likewise, when a dependent child on an H4 Visa reaches 21, they must transition to another non-immigrant visa, like the F1 Student Visa, to continue their stay in the US.

Why Changing from H4 to F1 Status?

  • Employment Opportunities: F1 visa holders have better employment opportunities, including CPT, OPT, and potential H-1B Visa opportunities. On the other hand, H4 visa holders face challenges in finding a job, and turning directly from H4 into H1B can be extremely difficult.

  • Independence and Security: Unlike the H4 visa, which is dependent on the H1B holder's status, the F1 visa operates independently. If an H1B holder faces unforeseen circumstances like layoffs, the H4 visa holder may lose their right to stay in the United States.

  • Financial Considerations: Studying with an F1 visa might involve out-of-state fees, but it provides a clear pathway to employment and an H-1B visa. On the other hand, while studying on H4 might offer in-state fees, the challenges in finding a job and transitioning to H-1B can be significant.

  • Break the 6-year Limit: The H1 or H4 visa has a 6-year duration limit. However, once you transition to an F1 visa, the time spent on the F1 visa does not count towards this 6-year limit.

Can I Change the Status from H4 to F1?

You May Fail the Change of Status Because

  • Insufficient Proof of Ties to Home Country

  • Financial Inadequacy

  • Mismatched Intentions

  • Incomplete or Incorrect Documentation

  • Impact of I-140 Filing

  • Past Immigration Violations

Eligible for H4 to F1 Change of Status within the US

  • Applicants must be currently residing in the US.

  • They must apply through the I-539 change of status petition.

  • If approved, their status will change without leaving the country.

  • No visa interview is required for the change of status within the US.

How to Change H4 to F1?

There are two ways to acquire a new non-immigration status:

Option 1: Travel and Reentry

For H4 holders, the most straightforward method to switch to F1 is to leave the U.S., obtain an F1 visa stamp on their passports in their home country, and then return. This approach is particularly effective because applying from their home country allows the applicants to demonstrate a strong connection to their homeland, which can be an important factor in the visa application process. However, it does come with potential drawbacks such as the possibility of delays in visa processing and the costs associated with travel. In other cases, due to personal reasons, many opt to stay in the US and use option 2 to get their F1 status.

 

Option 2: Change of Status within the U.S.

This method involves applying to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for a change of status. It allows you to change your nonimmigrant status while staying in the U.S. However, this option won't get you a new visa because visas are only issued outside the U.S. when you return to your home country. With this method, you can stay in the U.S. while your application is processed. You must remain in the U.S. during this time; if you leave, your application will be canceled. One major downside is the risk of application denial, which could force you to leave the U.S. quickly.

Change of Status in the US - Step 1: Get an offer from an accredited university

Identifying a suitable college or university that offers the desired program is vital for the success of a change of status. While many might prefer institutions within their state, numerous universities provide online courses with monthly executive sessions.

Once you decide on a target school, you must complete the application process immediately. If you get accepted, you will receive an I-20 and an acceptance letter.

Change of Status in the US - Step 2: Apply for a Change of Status (COS) from H4 to F1

To initiate the H4 to F1 Change of Status Process within the US, you need to complete form I-539.

Along with this form, submit the following documents to USCIS:

  • University acceptance letter

  • I-20 from the University

  • SEVIS fee receipt (current fee: $200)

  • Recent I-94 copy

  • Passport copies (including visa stamps)

  • Previous I-797s (if H4 was extended in the US)

  • Proof of financial capability (e.g., spouse's recent bank statements)

  • Letter explaining the reason for the status change (highly recommended)

  • Marriage Certificate

  • Spouse's documents: Passport copies, recent I-94, last three pay stubs, and a cover letter if they're covering education fees.

Important Notes:

  • The application for a change of status is intended to modify your immigration status; IT DOES NOT ENTITLE YOU TO A VISA. Upon your next departure from the U.S., you will need to visit a U.S. consulate or embassy overseas to apply for an F-1 visa.

  • If your COS can not be completed before the date indicated on your I-20 form, it is crucial for you to reach out to the DSO of your school to explore options for deferring the program start date.

    • >>> Tips: once receive the offer, you’ll need to contact DSO to get an I-20. I-20 is not automatically issued.

  • While the H-4 status permits full-time study, it may impose limitations on employment. Some H-4 dependents might qualify for work authorization. If you don’t meet the eligibility for work authorization, you are prohibited from commencing work on campus until the transition to F-1 status is complete and you are prohibited from taking on any internship until your CPT application is approved.

  • If your H-4 status is set to expire before the 30-day mark preceding your I-20 start date, there is a high likelihood of your application being rejected, though you are permitted to reside in the U.S. while your application is under review.

    • >>> Tips: It is crucial for you to seek professional help when in this situation. Book a free consultation with us if this is you!

  • The denial letter or approval notice will be mailed to the address listed on Form I-539 in your application. If you change your address, the postal service will not forward mail sent to you by USCIS. If you don’t have an address or are in the middle of moving, you can use your lawyer’s office address.

  • You may remain in the U.S. while your application is pending, even if your original status expires during the application processing.

  • If you leave the U.S. while your request for a change of status is pending, the USCIS will consider your application invalid.

How Much Does it Cost?

  1. Change of Status Petition (I-539): The fee for this petition is $370.

  2. Biometric Fee: An additional fee of $85 is required for biometrics.

  3. SEVIS Fee: Once you receive the I-20 from the University, you'll need to pay the SEVIS fee, which is currently $200.

  4. Lawyer Fee: If you choose to consult with immigration lawyers, it will cost about 200-300/hour for legal consultation.

  5. Other fees: a university application fee and tuition.

How Can day1cpt.org Help?

  • In-House Immigration Expertise: Our in-house immigration attorney specializes in the Change of Status (COS) process for international students.

  • Transparent Pricing: Unlike hourly billing common in many law firms, we offer a clear flat fee of $1500.

  • Strong Affiliations:

    • We're proudly affiliated with over 25 accredited Day 1 CPT universities.

    • These partnerships highlight our credibility in the field.

  • Complimentary Consultations:

    • Benefit from our free consultations to find the perfect program tailored to your needs within Day 1 CPT universities.

  • Financial Benefits:

    • We assist in waiving application fees.

    • Secure scholarships if you meet the criteria. Check your eligibility here.

  • Expedited Services: For those with time constraints, we offer fast-tracked services upon request.

Book Free Consultation

H4 to F1 Change of Status FAQ

Is a visa interview required to change status from H4 to F1?

For those seeking a Change of Status (COS) within the US, attending a visa interview isn't necessary. Upon approval, your status will seamlessly transition to F1. It's crucial to understand that this change reflects your legal status, not your visa, granting you the legal right to reside in the U.S. However, if you have plans to travel internationally, you'll need to secure a visa from a U.S. embassy located outside the country.

What’s the cost for H4 to F1 change of status?

Change of Status Petition (I-539): $370

Biometric Fee: $85

SEVIS Fee: $200

Lawyer Fee: $200 -300 / hr, usually takes 3-8 hours depending on the case.

University Application Fee: $50-250

What is the current processing time for H4 to F1 change of status?

Without Primary Processing: 3-6 months

Primary Processing: 1 month

Can I enroll to a university while my H4 to F1 change of status is pending?

Yes

Will change of status from H4 to F1 affect my future green card application?

Undertaking a COS does not inherently jeopardize a future green card application. However, the specific circumstances surrounding the COS, the timing, and the adherence to all immigration rules and guidelines play a crucial role. It's always recommended to maintain a clear immigration history and consult with an immigration attorney to ensure that the COS process is handled correctly and won't adversely impact any future green card applications.

How long do I have to wait until I can work on CPT after H4 to F1 change of status?

2 -2.5 months if planned right:

Week 1 : Book a free consultation with us. Our expert will help you to choose the school that fits your needs and interests. If you can make a quick decision, you can start to apply to the Day 1 CPT universities of your choice and get an offer with in the same week (expedited service allows you to obtain an offer within 3 business days)

Week 2: Receive school offer and I-20 and we’ll help you start the COS process.

Week 3- Week 7 : If using PP, COS should be finished about a month. You’ll obtain your F1 status by now.

Week 8: enroll to the program, select CPT courses, apply for CPT authorization. (presumably you’ve got a job offer by now)

Week 9: Receive your CPT authorization and start working.

*timeline also depends on school’s schedule. You cannot start using CPT before the CPT course starts.

Can I enroll as H4 to save tuition and change to F1 in the middle of a program?

Of course!

We wrote a blog about why F1 is a better choice for some who wish to work while studying in the U.S. compared to H4. In the article, we also discussed the possibility of doing it “hybrid“. >>> Read More

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