Guide to getting a K-1 visa for your fiance

The K Visa, bringing your loved one to America

On your random trip abroad, chances are you will meet local people of different cultures and background. Sometimes, even your regular trip to a destination that you have been many times may produce a chance meeting with someone who might just be the person that you are looking for to spend your life with. You might meet such a person during your train ride, airplane ride or a bus ride. Now, if that person was a US citizen also, you should congratulate yourself because you just saved $1310 USD at the time of this writing (8/2014). Chances are, though, that you are reading this because the person is NOT a US citizen and they do NOT have any way to come to America to live except through marriage with you. Now, you can do this two ways. The person can come to the US on a tourist/student visa and after 90 days you guys can get married and file for Adjustment of Status (AOS) and get a green card this way. This is the traditional marriage through green card. Just follow my most comprehensive guide and you should be able to do it smoothly. However, if the individual does NOT want to come to America on a student/tourist visa, but rather come with the full intention of getting married and immigrating to America permanently, the K-1 visa is the visa to go with.

The K-1 visa is actually a non-immigrant visa intended for a fiance of a US citizen to enter the United States and get married within 90 days and apply for AOS. Because most people who enter on a K-1 visa end up getting married and filing AOS, the K-1 visa is actually handled by the immigration visa section of the US Embassy/Consulates. Officially it is classified as non-immigrant because technically the individual could come to America, and realize they made a mistake because the US citizen they met is an asshole, and leave the country without immigrating. The K visa also has a K-2 version which is for the dependents of the fiance if they also choose to immigrate to America. Keep in mind the dependents (children) must be under 21 and unmarrie to accompany the fiance to America. The K visa, along with a few others, are one of the non-immigrant visas that are restricted if you have a J-1 2 year home residency requirement. This makes sense because again, a K-1 visa holder typically ends up getting married to a US citizen and filing for AOS. Remember, you must be a US citizen to file for a K-1 visa; permanent residents are NOT eligible to file a K-1 visa for their fiance.

To get started, gather some of the necessary supporting documents of your intention and relationship:

  • Declaration of how you two met in the last 2 years: one of the requirements is that you and your fiance must have met in person within the last 2 years before you started to apply for the K-1 visa. This requirement can be waived if strict customs of the finance’s culture precludes you two from meeting. The declaration only has to document your story and relationship and then it must be signed and dated. The below is a sample statement:

Dear Sir/Madam,

I, [name], intend on sponsoring my fiance, [fiance name], for a K-1 visa to enter the United States for the purpose of marriage and immigration. We met in [month, year] during my trip to [country] while I was [purpose of the trip]. [Provide details of your first meeting, such as: During my trip to the Gambia, I went on a white-water rafting excursion on the Gambia River and my fiance was the one of the staff members who was guiding the trip. My fiance and I got to bond and talk and soon we made plans to meet up again during my stay in the Gambia. The attached are my excursion photos with my fiance as well as my plane ticket that I used to travel to the Gambia during May 2012]. I have attached [copies of supporting documents, see next section] for your review. We have been in an established bona fide relationship since [month, year] and also provided additional documentation of an on-going relationship. Please review my application and process my fiance’s K-1 visa application.

Thank you,


[Your Name], signed and dated.

  • Supporting documents for initial meeting and on-going relationship: the more detailed and thorough your documents are, the better chances that your application will go smoothly without  a need for Request For Evidence (RFE). An RFE requires you to provide more documentation to prove your application is genuine and adds more time to your application. You should keep all originals and send in copies. Sometimes an RFE might ask you to send in the original, in which case you must. For your initial application though, just send in copies. You can place post-its or highlight the important section of these documents that helps supporting your application. The following are a list of documents that you should get copies of for your application:
    • airplane tickets and boarding passes
    • train passes
    • bus passes with dates
    • hotel receipts with dates
    • passport stamps with dates
    • photos of you and your fiance together (write date and location on the back)
    • photos of the engagement (write date and location on the back)
    • letters exchanged
    • emails exchanged
    • copy of engagement ring receipt
  • Original statements of your intent on marriage: both you and your fiance must provide an original statement declaring an intent on marriage within 90 days of entering America. The below is a sample statement. Remember, both you and your fiance must write one. Both originals must be sent with the application:

Dear Sir or Madam:

I, (applicant’s or beneficiary’s name), do hereby state that I am legally able and willing to marry (petitioner’s or beneficiary’s name), and intend to do so within 90 days of my arrival into the US using the K-1 visa.



(Print name)

Now, you need to gather some civil and financial documents which validates your identity and citizenship, as well as your ability to marry your fiance and your ability to support the finance:

  • 1 passport style photo. Check my guide here to make your own and save some money
  • Copy of birth certificate of the US citizen. If the US citizen is not born in the US, then a copy of the the US citizen’s naturalization certificate. If the certificate is not available, you can attempt to copy the identity page of your US passport. This is the last resort and your application could be put into question.
  • Copy of any final divorce certificates of all previous marriages or death certificates of previous marriages if the spouse had died. This is to ensure that you are not currently married to anyone else as the US legal system does not allow one person to be married to multiple people.
  • If the US citizen had changed their name due to previous marriages, then all legal documents regarding the name change such as marriage certificate, adoption decree or court order must also be submitted (copies).
  • If the US citizen was convicted of any crimes, then all court documents regarding the charge of the crime and the disposition of any convictions must also be submitted.
  • Past 2 years of Federal tax return
  • Proof of employment that can be a letter from the employer or last 2 pay stubs or the W2s that you have received for tax filing.
  • bank statements that show current balance, total deposits for the past year and the date of the account opening.

Your foreign fiance also needs to gather a few important documents:

  • 10 passport style photos. Check out my post on how to make your own passport style photo to avoid extra costs. Of course, if the fiance’s home country has a very cheap way of making passport photos, then by all means let a professional do it. Mail this photo to the US citizen because the US citizen needs to submit the photo with the initial application
  • Document all pass immunizations as per recommended adult immunizations by the CDC. There will be a medical examination performed and if any recommended immunizations were not documented or performed, the fiance must have the immunization before they can be permitted to enter America
  • Copy of any final divorce certificates of all previous marriages or death certificates of previous marriages if the spouse had died. This is to ensure that you are not currently married to anyone else as the US legal system does not allow one person to be married to multiple people
  • If the fiance had changed their name due to previous marriages, then all legal documents regarding the name change such as marriage certificate, adoption decree or court order must also be submitted (copies)
  • A passport valid for travel for at least 6 months beyond the intended entry date into America
  • Police certificates from the foreign government indicating that the fiance is not a criminal or have been convicted of serious crimes in the past. Also need this from any country that the fiance had stayed for more than 6 months since age 16.
  • Payment of $265 at the time of writing, check to confirm.

Step 1 – US citizen files for petition

Now, after all the above listed documents have been gathered and ready, here is a final checklist for the first initial application.

The US citizen will submit the following to USCIS:

  • Cover letter detailing the application contents. Here is a great example.
  • Check made payable to USCIS. Currently $340 as per
    - A completed I-129F. Get it from
  • Declaration of how you and your fiance met
  • Original statements from both the US citizen and the fiance declaring an intent to marry
  • Proof of having met in the last 2 years
  • G-325A for both the US citizen and fiance. Get it from
    - 1 passport style photo of the US citizen. On the back,  write the US citizen’s name
  • 1 passport-style photo of the fiance. On the back, write the fiance’s name
  • Copy of the US citizen’s birth certificate, naturalization certificate or passport ID page
  • Copy of any final divorce decrees or death certificates documented the termination of any previous marriages
  • Copy of any legal name change court orders, marriage certificates or adoption decrees
  • Copy of any final court orders showing any criminal charges and conviction dispositions
  • G-1145 E-notification. Get it from

Make 2 copies of each document submitted, you will keep 1 copy and the other copy should be mailed to your fiance in the foreign country. The fiance should have all the documents that you submitted as well to confirm/review your application.

Mail the application to the following address:

For U.S. Postal Service (USPS): (I recommend using Priority Mail, cheap and fast)


P.O. Box 660151

Dallas, TX 75266


For USPS Express Mail and courier deliveries:


Attn: I-129F

2501 South State Highway 121 Business

Suite 400

Lewisville, TX 75067


Step 2 – Fiance prepares for interview in foreign US embassy/consulate

After the I-129F package has been received, you will receive a I-797C Notice of Action. This is to just to let you know that the USCIS has begun processing your application. This is a good time to send to your fiance the following documents:

  • The entire I-129F application package that you sent in
  • Additional photos/evidence of your relationship since you initiated the application
  • A completed I-134 Affidavit of Support. Get it from
  • Supporting financial documents of the Affidavit of Support (see above)
  • Another statement of intent on marriage after arrival in America, dated recently. This is to confirm that the intention to marriage has not yet changed

Once your I-129F is approved, you will receive a second I-797C indicating that. Your fiance is now ready to schedule an interview at the embassy/consulate to get the K-1 visa. Your fiance must bring all the above documents AND if possible, more evidence of an on-going relationship since the filing of the application. The fiance will also need to get a medical examination prior to the interview; just follow the direction as indicated on the letter from the US embassy or consulate. There are specific doctors that your fiance must go to for the exam. The letter should also instruct the foreign finance on filing for the K-1 visa through the Department of State. The following additional documents are required from the fiance:

  • Completed DS-160. This can only be done online now. Go here
  • A valid, active passport that is valid 6 months beyond the date of intended entry into America
  • Copy of any final divorce decrees or death certificates documented the termination of any previous marriages
  • Copy of any court orders, marriage certificates or adoption certificate if there was a name change
  • Police certificate
  • Medical examination
  • 2 passport style photos
  • Payment of visa application fees

Step 3 – Success and coming to America

After the fiance has the interview and if it is approved, the foreign fiance can now make arrangements to enter the US. Once the fiance is inside America, there is a 90 day window to get married. Once the marriage occurs, the fiance must file a I-485 Adjustment of Status to get a permanent resident (green) card. Follow my comprehensive guide on filing Adjustment of Status based on marriage.

Good Luck!


F-1, J-1, Adjustment of Status common questions and answers – Part Three

Disclaimer: All advice given here are strictly as is without any guarantees and reliability. The advice below is solely from personal experiences in filing such applications and process. The best and most reliable advice is always from a good immigration lawyer.

Q. I live in Palestine, have been an exchange student in the US for high school when I was 15 years old. After that, I went home and graduated from high school. After I finished, I applied for a university to get a full scholarship including tuition, room & board for a 4 years bachelor. In the first summer, I worked on campus with my university for  a month, then I found a better paying job next to campus, that I applied for in the field of my study. I started working and went to my adviser after to get the authorization, but he wasn’t there at his office for two weeks, once I found him and ask him about the authorization and telling him that I have been working for two weeks while looking for him, he calls homeland security and immigration office and my visa gets terminated and revoked, me being told to leave the US immediately so I do so and came back to my home country to wait for a year and then get my scholarship again to continue, I apply for a new visa and waiting for my interview in two weeks, what will happen ? will they determine my visa? or what will they ask me, letting you know that me working off campus was a stupid idea but it was me misunderstanding the rules?

A: You should gather all documents from your past visa and write a detailed explanation (with better English than what you wrote above, you are full of grammatical errors). Get someone who knows English well to help you. You should just explain that during the summer you thought you can work off-campus, which you can if you apply for CPT on time, but you did not know the exact rules because your DSO was on vacation. Also it is really weird that the International Student Office only has 1 DSO; they should have had someone to help you. Either way, just explain that it was an honest mistake and that you did not know the rules well. Nobody can know if you will get denied for your student visa, you just have to try it. Check my post on how to stay in status so that you don’t mess up again.

Q: I am from Nigeria and i am planning to attend an 8 week course in USA. I want to know how long i would be allowed to stay in the USA after the course. It is my first time and i would love to spend 1 month extra for a vacation. My friend told me that after my Visa F1 expires i have 3 months grace to be in the USA. I do not want to take chances so i would appreciate a sound and well informed advice.

A: You have a 30 day grace period after the completion of your study program to stay in America before you have to leave. It is not 90 days. So in your case, you would be fine to stay up to 30 days after your course to visit places in America as a tourist.

Q: Hey guys . So I got approved for petition of spouse’s I-130 . I came to the state by a j1 visa and i got married to a us citizen . Do i have to get this waiver thing or i can directly apply for the permanent residence 

A: It completely depends if your J-1 visa had a 2 year foreign residency requirement. If you have such a requirement, you will likely be denied for Adjustment of Status on your I-485 that you will be filing (although you should have filed concurrently with the I-130 to save time). The requirement forces you to leave America for at least 2 years before applying for any type of immigration visa, including permanent residence. Check my complete guide on how to get a waiver here:

Q: I’m in the last stages of my J1 visa here and had a quick question I can’t seem to find the answer to online.  I understand there’s a 30 day grace period to tie loose ends etc but does that 30 days start from the J1 expiration or the expiration date given on visa in passport?

A: The grace period begins as soon as your J-1 program terminates, not the visa expiration date.

Q: Me and my daughter are on F2 visa. Our visa is valid till April 2015. This year our h4 has also been approved and it will be active on 1st october. I am planning to travel to Pakistan by end of July and will be back by 1st September before the h4 visa kicks in in october. So i need to ask that On my return:

- Will I need h4 stamping on my passport while I return to US although I will be coming back a month before my h4 is active and will have a valid f2 visa?

A: You don’t need to enter the country on H-4 since you still have a valid F-2 visa. However, you cannot get the stamp from inside America; it has to be stamped from another country. You can try to go to Canada to get the H-4 stamp but I think your best option would be to get the H-4 stamp in Pakistan and then return to America. You have to only stay 1 more month.

Q: I’m in the US on a J-1 Visa (No HRR) and fully intend on moving back to my home country upon expiration of my current J-1. As the topic name suggests, I do intend to marry a US citizen in Nov-14. I had planned to travel outside the US in the coming months (Vacation & networking) however, I wanted to check that returning to the US with the intent to marry did not break any bright line rules? Any pointers or advice would be extremely welcome!

A: What visa will you use to return to America for marriage? The problem is that your J-1 will be terminated and if you are looking to enter the country on a tourist visa, B-2, or through Visa Waiver Program, then you will be entering under false intentions and might be subjected to denial of green card when you try to apply for one. Of course this is assuming that you are returning to get married and stay in America. If you just want to come here, get married, and go back to your home country, then using a B-2 or VWP to enter is fine. If you are intending to stay, check my post on the wait time for marriage to avoid denial.

Q: Hello there- my boyfriend, currently a uk citizen, got into college here in America and my family will be sponsoring him throughout his attendance. His visa interview is coming up and we’re both nervous about this point: should he be fourth coming about our relationship and it’s impact on his decision to study in the us? Or should he phrase it more in terms of “family friends are sponsoring me”. He has complete intention of returning to the UK after his course, but as a student he already holds a bachelors and graduate degree. I get the sneaking suspicion that he’ll seem an unlikely candidate during the interview, plus verbiage can change everything. Any suggestions for a route to take? Many thanks!

A: He should not be honest about it because this will demonstrate that he intends on coming on a student visa but immigrating permanently through you. He needs to make sure the visa officer does not know the true nature of the relationship otherwise it will be hard to convince the visa officer that your bf really intends on returning to UK after his studies.

Q: Hi I need some advise as far as being on a student visa and getting married and adjusting the status. My friend is on a student visa which expires soon. She just found out that she is pregnant. They want to get married and adjust her status. If someone can help me with a few questions I will appreciate it. 

1) Does she need to file a I-130? 
2) does she need to apply for an extension of the visa or will the filing of i130 automatically extend her visa?
3) can she work or go to school while the petition is pending? Or does she need to file something else?
4)!in your experience is it easier to file the i-130 or Fiancé visa petition?

A: Her US citizen spouses files the I-130 for her to become a permanent resident, not her. She needs to file a I-485 to adjust status to permanent residence from a student visa. She does not need to file an extension because once the I-130 and I-485 are filed, she has a limbo status that allows her to stay in the country while the application is pending. She cannot work or go to school during the application process because once she files a I-485 she immediately terminates her F-1 visa. She can start to work as soon as she receives the EAD card that she can also file during the application. Since she is already in the US, she cannot file the fiance visa as that is for people to bring foreigners from outside the country into the US for marriage. Adjustment of status through marriage is her only and best option. Check my complete guide on how to immigrate through marriage.

Q: I am a student from Guatemala in the USA with an F-1 visa and i have been married almost 2 years. i am in a dilemma in filing for a temporary residency and eventually a future residency because in my plans are to either continue education and/or work either way i need more time in the us and to be able to travel back and forth

problem #1 there is so many forms and many of them look similar so i do not know which one to print or file.

problem #2 paper work email in or mailed

problem #3 with residency paper work do i need to file to be able to work as well

A: There are not that many forms. You can absolutely do this yourself. The main forms are I-130 and I-485. There are supplemental forms to support your application but they are all very straight forward. You have to mail in all documents and applications. You can work during a pending application as soon as you get your EAD card. Check my guide here:

Q: My wifes grand nephew was here during school vacation from Rio.No problem getting a tourist visa. But he has a bright idea he would like to finish HS here. Unfortunately HISD doesnt issue I-20′s. Texas law says everyone gets free public education. But federal law says unless on J visa must reimburse school district(which district cant accept). So HISD doesnt issue I20′s. Went and talked to them and they said usual route is to go to private schools(which do issue I20′s). However the private schools around here all charge 13-20K per year(payable in advance). Beyond grandparents ability to pay. So he wants to come back on tourist visa and enroll in HS(they have to take him). I think this is a bad idea-violating visa right off bat. His mother came here in 1993 and did this. A friend of my wifes niece did this in another district. They had to pull her out as her tourist visa was expiring.

 Anyone had experience with this. I told him best move is finish HS in Brazil.

A: If you cannot afford private school, there public high school for foreigners is out of the question. You are right, ask him to finish HS in Brazil and then apply for college in USA.

Q:   I am from Bangladesh and i was rejected for my F1 Visa interview on 14 July.My sponsor lives in the US and has a yearly income of over 200k$.I took his bank statement, income tax returns, sponsor letter and Affidavit of Suppor(Form I-134) signed by him. But i somehow forgot to take the signed sponsor letter that states his willingness to sponsor! I was really nervous but i spoke as freely as I could. I was completely devastated by that and so i couldn’t even ask to get a written statement. I want to apply again with a different sponsor from my country before my I-20 expires.It seems they emphasize on the relationship with the sponsor quite a lot.What did i do wrong? Will this denial affect my future chances? Can this stop me from getting a visa at all?

A: Financial situations are always one of the key points on visa denial. You can’t have a random family friend sponsor you for the whole year of tuition and living expenses, it just does not make any sense, no matter how ‘rich’ the family friend seems. You need to put up most of the costs through yourself and your parents, not a family friend. Family friend funds can make up the last bit to get you your required amount but it absolutely cannot be the sole source of your funds.

Q: Indeed I am to go for an Interview very soon in one of the US embassies in Nigeria. I would like to know the kind of questions and answers i can give to enable me get my student visa. I am asking because there was a topic that came up last two years and the consular gave example that why most nigerians are being denied study visa is because they give wrong answers. He sighted for example if someone is being asked if he or she has relative in US, that its obvious the person says yes but the answer should be NO. Now, being sincere and telling the truth, will it affect the issuance of student visa?

Please I need help on this and the type of questions and answers i can face when being interviewed soonest.

A: It depends on how distant the relatives are. Are they aunts and uncles? If so, don’t lie because the US embassy can find out. If they are family friend kind of relatives, then it may be ok to say No. Although saying Yes probably won’t hurt your chances either. Basically having immediate or close family memebers in the US makes the visa officer suspicious that you intend on immigrating through your student visa. You have to prove strong ties to your home country, this is to let the visa officer know you intend on returning to your own country after your studies and you won’t try anything funny because you have significant reasons NOT to just leave your country forever.

Q: My friend was on a j1 subject to the 2Y HRR rule. He was offered a HB1 visa and was also planning to get married to his fiancée but he needed to get this waiver thing. He applied for it since December 2013, he checked on it several times and was told it was approved and just needed the ambassador’s signature. Last month the Venezuelan embassy send his paper work back telling him that the current ambassador and his team were not granting this kind of document. They did not deny it they are just “refusing” to do it. We strongly believe this is due to political reasons and as retaliation for the protests against the Venezuelan government that took place in the USA and around the world early in the year. What can we do?

A: Nothing; the other reasons probably do not apply to your friend and if his own government won’t grant the no-objection, then there is nothing he can do but stay in his home country for 2 years before going back to America.

Q: I’m a U.S. citizen planning to propose to an international student on an F-1 visa. Prior to going full swing, I would like some advice from this board regarding visa status and obstacles.


She is an ABD Ph.D. student in the States with a student visa  – expected to finish May 2015 (currently July 2014). She is from China, however, she has not left the States in over two years. It is my understanding that if she returned home, she would have to renew her student visa before returning to the States. She has expressed interest in returning to China for a few weeks the end of November.While a formal proposal hasn’t been given, we have both talked and can’t wait to spend our lives officially together.


My fear is the timeline. In a perfect world I would propose (very) soon and plan a wedding for after she graduates. What complications can this cause? If she returned home after I proposed would that cause complications with her student visa (even though she fully intends on finishing school)? How long after graduating can she remain in the States on a student visa?

A: Because she has an expired F-1 visa, she would nee to apply again in China when she goes back home at the end of November. Chances are this visa will be approved easily as she is still in her PhD program. You said in your ideal situation you want to propose and wed after she graduates. That is fine too. Because as soon as you wed, you can apply for her Green Card and she can stay in the US while the application is pending. If she returns home after you propose but before you guys wed, then this is a problem because if she does not have OPT, she is terminating her F-1 status by leaving and you would have to apply through consular processing which will take much longer and also force you guys to be physically separated. The best is, get the visa renewal now, go home, plan the wedding and proposal after graduation and immediately apply for her green card as soon as you guys officially wed.

Q: I am new here and i dont know what to do. Im currently in f1 visa. Got married with an LPR and im pregnant now. I applied for i-130 (tho my husband is still immigrant) as well as AOS. I didnt know i cant apply for aos until i get a priority date. I dont know what to do now. Does the uscis will deny the petition? Will they deport me? Or can i withdraw the aos application and get my check worth $1,020. Thank you!

A: USCIS will not take fees for applications that they cannot process. In this case, you will be refunded for the amount minus the I-130 fee. They will NOT process the I-485 due to the reasons you stated above and the fee for I-485 should be returned to you along with a rejected application.

Q: I want to know how many students visa is delivered per country? where can i find this information?

A: There may be statistics on other websites but officially there is no limit on F-1 visas issues per country. F-1 visas are issued on a case by case basis unique to each student’s situation.

Q: Yesterday my sister went to the Embassy for her student visa interview. She is trying to study at Portland Community College. While there, they immediately rejected her and sent her away. They didn’t look at her additional documentation, nor did they ask her any questions (there was no real “interview”)! So their rejection decision was based entirely on the original packet of information that she sent them, and they didn’t give her any opportunity to explain her situation or why she wants to study abroad. They didn’t even tell her why she was rejected.

Afterward, we sent an inquiry to the Embassy and they stated that the reason for rejection was due to section 214(b) of the INA. They said that she failed to prove that she was a non-immigrant. However, they never gave her any opportunity to prove that she is a non-immigrant — they never looked at her additional documentation nor did they ask her any questions.

We would like to try again for winter term, but we need some help on how to present a better visa application. What can she do to successfully receive her visa? Can you help at all?

A: It is possible that she has some ties to the US that makes her a highly suspicious case for attempting to immigrate through a non-immigrant visa. Also, how old is she? If she is 35 years old, going to community college is extremely suspicious and not likely to be approved.

Q: So my situation is currently that I need to submit financial evidence for my joint sponsor (husband), because he doesn’t have enough funds for tuition. Well, I just found out that my husband put himself as a joint sponsor and not the petitioner… he put himself as the first joint sponsor and his dad as the second one because he didn’t make enough. What should i do? I’m freaking out as I’ve tried to call the immigration office and they won’t give me any information of what I should do?

A: That is fine, as long as his money and his dad’s money is more than the first year’s living expenses, the financial requirement for the student visa is fulfilled.

Q: here is my situation , i came to new york august 12 2013 holding a tourist visa than after 6 months i applied for a change of status to f1 status , it was approved .so currently I am on f1 status , I am going to get married in march 2015, the issue for me is that I decided stop going to school in September. My classes will finish at this month , I dont want to pay for another classes knowing they gave recetly a new i20 valid for one year , so i decided to stop school cause i want to save money for my wedding .the main question is will it be a problem when i ll apply for immigration for adjustment my status and obviously until march my english school will report me to immigration services before march?

A: File for AOS right now and with a pending application, you can legally remain in America while your application is being processed. It sounds like you are not intending on enrolling in the next coming semester, which is fine as long as you file AOS now, before September. Once you file AOS, your F-1 visa is terminated and you are in a limbo pending-application status.

Q: I am a physical therapist from Europe with a F1 visa holder who would like to pursue a doctorate in Physical therapy in the US . Right now, I am enrolled in a test prep class in DC and would like to volunteer for a Hospital in order to stay current and get the volunteering hours required for my doctorate program . I applied for a volunteering position with a local hospital and after the health clearance I have been asked to complete a background check with my SSN. Unfortunately, I do not have any SSN and I am aware that I am not authorized to work right now. Is it possible to get a SSN not valid for employment?

A: Volunteering counts as employment as long as it does not violate certain requirements. Therefore, you MUST get an SSN and it is ok that you will be volunteering. Take your hospital offer letter to the school’s DSO and they will issue you an I-20 that authorizes you to work/volunteer in the hospital. Take the new I-20 and go to the nearest SSA office to get an SSN.

Q: I’m a high school graduate with a F-2 visa that has been accepted to a 4 year university. I filed an i539 for a change of status about 2 and half months ago so I could study in the US with an F-1. I paid my tuitions and fees and everything! Now, my university’s starting in a week and my i539 change of status hasn’t been approved yet. I’m devastated and can’t sleep at night because a 4 year college education was one of my biggest dreams.. 

Can anyone tell me what to do? Anything that will help… please…

A: You are out of luck. AOS takes much longer than 3 months so you will not likely be able to start your university. Talk to your university’s DSO about deferring admission. You should have file for AOS much earlier.

Q: My fiancee is a permanent resident, and I am going to apply to a student visa and study there a associative degree in IT for 2 years, when we get married in US, i could apply for a change of status and get a permanent residency too? or how is the deal?

A: You can, but it will have a wait time because spouses of permanent residents are F-2 preference category and there is a limit per year. You won’t get permanent residency immediately.

Q: Hello, I will be getting married next year (hopefully), me and my fiancé are just about to submit the K1 paperwork (He is American and I am from the UK). I really want to do my masters however once I get married I’ll have a conditional green card for 2 years before being able to apply for the green card. During this conditional period would I still be able to apply for a masters (and get the residents fee) or would I have to apply for a F1 visa…or wait two years till the actual green card comes through. All very confusing, please help if you can

A: During your conditional 2 year green card, you have every right to live, work and study as any other permanent resident. Therefore, with the conditional green card you can apply to schools and even receive financial considerations for in-state tuition or scholarships that are only open to US students.

Q:  I am in the US under an F-1 Visa as I have been completing a Bachelors for the past 4 years graduating in May 2015. I will then take my post completion OPT which will grant me 1 year work in the US. I am from London originally, however was told that as I also hold a New Zealand/ Australian passport, I could be eligible for a J-1 visa. Is this possible? And if so can I take it after or before my OPT to essentially give me 2 years working in total (OPT + J-1)?

A: You may be eligible for J-1 visa that does not mean you can simply adjust your status to J-1. J-1 is for exchange visitors, so you should be in some kind of program in your home country that has a component to let you come to USA on a J-1 visa. It makes no sense that you are already in a US academic program on a F-1 visa and change to J-1; you are already in America! The only possible way for you to get a J-1 visa is to contact some program in your home country and have that program as the reason why you need to adjust to J-1 visa. You cannot simply apply to a different school on a J-1 visa. Forget using J-1; try to get a job that will sponsor your H-1b visa from F-1 OPT.

Q: Has anyone requested an advisory opinion and they have come back saying the two year stamp on Visa or DS-2019 was a mistake or doesn’t apply to you?  Just curious, my fiance’s Visa and DS-2019 has the two year rule stamp/requirement.   She was an Au Pair and I’m pretty sure the stamp was a mistake. Also, If you aren’t required for the rule after getting the advisory opinion letter results, can you go ahead and file for Adjustment of Status with the advisory opinion letter copies as proof you aren’t required to fulfill the 2 year requirement or do you need to do something else before filing 485, etc..?

A:Yes that is very possible and yes if you receive an advisory opinion indicating that you are not subject to the requirement, simply begin filing the AOS application. You can attach the advisory opinion letter with your application but USCIS will check with Dept of State anyway to confirm.

Q: My was to be step  daughter started the process of  F1 student visa. We just did the initial application through the US college only. We never went any further. She is a Canadian citizen and when she travel through or to the USA the customs officers give her extra screening because F1 app is not cancelled. We have tried contacting the college concerning this matter with no response. Help Please. What should I or her do?

A: There isn’t anything she needs to do. If the F-1 application was not completed, it will be considered abandoned and terminated. I am not sure why the customers officers gave her trouble, but there is nothing a person need to do to terminate a F-1 visa application. Simply stop the process and it will be cancelled.

Q: I was a participant of InterExchange Au-Pair program and came to the US on a J1 visa. I believe US Embassy had erroneously subjected me to a Two-Year Home Country Physical Presence Requirement, also known as INA 212 (e). Neither square on my DS-2019 regarding 2-year rule is marked, but there is a stamp in my passport that reads “Bearer is subject to Section 212 (e)”, which brings me to a conclusion that US Embassy made this determination based solely on the assumption that Au-Pair program in which I had participated was sponsored by the government. 

There are three instances that may subject a J-1 visa holder to a 2-year rule: A. Government funded Exchange Program; B. Specialized knowledge or skill; or C. Graduate medical education/training. I was not a medical student when I participated in this program, nor did I come to the US to obtain such education or training; further, my country does not appear on the Exchange Visitor Skills list, which means that could not have been a basis for the 2-year rule and finally my participation in exchange program was not sponsored directly or indirectly by either American or my country’s government, therefore Two-Year Home Country Physical Presence Requirement should not apply to me. 

The reason that the visa officer assumed that I may be subject to this rule is because my pink form states that I was receiving financial support. What the officer did not know was that such support came from the host family that I was assigned to. If I was subject to this rule, the appropriate square on the pink form should have been marked. Moreover, if such selection is to be made, a basis for the rule also must be stated on the form according to three choices provided (A, B, or C). No such steps have been taken, which again shows that I should not have been subject to this rule.

I have consulted several attorneys but since none of them had dealt with this kind of situation in the past they suggested applying for a waiver which in my case would be impossible to get because my country no longer issues No Objection letters. No other basis for the waiver apply to me. 

A: If you are certain that you are not subject, why don’t you just ask for an advisory opinion? They will make a final determination if you are subject to the requirement or not. If you are, and you say your country does not issue No Objection and you have no other reasons to get a waiver, you are just out of luck. There is no appealing or second-look for making sure if your J-1 visa is subject the to requirement. If the Dept of State database says you are, you are, no matter what the “truth” is. Check out my guide to get an advisory opinion to get started.

Q: I just graduated last month and I am currently on F-1 status. I had applied for OPT 3 months ago, and on September 24th my OPT was approved. The current status of my application says “Card Production/Ordered” on 30th September. But I haven’t received my EAD card yet. I am supposed to travel back to US on 9th October and it doesn’t seem like I will get my EAD in time. I have all other required documents: authorized I-20 form, valid F-1 visa, I-797 receipt, and the job offer. Can someone please advise me if it is possible to enter US without physically having the EAD card or should I wait and reschedule my flight until i have the EAD card in hand. Thanks!

A: The safest way is to wait for the EAD card; however it is not required for entry as it is a card meant to show employers that you can work legally in America. If it is too much trouble to change your flights, you can try presenting the I-20, F-1 visa and job offer letter to the immigration officer and they should let you in.

Q: I’m an undergraduate on F1 and I’m now interning in a company for about two months without applying CPT. I was totally unaware that I needed a CPT to work off-campus. Not until recently a friend of mine mentioned to me that I need a CPT did I realize I’ve been doing unauthorized work for two months. When I accepted the offer, the company only asked me for my SSN and started paying me stipend the following month. They did not even ask me about CPT and my working permission. I haven’t told international office of this but I’m so scared of this problem right now. Should I file tax return for this income next year ?
If I report my case to my school, will they report this to USCIS and deport me ? If I choose to not report, can I leave the country in December (when this semester ends) and renew my visa to regain the F1 status ? If I leave, is it possible that I cannot come back ?

A: This is a big issue as you worked illegally in America. I would definitely let the International Student Office know so that they may be able to help you. They might not help because it is your responsibility to know how to maintain your F-1 status. You need to stop working immediately and plead ignorance. You should file tax returns as a F-1 student every year, so this should be included as well. The visa renewal could be an issue if the USCIS find out about this and I would recommend you to not leave the country until you complete your studies, so that you don’t have to risk getting rejected for a new visa and would be unable to return to America.

Q: I have an Official Indian Passport which contains my F1 Student Visa in it. This Official Passport expired last month so i applied for a Regular Indian Passport and received that last week. I need to travel back to the US on 23/08/2014 to attend classes for the Fall semester. Will i be able to travel with my Expired Official Passport (which contains my Visa) and my new valid Regular Indian Passport? I am concerned because these two passports are of two different types (Official and Regular). 

A: This is a problem because the Dept of State website clearly states that the expired passport with the active visa and the new passport must be of the same type, both regular or both official. Why didn’t you renew an official passport?

Q: I have an expired passport with an active F-1 visa stamp. Can I travel back into America using both my new passport and the expired passport? 

A: You just have to bring both passports. Show the immigration officer both and they completely understand the situation and will use the active F-1 visa in your old passport.

Q: I’m on OPT right now and my EAD(Employment Authorization Document) will expires on Jan 2015. I could extend my OPT if my company had signed up with Everify but they have not and they are not willing to do so. I am going to file i-485 through my wife but at least it will take 3 month to get a new EAD and I need to work for living seriously. This is what I am going to do and I want to consult you first. I want to file i-765 through my employer and I know that I will get a RFE from USCIS to provide Everifiy evidences and will be given 3 month to send the evidence back to them which means I can still work within the next 3 month. ( As you may know, if you have EAD and get a RFE, it will extend the expiration of your EAD card whitin 3 month until you send back what they need).  On the other side I am going to file i-485 and i-765 through my wife after I receive the RFE, so while I am waiting for my new EAD I can work too. 

I know it’s so complicated but do you think is this plan going to work and if not please tell me your reasons.
A: This is an excellent plan and you are not breaking any laws here. You are right that if you do AOS through your wife, you have at least 3 months to wait for a new EAD card and you cannot work on the OPT one. So therefore, I would definitely do what you described and attempt to file both AOS and OPT extension at the same time. The only downside is losing the fees for OPT extension but you will definitely get to keep working fully legally.
Q: I planned to enter in USA with an ESTA, stay one month, go to canada, stay one week, and back to USA with my F1. I can enter 30 days before my I20 date, but i’m in holliday, I want to move.
A: This is dangerous because your first entry on VWP will be suspicious since you have an active, not started F-1 visa already in your passport. The immigration officer will probably ask you why you are coming in now and you have school starting soon. Also, short trips to Canada does not reset your VWP, so when you return to America, it would be as if you never left. Don’t do it. Just wait 30 days before program start and enter the country. There really isn’t any advantage to enter earlier and risk so much.
Q: Is it possible to change a b2 to an f1 visa? I know of someone (not me in aos process now) who came down on a b2 and is interested in school here. 
A: Yes, just get accepted to a school that can take international students. They will issue you an I-20 and then you can file Adjustment of Status to F-1 visa via I-539. This is similar to the modern guide to immigrate to america.
Q: Im currently legally in the states on a B1 B2 visa,but i really wanna stay in the states. The problem is,gettng a job is hard and also im thinkn of applying for college or masters from here and changing my status to F1. What i wanna know is what is the implication of getting a tax ID and then applying for change of status as a student or the implications in the future on my fiance o wife filing for me for green card or residency. If there are any adverse effects basically.
A: Why do you need a Tax ID? You won’t get one since you can’t work legally in America. Changing status to F-1 to pursue a master’s degree is fully legal and I would recommend it since getting a US education would help you to find a job in America. It is a long and expensive journey but well worth it! You can definitely stay in America and just follow my guide to immigrate as a student.
Q: I am looking to study university in America. I don’t have that much money so I am not sure how I can get started. I know that you need to have in your bank account first year’s tuition and living expenses or you won’t get the F-1 visa stamp. 
A: Check out my post on cheap ways to study in America. Also research universities in America that are in rural and low cost locations. Don’t aim for universities in well known American cities like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, etc. Go for states such as Tennessee, Kentucky, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Arkansas, Mississippi.
Q: I have some concerns about the Affordable Care Act and its relationship with my visa status.
I am lawfully present in the US with the following specifications.

* F1 STEM OPT (with EAD card)
* self-employed (good standing)
* I will leave the US at the end of next year.
* In addition, I have low income at this time (do not exceed 100% of the FPL).I want to buy health insurance through New York State marketplace.
Will I receive medicaid?
If not, will I receive premium credit?
I will leave the US next year.
When I apply F1 visa again (I might come back for another degree), will I be denied because of receiving medicaid or premium credit?If you can find something official, for example a government webpage, document, or even email, that would be more accountable.
Or some words from some very accountable lawyer citing cases and laws would be awesome too.A: You probably cannot get medicaid on a F-1 visa. Remember, F-1 visa is considered non immigrant and therefore not a resident of America (even though you may be here many years for study and OPT). For medicaid qualifications, you will need to be a legal resident of America and the state.Q: I’m in the US on an F1 visa and I’m planning on getting married at the end of August, 2015 to a U.S. citizen. But I need to go back to my country (Spain) during May and June 2015 to do research. Would this be an F1 visa ‘violation’? I don’t want them to think that I just came to the U.S. to get married, we’ve been together for 3 years now. I originally arrived to the US 4 years ago with a J1 visa. I then applied for grad school and got in, so I changed my visa to an F1 3 years ago and my F1 visa is valid for 1.5 more years. I’m not worried about getting back into the U.S., just about them finding out in the interview after getting married (August 2015) that I had intent of staying the last time I came back to the U.S. (June 2015), because technically that’s visa fraud.

I know one option is to get married now, but I’d REALLY want to wait for THE day.
A: First you have to make sure you were not subjected to the 2 year home residency requirement from your J-1 visa. If you are and you did not fulfill the requirement, you cannot get a green card until you do or you get a waiver. Secondly, you are ok to leave to your home country during May and June as those are summer break months and school is not in session. Your concern about visa fraud does not make sense because you already had a F-1 visa for 3 years; visa fraud on F-1 visa is applying for the visa, arrive in USA and less than 90 days you file for AOS for green card. You had been studying for 3 years; you went back to your home country for a summer break and then you came back to resume studies also get married. The USCIS will absolutely not ask you in Aug 2015 any questions about your summer research trip.
Q:  I’m on F-1 visa , got my EAD card, Start date is sep15 and I came to my home country due to family emergency on sep 24. Its been almost 2 months, and now I’m planning to re-enter US. I do have I-20, EAD card. Will these be enough to get clear at POE….?   If not let me know what all I need to have a better clearance at immigration…Also what would be the questions CBP officer ask particularly different from regular questions..? I’m planning to travel witihin a week from now.. 
A: You have a problem. Technically you already received your EAD card and also have an approved OPT so you need to have a job in America to return to or else when you left, that would have been considered terminating your F-1 status. Do you have a job offer and is it reflected on your I-20? If your I-20 simply says you have an approved OPT but no job offer, you might be denied because you don’t have a job to return to in America.

Q: I entered the US back in 2001 on a J-1 Visa to attend to a basic ESL Language training class to improve my English language skills. I was financially responsible for my own education. So this was not a government funded education. I recently got married with a US citizen. After our successful interview, I was given an RFE asking for one of the options below to be done to have my I-485 application to be processed.

  • Providing proof that my J-1 non-immigrant exchange visitor visa is not subject to the 2 year foreign residence requirement
  • in the absence of this proof, an approved form I-612, Application for Waiver of the Foreign Residence Requirement (under Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended) to be provided

Under this condition, am I subject to the 2 year foreign residency requirement? If yes, any way of benefiting from waiver program? Your kind reply is greatly appreciated…

A: Wait, you had a J-1 visa in 2001 and since then you have been in America this whole time? On what visa? This does not make any sense. Even if you are subjected to the requirement, how can you not have fulfilled it already? It is 2014, that is 13 years after your J-1 entry. Even if your program lasted 2 years, which it usually doesn’t, that’s 11 years. Then say you did a F-1 visa, and you did a PhD program which is 5 years, thats still 6 years. Also, the only place to find out if you are really subject to the 2 year foreign residency requirement is to ask for an advisory opinion.

Q: I am on f1-visa with my opt extension. I work for a company in Boston. My company is going to file my petetion fo H1 in 2015.  I am going to get maried in Feb. I will bring my wife on F2, but later on will she be eligible to change her status to F1 and get enroll in school for Master’s. Also, If i get H1 does I have to file H4 for or her she can cotinue her Master’s under F1 status.Please help me.A: Yes, she can apply to schools and get an F-1 visa herself after arriving. H4 is a dependent visa of H-1 and does not permit her to stay in America to study or work. H-4 and F-1 visas are two totally independent visas and have nothing to do with each other.Q: I have a question related to the J-2 visa: could a J-2 visa holder with a master in engineer and little work experience apply for a job in US in a related field after taking the work permit? The J-1 holder will pursue a PhD program in LA for at least 4 years.

A: Yes you can. Just apply for a EAD card and you can begin working after receiving authorization.

Q: I have some questions about student visa in Haiti. My husband is from Haiti and has been in the states for a little over a year. We did the k1 visa.

But…. We want to apply for a boy that was living in the children’s home where my husband lived and worked full time. His is 13 years old and speaks English really well. and it has been on my heart for so long (many years) its like he is my own blood. but…. I have had a lot of trouble finding information on the guidelines for getting a student visa for a Haitian child. or even adopting a Haitian child since we have not been married at least 5 years. ( one of the requirements)   any advice on either student visa or adoption for Haitian child would be greatly appreciated.

A: It would be expensive as he would have to attend private schools until college and even in college his tuition would be the most expensive if it is a state school since he will be on a student visa. Just apply for private schools in the US, get accepted and the school will issue an I-20 for the child to come to America to study.

Q: I am a international student studying at a Canadian University. I took a part-time job as a cashier in a Video shop about 2 years ago.  One day, Police showed up and arrested me for counterfeiting and fraud. I explained to them that I am not the owner and have no knowledge of the counterfeiting. They released me half hour latter without charge. I was never fingerprinted and never given a ticket to appear in the court. I did a certified criminal background check on myself and come back clean.

Right now, I am applying J1 visa within Canada. 
I have the following documents for interview:
RCMP fingerprint based criminal background check result
Police clearance letter 
Court record search result.(showing no record found)
Do i have a chance at the Visa interview with this arrest?
A: If it shows no record, why would they ever question that instance? No record meaning it officially did not happen, and therefore they would not even know or even use it against you. You are free to pursue your J-1 visa without issues from this incident.

Q: I came to US legally as a F-1 student visa holder for 4 years, no criminal records, arrests, or even bad driving records. None of those bad records at all. However, i got some family issues that i ended up getting away from home and living alone making my F-1 visa expired since i’m not going to school, i had my driver’s license valid for a year more after i ran away from home, after that i didn’t got a chance to renew it as i was scared to do so, plus it may require me to submit proof of evidence that i am studying in order to renew it, which i can’t since i stopped going to school. It has been 2 years now after my driver’s license was expired. Meaning to say, i have been living illegally now for 2 years though i have lived legally presence for 5 years in US before that. My question now is, i’m living in California and i have a girlfriend that lives in Boston, she visits me from time to time here. We plan to get married soon but its kind of shady to get married when i never met her parents yet since they live in Boston and parents just won’t come to visit a fiance LOL, and so, i plan to visit her in Boston. Since there is a new passed law in California called AB60 that will allow illegal immigrants to get a driver’s license to drive legally, is it possible to use it as an ID to travel domestically within US? If not, i do have VALID foreign-passport that was reissued last year (2013) but has nothing on it, no visa etc, only my personal information. Will that foreign-passport alone is good to travel?I do not plan to travel out of the country, i just basically want to visit my girlfriend in Boston from California to meet her and her parents, get bonded until she moves here in California with me and possibly get married. An answer from an experienced person that had the same experience before is greatly appreciated or at least someone who has the knowledge on this kind of matter.A: You can use your foreign passport without any issues. The TSA officers will not check your visa pages, only the photo ID page to verify you are who you are. If you want to get the DL for illegal immigrants, that will work too. Remember, TSA is separate from ICE. ICE is the one you want to stay away from since they are the ones that deport people. If you do cross the border and try to come back, ICE will be there to stop and deport you.

Q: Good day I wish to ask advice of those who may have been in this situation. I may be a bit long because I want to put the case in perspective. 3 years ago my son got an F1 visa to study in the US. Since he was a very good student in my country we took a 3 year student’s loan expecting him to be able to complete in that time (my daughter did before him). However he was unable to complete and we tried to extend his loan., This took some time and he had to miss a semester of school. He had a campus job which he had to give up since he wasn’t enrolled in school. He remained in the US and took a job for 3 months. At the end of the semester he returned home and went to get a new visa in order to register for the new semester since he had fallen out of status (as advised by his international adviser). He had all the documents needed to show that he had the funds, plus the school had registered him and he had his I-20, Sevis pd etc. However his visa was denied when he went to the Embassy and they gave him a 214 paper and told him he can re-apply. his original student visa which was valid until 2015 was cancelled without prejudice.. He reapplied last week (4 mths later) and again it was denied with the same paper and same message that he can reapply. They told him this time it’s because he had worked. Now we don’t know what to do. He only has one more year left, he has all his clothes and belongings in the US, we are paying for his lease which expires next july. Does this mean that he will never be able to go the US again? Is there a time frame when he can re-apply? He said he wasn’t able to get that info from the CO she only told him the paper will explain everything. If anyone has had such a case or is in a position to say what is to occur please help. His new semester starts on January 17th and I’d really like him to complete his studies. Thanks

A: Unfortunately your son will not likely be readmitted to the US as a F-1 visa student. He broke F-1 visa status by working illegally and since USCIS knows about it, this is considered as a serious offense and so he probably will not get a F-1 visa again. The best way is to ask someone in the US to send his belongs to your home country, and just stop paying his apartment lease; he will never be back there again.

Q: I am a Swiss citizen and currently on F1 visa status. I completed my studies 12 months ago and have been working on OPT for the same company for the past 12 months. My OPT/EAD card is expiring on 07 January 2015. I am travelling to Switzerland to spend Christmas with my family and want to return to the US after the New Year in order to prepare for my departure (i.e. pack up my apartment, do some travelling with the US). I am NOT planning to resume work after I return and I have never had any issues entering the US or have overstayed my visas in the past. 

Will I have trouble entering the US on 05 January 2015, two days before my OPT expires, to stay for the length of my grace period (60 days)? OR should I just wait until after 07 January and re-enter on the VWP (90 days tourist)? If so, could I possibly be denied entry because I am returning right after my F1 visa expired? I have good ties to Switzerland with all my family living there, etc.

I just don’t want to be denied entry because the immigration officer might think that I want to come back to stay and work illegally (which is not the case). Thank you in advance for any insight on this. 

A: It will look suspicious for you to return on OPT with only 2 days left of validity. The safest way is to return via VWP. You won’t be questioned about it just because you entered almost immediately after your OPT expired. The USCIS will give you the benefit of the doubt that you won’t stay illegally provided you obeyed the laws during your last stay.

Q: I’m from morocco, I’m planning to study in the USA next year, I was wondering if there is any agency or lawyer here in morocco that helps students with their application and visa, and assist step by step through the whole process.

A: You don’t need a lawyer. Just do it yourself. Check my complete guide on coming to America as a student. Just make sure you got money.

Q: I have a friend who is on a J-1 student visa doing a Master’s program in the U.S. His wife is here with him on a J-2. They will be going to Mexico on vacation this Sunday and he’s not quite sure what’s needed for re-entry to the U.S. He said he thinks he needs a letter from the university confirming that he is indeed still enrolled and in good standing, but obviously the school offices will be closed over the weekend.

Do student visas allow international trips abroad without any other supporting documents? Does he indeed need a letter from his university? He researched a bit online and said that Canada, Mexico, and Caribbean countries don’t count as “abroad” for certain visa types but said that was if the visa was already expired. He is a current student and wasn’t sure if that wording applied to him.

Thanks for any insights, and let me know if I can provide any additional details for clarification. 

A: J-1 visa holders can leave and re-enter the country just like any other visas. He needs to have a current DS-2019 that is endorsed for travel from the school’s international student office and a valid J-1 visa (not expired) stamp in his passport. Also depending on where in Mexico, his own country may require visas to enter Mexico.

Q: I have no clue what this is or where it is . he came on a f1 visa a week ago and his school that he is transferring to is asking for this. he changed schools to be closer to his uncle. where is it located? where does he get it? or does he already have it and don’t know?

A: I-94 is now completely electronic. Go to to get it.

Q: My school started in fall 2014 and completed the fall semester on H4 visa. I have come down to India and got my F1 visa approved and my I-20 mentions that I am expected to report to complete my studies no later than 6th january 2015 but due to my fathers medical reasons I need to extend my stay till 22nd of January. I have already completed my first semester.I wanted to know if there is any problem at the port of entry if I am traveling two weeks late as my school is starting from 12january 2015.please guide me for the same.

A: This is a big problem; you will probably get questioned and your F-1 visa will likely to be terminated. You can still enter the country on H-4 but you probably cannot do F-1 since you violated your F-1 status. School was in session for 3 weeks and you were completely absent. You have to talk to your school about getting reinstated for the F-1 visa.

Q: I have just been approved for a K1 visa. My visa is now at the American embassy in my country of residence. They contacted me from the embassy to tell me that I have to call them to make an appointment for the interview. I have not made an appointment or sent any documents to the embassy yet. 
For personal reasons we have to postpone our wedding. However, I have found a job in the US and I would like to travel there as soon as possible. Is it still possible to cancel the K1 visa and apply for a J1 visa instead? Will cancelling my K1 visa affect the likelihood of being granted a J1 visa? 

A: To cancel your K-1 visa, simply do not show at the appointment for the interview; your application will stop there and of course you lose all fees. When you apply for J-1 visa, simply state that there was issues with the relationship and you are no longer in a relationship with that person. It is probable and the only way to remove the suspicion of intent to immigrate. Obviously don’t use the same person for a K-1 or green card later, because that will contradict your own story.

Q: I’m in the US on an F-1 visa currently, now I’m deciding between staying for another couple semesters of random filler classes while I file my permanent residency or going home for a bit, so one question I have is how long can I stay on the F-1 while I’m not enrolled for class (How quickly do I need to go back to AUS) and the other question is, can I file for permanent residency if I come back to the US on the Visa Waiver

A: Just file for Adjustment of Status, your F-1 visa will be terminated and you will enter a limbo pending-application status that allows you to stay in America legally while your GC application is being processed. You won’t need to spend money attending filler classes to maintain F-1 status. To answer your original question, if you are not enrolled in any classes and it is not summer/winter break, you will be considered violating your F-1 visa.

Q: I’m looking at as many options as I can to gain permanent residency in the USA, leading on to citizenship. My father is a US citizen and we have applied for the Family Sponsored Visa which has a current Priority Date of 2007 :-( and seems to be slowing down month by month. He also wants me to work for his business when i get there so we also looked at an Employment Visa instead as the PD is much more recent. Now my problem is that I have got no Bachelors Degree. I have 16 years experience in Sales and Management and we went to an immigration lawyer to see what the chances were of getting in via the employment visa route. They were concerned about the level of skills I have got that relates directly to my fathers business. He owns an online business selling kitchenware etc on amazon and ebay and also through his own website. My background is on mobile phones, plenty of sales and management experience but not in the correct area. The lawyer was willing to take on the case but the fees were going to be around $10,000. They wanted $5,000 up front for the labor certificate and that wouldn’t guarantee that it would be successful as with i’m sure you know you need to advertise a job that can’t be filled by an American. So my new thought was to come to the USA to study, gain a bachelors degree in something related to my fathers business, and then try for the employment visa.

My main question is, that it seems that some info online suggests that you shouldn’t apply for the student visa if you have intentions of coming to The USA for good as it is a non immigrant visa. Would I be able to transfer to the employment visa once I complete my course? Also would it affect my place in line for the Family based visa? I’m eager to get over to the USA as soon as possible but i don’t want to do anything that would jeopardise my long term goals of becoming a citizen. Or would I pretty much get turned down for the F-1 Student Visa due to my Family Based Visa application.

A: How old are you? If you are already 30 or 40, going for a bachelor’s degree is highly suspicious and you may not get your F-1 visa. Also, you already applied for GC through your father; the F-1 visa is intended for people who will return home after studies. It is pretty evident that you will not. You can give it a try, the worst case is that you get denied. You won’t be punished.

Q: Im travelling to the Dallas this Thursday on a Visa waiver (Im a New Zealand citizen). My ESTA Visa waiver was approved but I heard its really the customs officers that approve to let you in or not. My question is – last year I was denied for a J1 because of not enough ties to bring me back home, but then 2 weeks after my denial, I went for my 2nd interview for a J1 and was approved. I left USA when my visa expired last year in June. Now I am coming back for a 2 week vacation to visit my boyfriend for valentines. Does anyone know if I will be detained for questioning or what the process is because I have that previous record denial (even though I was approved 2 weeks later) ??? Will they give me a hard time when I tell them I am visiting my boyfriend ? 

A: You will be fine. Previously denied and approved J-1 visas will not impact this trip because J-1 is also a non-immigrant visa. If you had a denied immigration petition/visa then you might not have even received the ESTA visa waiver. Since your VWP is approved, I really don’t think you will have any issues at the border. You can also limit your information; when asked the purpose of the trip, just say visiting a good friend. It isn’t lying and you won’t be questioned any further.

Q: Can someone still apply for student Visa if he/she has been accepted to pursue an online degree at a US University?

A: Per F-1 visa rules, you cannot attend an online university full time on a F-1 visa. You are only allowed maximum 1 online class per semester on F-1 visa. The online US university likely won’t even be issuing I-20s as they do not qualify in sending international students to America to study.

Q: I am a USC and my fiancé came here 4 weeks ago on a F-1 we will be wedding in Feb. We are desperate for answers on a few things. First off where do we start! When can we apply to change status, applying for ssn, work release and such.  Thank you for your time looking forward to answers! God Bless!

A: Look for my guide on how to apply for a green card through marriage. In terms of SSN, you can get one as soon as your EAD card is approved and you received it.

Guide to Country Specific Documents Reciprocity for Immigration Applications

Birth, marriage, divorce, death and adoption certificates vary by country. Often times, your home country’s documents are issued or stored in a completely different manner than that of the US style. The civil authority that regulates recording of birth, marriages, death sometimes conducts its business in a completely different manner than the US style. Some countries did not even use birth certificates until the late 1980s. Sometimes, if the country went through a period of civil unrest such as a civil war or genocide, all birth records and marriage records were lost. If you are applying for a US immigration visa and are lost on how you can provide a valid Birth, marriage, divorce, death or adoption certificates, you need to check out the Country Reciprocity Schedule on the Department of State’s website.

As you may know, the US Department of State operates the foreign embassies and consulates around the world. The Dept of State personnel studies and attempts to understand the various cultural differences in how the civil records are established and kept in foreign countries. Through their findings, they document exactly what would be the equivalent certificate that can be used to satisfy the documentation requirement on your immigration visas. DO NOT try to fool the National Visa Center (NVC) or the Dept of State; they know exactly what kind of documents you should be able to produce for your immigration application if your country uses a different civil record keeping system. Also, they are aware of a country or region’s history to understand that sometimes all records are lost and will provide a way for you to still get some kind of documentation to be submitted with your immigration application. They will provide the name of the civil authority necessary to obtain your documents, so you don’t really have a way of saying “I simply don’t have it”. For example, if you search for China, you can see immediately that the Dept of State asks you to contact the Gong Zheng Chu notary office to get official birth or adaption certificates. For marriage certificates, you would go to Jie Hun Gong Zheng.

The schedule is very detailed and you can simply search by your home country at the top of the page to see what documents can suffice for your particular country. When you search for a country, you are first prompted with a huge list of visas that are available for your country and the validity period for your country. Keep scrolling down and you will see a section of civil documents that are commonly used in your home country and that you can use those to substitute what is needed on the immigration visa application should you not have the exact style of certificates.

Take an example, if you search for Taiwan, you will see that in Taiwan, birth certificates are not actually commonly used in the past. Due to the Japanese occupation and their implementation of the koseki system, the household register is actually used to keep track of population and families. And so the website shows that you can use the household registration records as a form of birth certificate, especially for older people who were born around the time of WWII.

Sometimes, the problem with your document is that the way the name is spelled in English is different from the passport and the civil document. Take Taiwan for example again, the Dept of State researched and found that “Taiwan does not use a standard system for romanizing names, resulting in a wide range of name spellings.” The Dept of State knows that it is common that the same person’s name is spelled differently in English from one document to another. Therefore, instead of relying on the name, the Dept of State asks to use the National Identification Number which is unique to every Taiwanese citizen to be included in the documents so that it can be known that although the name is spelled differently, the documents are actually for the same person. Again, the Dept of State knows exactly how different countries have different issues with civil documents and therefore implements a solution to avoid issues.

Basically, do not worry if you don’t have the US style civil documents for your immigration visa applications. The Dept of State has thoroughly researched how your home country keeps their civil records and gives you every possible method for you to obtain similar or substitute documents. The Dept of State will inform the NVC how to accept different documents for the same person due to the different styles of civil recording keeping in each country. When in doubt, just go to the Country Reciprocity Schedule.


Family Based Green Cards Common Questions and Answers – Part Two

Disclaimer: All advice given here are strictly as is without any guarantees and reliability. The advice below is solely from personal experiences in filing such applications and process. The best and most reliable advice is always from a good immigration lawyer.

Q: What year is in processing for us citizen parent filing for married son with children.

A: Regarding the priority dates, always check the Visa Bulletin on the Dept of State website. The monthly bulletin details exactly what date and year the current processing is undergoing. For married sons of US citizens, this is the F3 category.

Q: I am an Italian citizen. I got married in 2001 in US with an American and I have an American citizen daughter since she was born in US in 2004. thus, I got a Green Card and it will expire in 2015.
Now, we all moved in Italy in 2010 and I have been living in Italy for more then 3 years now so I think my green card is gone since I did not fill any form as re-entry visa etc..
BIG Question,
I am planning to return in US and I know I have to go through the process all again. I will file from Italy to the US embassy.
1. should I file for I-130 only?
2. what’s the difference between I-130 and I-485?
3. if I get approved for I-130 do I have to file I-485 when in US to be able to work?
4. I need to go alone at first and my wife and daughter will follow 6/12 months after (because my daughter school) CAN I do that or we all need to travel together?
6. Basically, if she can not be my sponsor, how the all family can move back to US, if she has not job yet..?
sorry for all these questions, but I am trying to figure out before starting to submit all the forms and paying all the fees..

A: Yes, your spouse files the I-130 first, but this has to be filed from WITHIN the USA, not from outside. Some embassies allow Direct Consular Filing for the US Citizen to petition (the I-130 is the petition) a relative to get a green card. Check with the US Embassy in Italy. You have no use for the I-485 because that is used for someone who is ALREADY in America to adjust their status (AOS) to a different status, ie from tourist visa to a green card holder. You are not in the USA, so you cannot use I-485. You also do not file I-485 to work, because that is for AOS. You cannot go alone because your wife needs to first establish residency to file the I-130 to petition for your green card. She has to arrive first. Your wife has to fill out the Affidavit of Support once the I-130 petition is approved. Your income and assets can also be used, so she does not necessarily need to have a job.

Q: I currently reside in the US, and I’m currently in H1-B status, that’s valid until September 31 2014. I’ve been here since 2005 for school on F1, then transitioned to OPT, then H1-B in 2012. The company I currently work for has already started the process for filing for another H1-B visa for me. I also have an approved I-130 for permanent resident status through my wife who is also a permanent resident. My priority date is March 26th 2014, hence the reason for filing for another H1-B, because there’s no telling when a visa will become available or when my priority date will become current so I can file the I-485. 

My question, in the event that the H1-B extension gets denied, are there any options that I can explore to legally remain in the US while I wait for a visa to become available?. I know that I can always go back to school, but are there any other visas or status’ I can get through my wife who is a permanent resident?

A: No, unfortunately you are out of options if your H-1B extension is denied. You can become a tourist or a student but other than that you don’t really have any other options of staying in America.

Q: I am a US citizen over the age of 21 and I want to file for my mom but I am uncertain as to whether or not she may be denied adjustment of status as she is currently in a visitor’s status.
Although she would be considered to be in the first preference category would they deny her since she is doing it while she is here rather than going through her consulate?

Thanks in advance.

A: This is absolutely fine provided that she passed the time test. Check out my post on the time to file. Basically, if you file a petition for her green card within 90 days of her entry into America, it will likely be denied due to the suspicion of your mother entering as a tourist on false intentions.

Q: My wife (who is a US citizen) and I are married for almost four years. I am originally from Europe (The Netherlands). I arrived in New York in 2010 and I applied the Immigrant Visa Petition, right after we got married.

Recently I received a letter from NVC, to attend the interview, which is at the US Embassy in the Netherlands (Europe). I have been reading about illegal and/or unlawful presence in the US.

I have already booked a ticket to Amsterdam, which is in 3 days, but after reading about “unlawful presence”, I am in doubt if I should leave the USA to attend the interview in the Netherlands Europe. I need advise as soon as possible because there is a risk that I will be denied to enter the USA in the future and that my spouse and I will not be able to see each other again.

A: Well, since you filed as if you were living abroad (through consular processing, that’s why the interview is in Netherlands not in America), then just leave the country as you originally intended and attend the interview in Netherlands. Just be completely honest about your situation and why you overstayed and that you have good intentions and did not commit any crimes (hopefully). Chances are, if you explain that you overstayed simply because your wife, who is a US citizen, is in America and that you filed your papers but did not do it right (you should have done AOS which would have taken a few months and you both stay in America), the visa officers won’t give you a hard time. As seen on my post here, overstaying illegally but married to US citizen, is generally forgiven.

Q: Filed I-130/I-485 for mother who was on visitor visa (arrived May 2013) in October 2013. Received acceptance notice within a couple of weeks. FP done in Dec and rec’d AP/EAD in Dec 2013. 

Feb 20th or so received Notice of Potential Interview Waiver Case dated Feb 13. No movement on USCIS website. 

What are my options? Call and if so what number to call? Infopass appt to enquire about I-130?

A: Just wait, this means that you are just simply going to get your green card in the mail.

Q: How does one go about getting NABC for old age parents who were born say in 1950? Has anyone obtained such document from Pakistan? Please let me know, highly appreciated.

A: Check this page, of document reciprocity by country accepted by the Dept of State. If you take a look, for Pakistan, it says that you can obtain Union Council birth certificates, or Municipal Corporation issued birth certificates. If not available, go to the Municipal Corporation and get a No Entry Certificate or a late registered birth certificate.

Q: I’ve put in a petition for my daughter who at the time of when petition was filed (filing date was 11/2010) was 20 years old(she was born on 6/5/1990). The petition was approved on 6/11/2011. Which category is she supposed to be in F2A or F2B?

A: Approval and priority dates are completely independent of each other. The date is checked when the application is filed. Because she could not have filed before Jan ’12, she automatically becomes F2B category. 

Q: I filed I-485 in 2005 based on marriage to US citizen. The marriage didn’t last and we separated before the interview, so the I-485 was denied due to failure to show up for the interview. 

I got married last year (different spouse) and would like to file I-485 again.
Is there anything I have to be aware of due to filing this for second time? Is the process any different? Would I need to have all the documents (photos, lease, bank account statements ..) for my first marriage as well?

The forms ask for Alien number. Should I provide my old A number even though it starts with 099 which I believe is a temporary number.

A: The process for the second time around is exactly the same, same fees, same documents, except you will need the divorce documents of the failed marriage and possibly explanation on if you ever applied for immigrant visa before and what was the outcome and reason. You only need the divorce certificate of the first marriage, there is no need to provide photos and bank account statements of your joint ownership with your ex-spouse. A person can have at most 2 Alien numbers, one for when he/she is on non-immigrant visas and the other for when he/she is on immigrant visas. If your 099 Alien number is from your first green card application, you will need to use it again.

Q: On Section 5 – Sponsor’s household Size on form I-864, the total household size I indicated is four (myself, husband, child and the person I’m sponsoring).
On Section 6 – Sponsor’s Income and Employment, I indicated my current income alone, which is sufficient to sponsor my parents. I did not put any other names in sections 6 thru 9. I also provided copies of my tax returns (I filed joint with my husband).
I received a letter from NVC indicating that I have provided insufficient information. Upon calling, I was told to add my husband’s name and income in Section 6.a and that he needs to fill-up I-864A. Since we file joint in our tax returns, what income should we declare in his I-864A section 11? Is it going to be our total income per tax return (which is the same as Section 6.13.a in my I-864. 
Is there a way for him not to fill-up I-864A?? 

A: The problem is you need to provide more tax information like W-2s or 1099s, not just the federal filing documents. They want to make sure that your filing is correct and that you do have such income that you are stating.

Q: Hi everybody. I’ve applied for Adjustment of Status after marrying an US Citizen. I had my mother-in-law as my joint sponsor since my wife’s salary is under the poverty guideline and I am not allowed to work with my current visa. 
My question is; can I or my wife get food-stamp? 
I actually read before that if I get a food-stamp then the person who sponsored me- (in my case that’s my mother-in-law) will be required to pay the cost all that I got from the food-stamp. 
Is this information correct? If so, is it also the same for my wife? She is an US citizen, but can she separately get food-stamp without making our sponsor having to be responsible for that? 

A: Food stamps are not considered public charge. Check out a full list here.

Q: My wife was given a temp GC thru marriage 1.3 years ago. At 2nd year, we will apply for her perm. GC. We filed a joint tax return when we first applied for her temp GC thru marriage (I was/am a US citizen).

I now owe tax to IRS and my wife doesn’t. With joint tax return last year, my wife’s credit was ruined because of my bad credit caused by irs tax trouble (BTW I have an installment agreement with IRS). 

So my question is is there a way to apply for her permanent GC without our joint tax return?

A: You are not forced to file jointly on your tax return. You just need to make sure you can explain what is happening and why you chose to file separately.

Q: In May my parents went to Pakistan, and are now returning after 9 months. Do you think they will face any problem at point of entry? This is the first time that they went to Pakistan after getting their green card.

I have heard that as long as they are returning within 1 year, they should be fine.

A: If this is a first trip, and since only 9 months, the CBP officer will probably just issue a warning not to do it again. Yes, the main cut off is at 1 year, provided they don’t have repeated attempts of long trips abroad.

Q: I’m filling out affidavit of support form together with my co-sponsor, (husband’s sister) and i dont know what to check in the very first “question” on I-864. The number 1 is asking for who the sponsor is, if they are the petitioner or not ,etc. which one should i check if its my cosponsor sponsoring me? “i am the only joint sponsor” or “i am first of two joint sponsors” please help out!

A: Your husband is the petitioner so he will check 1a on his I-864 and your sister in law will check 1d on her I-864.

Q: On page 1 of I-485 where it asks Family name……is that my new last name now that I have gotten married on a K-1 visa? also it asks for copy of fiance petition approval notice, what form number is this???? and is the marriage certificate the thing we all signed and framed or something more official? 

A: Yes, if you changed your name after you got married, then you must use your new name from now on and on all forms. The copy of fiance petition approval notice is the K-1 approval notice.

Q: What last (family) name to use on G-325A i I-765, name before or after marriage ? Is it file number and alien registration number same number ( required on G-325A form) ? 

A: You use your new name after marriage for all AOS forms and documents. The file number on your Number 2 NOA approval notice is the same as the alien registration number.

Q: We’ve had a hiccup in the immigration process, but it has to do with my husband’s ability to obtain a CA driver’s license. The DMV will not issue him a license because he only had 45 days left on his K-1 visa when he went to take the driver’s test.  They said he must prove he can stay more than 60 days in the USA. We are going to file AOS of status for him, but how can he prove that he can stay past the 90 days shown on his K-1 visa?  Or do we just have to wait until he gets his temporary green card?  They also told him that he needed some kind of number.  Maybe that was the Alien number that was on NOA2?  I am not sure since I didn’t go to the DMV that day with him.  Anyone else in the same situation?  Any advice would be appreciated!

 (He has a Social Security number now, but they said they needed some number from Immigration)

A: Yes, the NOA2 number is the alien number and that helps in showing that he is in process of getting a green card. However, it is probably best that you wait until he gets his green card to get a driver’s licence. The people at DMV don’t really know immigration laws and process and only cares about what documentation you can prove that you are going to be in America legally. Just use an international license for now.

Q: I am wondering if anybody here have the same dilemma I am facing, right now. My EAD just got approve last november 25.YEY!!! Anyway, I was thinking if anybody got any luck, applying a job with just an EAD without the greencard. If you were able to get a job. What kind of jobs? and what paperwork other than EAD do they need?

I’d love to hear some of your experiences so I could get any idea, and what to expect on finding a job with just my EAD.

A: The EAD card is the same as a green card when it comes to work authorization. The EAD card allows you to work while the green card is pending and it serves as a proper legal document from the government that you can work. It should have no impact on your job interview and applications since the employers do NOT need to sponsor you for you to work. You have full work authorization and do not need any special treatment from the employer regarding immigration and visa status. Just apply to jobs, interview, and if you do get the job, just show them the EAD card and tell them that your green card is in process, everything will be ok.

Q: We just went to the Civil Surgeon to have her fill out the vaccination record on the form  I -693.for my husband. Part 1 of the form asks for the A-Number, if any.  I didn’t know what that was, so I left it blank.  (I figured out later what it was and where to find it). (He has a K-1 visa and the A number was on the NOA 2) The doctor put my husband’s passport number under the section of applicant ID number. Is this going to be a problem?  Should I have them fill out the I-693 again?  They put the form in a sealed envelope and gave me a copy.

A: I would not worry, the I-693 is always submitted with the AOS application and chances are they won’t separate the I-693 from the rest of the documents and will probably figure out the A number is the passport number. The Civil Surgeon fills it out anyway, it is not your problem.

Q: About a month ago we had so called stokes interview (2nd), which in our opinion went smoothly, the officer was a pleasant, very professional young lady, we were interviewed separately, asked about 50-60 questions each (roughly 40-45 mins each). on the way back home me and my spouse went over all the questions we could recall and couldn’t really think of any mismatches. After the interview was over the officer did not give us any notice/letter, nor did she tell us about her decision or at least any timeframes. the only thing she mentioned is that my medical form got expired and i would need to obtain a new one from the doctor. that means even if she wanted to approve the case, she could not do it without an updated medical form. So we are waiting for RFE letter i guess, even though she did not say she would mail something to us. It has been over a month after the last interview and we haven’t heard anything from uscis so far. I don’t really understand why it takes them so long to send a simple 1 page letter requesting new med exam form (or perhaps any other evidence documents). we already provided 2 joint lease agreements, joint car title, insurance, registration, joint tax return, life insurance, 3 joint credit cards statements, photos, pet adoption contract, etc.

A: Just go get the medical exam again and submit it to the USCIS by making an appointment with your local USCIS office.

Thanks so much in advance.

Q&A continued on Part Three

F-1, J-1, Adjustment of Status common questions and answers – Part Two

Disclaimer: All advice given here are strictly as is without any guarantees and reliability. The advice below is solely from personal experiences in filing such applications and process. The best and most reliable advice is always from a good immigration lawyer. 

Q: She just graduated a couple months ago, got OPT approved, got the EAD card (to expire summer 2015), I-20 endorsed. Got the job offer to start next month. Now,  since she graduated, the visa in passport, set to 4 years (phd), expired.

1. To travel to back to France in xmas, and get back to her job in January, she should have a valid visa.

Can you renew F1 visa (stamp) [while on valid OPT] in the US or does it have to be outside the US?

Does that mean she should make the appointment in the US embassy in France with enough time to get it the first day she gets there and then wait for the passport to be mailed back. Does it usually takes over 2 weeks? because she would only go for 2 weeks because the job only gives 2 week vacation. That’s why it made more sense to renew here.

2. I’ve read that they can deny you the renewal

Does that mean that to not take any risks, she is supposed to be here on an expired visa (and valid everything else) until OPT ends with no chance to home for holidays or emergencies?

What if you get the STEM 17-monts extension. That would make 2 1/2 years with no travel.

If you are working legally it seems kinda weird if you can’t travel.

 3. Her job also offered a Work visa if she wanted/needed it.

Would it be a better option to just ask the employer to do the work visa in the next 6 months to be sure she will not have any problems to get back.

A: For her travel to and back to France during Christmas, it will be OK because the visa is still valid, she has an approved OPT and also a job offer in USA. However, once the visa expires, and she wants to leave the US temporarily for travel, she may not come back because she does not have a valid visa. In this case, she must renew her F-1 visa in her home country (or Canada) on the basis of still being on OPT. This isn’t routinely denied because it is a legitimate case so it will be OK. If her job offers her H-1B, however, it might be best to take that offer after she returns from Christmas break because then she would get a H-1B visa and it would allow her to travel in and out of the USA without any issues during the visa period.

Q: Here’s my situation i was a student until 28 February 2014 and I left school because of financial matter since then and they told me they reported me on 28 February 2014 and my F1 status will be terminated so this means that I’m out of status less than 5 months. As my i94 says D/S and I have never gotten any notification from USCIS about my status I think my sevis is still active. So here’s my question I’m married with a US CITIZEN and I apply for AOS in USCIS. I just want to know if I have to put my status in my forms as OUT OF STATUS or F1 STUDENT? 

A: Your SEVIS is not active, they have terminated your F-1 status. You should put your status as expired F-1 student and actually this is going to be ok since you are married to a US citizen. You AOS will be fine because USCIS is very lenient with over-staying spouses of US citizens. You should still explain your situation on your application that you did not intentionally fall out of status and stay in America, but due to your marriage you stayed.

Q: What are the qualifications for someone from Nigeria, to be enrolled in school? I’ve heard that the student is expected to pay out of pocket for the first year…Also my fiancé is a CPA, how do we go about making it equal to the standards in the USA? 

A: Qualifications are the same from everywhere around the world: you must be accepted to a school, you must have financial documentation showing that you can cover the 1st year’s tuition and living expenses entirely on your own, and you must stay in status during your student visa. I don’t know what your fiance’s CPA qualification has to do with a student visa in America, that is a completely separate topic.

Q: My brother is coming to study at a University here in the US. He will have his initial attendance I-20 and F-1 visa, and he will be able to enter the US as a student on July 14th at the earliest (due to the 30-days-before-the-program-start-date restriction). However, my family made plans to come to the US for a visit, and they all have tickets on July 10th… My brother has a tourist visa, so there will be no problem for him to enter the US on his B visa. I even read that in some cases new students would be admitted to the US more than 30 days before the program start date with their initial attendance I-20. Let’s say he will be denied entry as a student with his F-1 status, his only option would be to enter the US as a tourist. The next challenge will be to change his status from visitor to student. I have been told that it may take up to 3 or 4 months to change status while he is in the US, so that would not work as he needs to start school at the end of August. I am thinking that after he gets here on July 10th as a tourist, he would have to travel to a nearby country on July 14th or later, and re-enter the US on his F-1 visa. In my mind, it would be the easiest and quickest change of status. Since they will be visiting mainly Texas (that’s were I live), I thought Mexico would be an easy country to get to without spending a lot of money (I can drive to Mexico in 6 hours from Houston). What do you think of this solution? Do you know of anyone who has done anything similar, or have you done this? Bear in mind that he will have F-1 visa in his passport, and he will have an I-20 from the University. He will just need to use those two to enter the US on or after July 14th.

A: Look, your family is coming 4 days prior to his 30 day start, why not just ask your brother to wait 4 days? It isn’t very difficult and he would be admitted under F-1 visa without any complications. Don’t try to circumvent “4 days” with all this strategy and headache. It is just 4 days. Don’t do AOS upon entering as a B-2 visa, as you said that will take very long and jeopardize his studies.

Q: I am currently in US on F1 – OPT extn. My OPT is getting over in Oct 2014. I didn’t a H-1b in the lottery. My spouse is on H1. I am planning to go on vacation in August. Is it a good idea to go for a Fresh H4 stamping in India OR should i come back and apply for H4+Change of Status. Please advice. 

A: How long is the vacation? If it is really short, then just come back on F-1 OPT and then do AOS. Keep in mind you must have a job to come back to on OPT, otherwise technically your F-1 visa terminates once you leave the USA without a job to come back to. If you don’t have a job, you have 90 days to be unemployed before falling out of F-1 OPT status. In that case, just go home to India and get a H-4 then come back.

Q: Person had F-1, attended school, completed masters degree, applied for OPT, and got the EAD card. Now this person is back in her home country, and cannot return to USA on F-1 visa because it expired. She knew this when deciding to go back home for visit, but decided to go anyway, and try for new F-1. So now applying at USA Embassy in home country for a second F-1 visa to use for one year OPT.  Has EAD card and now has letter with job offer in USA that corresponds with OPT approval and EAD wording.  Also has the new I-20 showing OPT approval and the SEVIS number. It is clear person must pay the $160.00 fee for visa application. It is totally unclear if person must pay a second $200.00 SEVIS fee.

A: If she is intending on returning to USA to work based on the previously approved OPT, then NO she does not need to pay the SEVIS fee because the fee is meant for brand-new F-1 visa applications. In her case, she is actually continuing her previous F-1 visa.

Q: I am applying for an F1 visa in Accra. I scheduled an appointment for today 23 June at 7:30am but I was not able make. I wanted to cancel my appointment but it was not possible on the website. 1. Since this is considered a “No-show”, do I need to pay another appointment fee before I can re-schedule an appointment? or can I use the same old appointment fee to make a new appointment. 2. What is the latest time one can arrive at the Accra consulate to be allowed in for a 7:30am appointment?

A: You probably lost your fees because you did not re-schedule before the date. You will have to pay again and re-schedule. Regarding your second question, you should call the consulate and find out.

Q: I have a friend who got a student visa for the U.S, the visa is valid starting from the 27th of July, since she is from a VWP country, can she enter the U.S 2 weeks earlier with the “tourist visa”?

A: She can, but she would be admitted as a tourist and CANNOT begin her student visa until she completes a AOS, which takes a few months (more than 2 weeks). It is not advisable to do this; just wait until 30 days prior to the academic program start date and travel. Your friend may risk her entire study plan by arriving early on a tourist visa.

Q: So I worked in a research group for a few months and did some unpaid training (to learn about the project and learn the equipment etc.) for about two weeks before I started my paid employment and I was wondering if these two weeks of unpaid training counts as employment or not.

Also I know last year there was the issue of some of the offices at USCIS denying STEM extensions due to volunteer work during the initial OPT period. I was wondering if this was resolved and if volunteer work does actually count as employment.

Thanks in advanced for your help.

A: It count as long as you notified your DSO at the school that you started that “employment” and then 2 weeks later you informed them again you are starting another job. As a result, you will have 2 I-20s, one for the volunteer work the other for the paid employment. Volunteer work is an acceptable form of employment as long as it does not violate any Dept of Labor laws and you did not volunteer outside your field of study.

Q: I will be graduating this soon. I’ve applied for Post-completion OPT and will be getting it approved in January (hopefully!). I have been working here for some time now and will continue to work in the same position after getting my EAD card. However, I’ll be leaving to India, PERMANENTLY before my OPT ends. How does this affect my tax processing? Will I still be able to apply for a tax refund at the end of next financial year?

A: Wait a minute, how did you start working before you got the EAD for post-completion OPT? Do you mean that you had an internship using CPT in a previous summer and after graduating you will be going back to the same employer? You should worry about your work authorization more than your tax refund.

Q: I am an F1 student had to discontinued my phd program (I have a masters from the same University). I traveled to Canada during the semester – at this my visa was expired even though my i-94 was valid, however could not return with in 30 days automatic re-validation period. What can I do regarding this?

My another question is how do I reenter US now? I have a job interview in US – what kind of problems will I face at the immigration. What steps should I take?

Do I need to apply for a B1 visa and if I did will I be granted a B1?

Please help with my questions as soon as possible – thank you

A: Ok, firstly, if you planned to discontinue your study program, it does not matter if you came back to America within 30 days. You already lost your F-1 visa status the moment you stopped your study program. To be in valid F-1 status, you must be enrolled in a full-time study program. You can return to America on a new visa, B1/B2, F1, etc. Chances of your approval depends on your application and how you demonstrate the likelihood of not attempting to immigrate. If you tell them about your job interview, and you apply for a B1 visa, you will be denied as a B1 is a tourist visa not a working visa.

Q: I had an expired F-1 visa but a current and valid I-94. I want to go to Mexico for a 3 day trip but worried if I will be stuck at the border because my visa is expired. What should I do?

A: If you travel to Canada or Mexico with an expired F-1 visa but with a valid and current I-94 stating that you can stay in America for the duration of your status, you should have been granted automatic re-validation of your F-1 visa.

Q: I went to Mexico on my F-1 visa, it was expiring 1 day before my return trip. However during the trip, because of unforeseen circumstances, I stayed beyond 30 days. I still have my valid I-94 but I think it does not matter because the automatic visa re-validation requires you to return within 30 days. What can I do now?

A: Since you stayed beyond 30 days, you lost this auto-re-validation and now you need to apply for reinstatement of F-1 status using I-539 with the help of your university’s international student adviser.  Another way is to go back to your home country, ask the school to send you a new I-20 and then you apply for a new F-1 visa again.

Q: I am a college student with an F-1 visa. In September of 2012, I received a charge for possession of marijuana by a driver, a misdemeanor. I was not arrested but I was field released which I believe is another form of arrest. Now I have a charge and an arrest on my record. When I went to court, we asked the judge for a non-adjudication and he granted it. This meant that he would hold my guilty plea and if I followed certain conditions he would not accept my plea and remove all the offenses off my record. These conditions were to report to six months of supervised probation and attend a first time offender’s class all in addition to paying a set of fines. Since then I completed my probation, took the class and paid off all of my fines. I have filed for a motion to expunge my records and I have a good feeling the judge will sign it and I will have no record whatsoever. The issue is that I am planning on leaving the United States in less than a month. I have talked to the court clerk and he said that if the motion was signed, my records would be expunged from four different agencies, including the FBI. The problem is that he says it may take the FBI anywhere from one week to a few months to expunge my records. I will be renewing my F1 student visa in Kigali, Rwanda and I have already been in contact with them regarding my return. I have filled out the DS-160 form and submitted it to them. All I need to do is be there for the fingerprinting and show a few additional documents including my academic transcript, which has been nothing but As and Bs. An extra piece of information is that I will be transferring to a different university when I return. I have gotten my acceptance letter and I will go back with the I-20 that belongs to the new school. If I can have my records expunged from all four agencies in the next three weeks, there will be nothing from stopping me from leaving the United States. However, if one of the four agencies delays the process of removing my records, I will strongly reconsider leaving the country in the first place. Or should that not be an issue. Lastly, I know the consular personally, does any student applying for renewing an F1 visa automatically qualify for a background check or will showing my academic transcript be sufficient. Any additional advice would be much appreciated.

A: Unfortunately this will still be visible on your application and records when you renew your F-1 visa. You will have to disclose this but also provide a detailed explanation about what happened and how you complied fully with your judgement and probation. Chances are, they will renew your visa since marijuana is becoming less and less serious. I would recommend that you stay in America until you get your degree. Don’t commit anymore crimes and let time pass. The more time passed since your arrest, and that you showed you did not get in trouble ever again, the easier to convince USCIS that this was a one-off stupid mistake and you are not a criminal.

The Q&A is continued on Part Three