What Does Change Of Status Mean In Regards To Immigration?
Change of status usually refers to a non-immigrant who is switching from one status to another. In other words, they may be in the United States under a tourist visa, as an example, and then, they want to switch to a student visa and enroll in one of our schools. They would do that by filing a change of status application with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Is A Change Of Status The Same Thing As Adjustment Of Status?
No. An adjustment of status refers to someone becoming a lawful permanent resident. Adjustment of status is, typically, filed on a Form I-485. It is consistently used for a non-immigrant to become an immigrant, and to gain permanent resident status. An adjustment of status is obtaining a more permanent benefit in the United States. Whereas, a change of status is changing from one non-immigrant to another non-immigrant status.
Who is Eligible For A Change Of Status?
Anyone is eligible for a change of status, as long as they are maintaining their current authorized status. In other words, if you are admitted into the United States, either as a visitor, a student, an investor or under any type of valid non-immigrant visa, and as long as you are maintaining that status, you can apply to change to another status. The reverse, of course is that if you are not maintaining status, if for some reason you were authorized to stay for six months, but you ended up staying for a year and you have fallen out of status or if you entered the country illegally, and entered without inspection and you have no status, then you cannot apply to change your status.
How Can Someone Apply For A Change Of Status?
It depends on what is the new status that they are seeking. Different visas have different applications. Generally speaking, most change of status applications that are done to an employment category, an H-1B or an L or an I or an O, most non-immigrant employment change of status applications are submitted on one form, which is the I-129. There are also applications for dependents, and If you are married. You have a spouse or you have children under twenty-one, they usually have their own forms. Basically, you gather all the documents necessary to show that you are eligible for the new status that you are seeking to change to. Submit all that supporting documentations along with the form and the fee to immigration.
When Should Someone Start The Application Process?
The important thing is to make sure that everything is received at immigration before your current status expires, because you want to make sure that there is no gap in status. There is no unauthorized stay that could lead to a denial of the change of status. Usually, thirty to forty-five days before your stay expires. I guess, this would be a safe window to have everything received at immigration just to make sure you have submitted everything in time for them to adjudicate the application.
How Long Does It Take For The Application To Go Through And Get Approved?
The processing times vary. Those are usually posted on the USCIS website so you can check on those. Typically, after you submit an application for either a change of status or extension of status, you will be issued a receipt notice by immigration. That receipt notice will have a receipt number, and a case number. Then, you can use that online to track, not only how they are processing your application, but also, based on the type of form it is. Than you can see how long it is taking them to process this application.
Some applications take longer than others. Some are also eligible for something called, premium processing. Whereby, you pay an additional fee to immigration, $1,225.00 to be specific. They would adjudicate your application faster. That is called a premium processing. It is really hard to state as a general rule how long it takes, because again, it depends on which office is processing it. Which form it is. There are a lot of different variables. The key thing is to make sure you submit your application well in advance of when your current status is expiring.
Are Applications For Change Of Status Ever Denied?
Yes. You could be denied if, for some reason, you do not qualify for the new status. If you had a violation of your current status, you have a criminal background that applies to you. There are various reasons why they could deny your status. There are certain limited circumstances where, even though, you did not file before your current stay expired, if that was due to circumstances beyond your control, immigration could still process and approve your change of status. For example, you are admitted in one status, and you are in the process of gathering everything to submit your change of status, then tragically you are in a horrible car accident and in the hospital.
You want to extend this status or proceed with the change or make sure you are trying to maintain some lawful status here that would be an instance where you can submit proof of this hospitalization. If you fail to maintain status through no fault of your own, and immigration, in that limited circumstances, could adjudicate and approve either your extension or your change of status. There are a couple of limited exceptions as to not applying before your current stay expires, but the general rule is very important to apply early.
What Obstacles Does Someone Face If They Apply After Their Stay Has Expired?
If you are applying for either change or extension of status after your current status has expired, you would need to show, ideally, some documentation of why it is that you did not apply in time. Whether that was because of circumstances beyond your control or not. As a general rule, if you do not have a valid reason for not applying in time, immigration will deny your application.
That is a problem, because they can institute removal proceedings against you and try to have you removed. It will also prejudice you if you do end up going back to your country and then try to re-enter subsequently, either on that same visa or on another visa, because it will show that you were denied a change or extension. Then, it could have long-lasting repercussions.
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