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Applying for a Change of Status to B1/B2 Tourist Visa from Other Visas like H1B, J1, or F1

Updated: Mar 24


If you're in the US and wish to apply for a change of status from an H1B visa to a B1/B2 visa, possibly after a layoff, or from an F1 visa, or J1 visa, etc., you'll need to complete the I-539, the change of status form.


You can complete the I-539 form yourself (no need for a lawyer), and it should be done before your grace period ends. If you are on an H1B visa, you should apply for a change of status within 60 days of the H1B grace period.

When filling out the I-539 form, ensure that you clearly state the reason for the change of status and demonstrate why you need it. Make sure you provide sufficient documents to support your financial condition.


It's important to note that USCIS allows individuals to search for a new job or interview while in B-1 or B-2 status. Therefore, clearly explain that you need some time to search for a job due to a recent layoff, and that's why you are filing for a change of status to a B1/B2 visa.


Can I look for a new job while in B-1 or B-2 status?

Yes, searching for employment and interviewing for a position are permissible B-1 or B-2 activities. By statute, however, you may not engage in employment within the domestic labor market (also known as “local labor for hire”) while in B-1 status or engage in any employment while in B-2 status. Before beginning any new employment, a petition and request for a change of status from B-1 or B-2 to an employment-authorized status must be approved, and the new status must take effect. Alternatively, if the change of status request is denied or the petition for new employment requests consular or port of entry notification, the individual must depart the United States and be admitted in an employment-authorized classification before beginning the new employment. Reference: USCIS (look for this question under the change of status section).


Table of Contents: Change of Status to B1/B2 Visa


Whether you're on a different visa or already in the country, understanding how to apply for a change of status to a B1/B2 visa is important. This blog will simplify the process for you, outlining the required documents, eligibility criteria, and other essential factors to consider when applying for a change of status to a B1/B2 visa.


Can I Change the Status to B1/B2 Visa?

The B1/B2 visa is intended for temporary stays, so applicants should have a clear intention of staying temporarily while on this visa. Below are the main categories of people who apply for a change of status to B1/B2.


  • Visa Holders: Individuals holding different types of visas like H1B, F1, etc. can apply for a change of status to a B1/B2 tourist visa. For exceptions, refer to the USCIS website for the latest information.


  • In-Country Applicants: Those already in the US can request a change of status using form I-539 without leaving the country.


change of status to B2


Change of Status to B1/B2 Visa from Other Visas

Various visa holders consider changing their status to a B1/B2 tourist visa for temporary stays in the United States. Common scenarios include:

  • F-1 Student Visa Holders: Students may switch to a B1/B2 visa for leisure or travel purposes if their authorized stay on an F1 visa is ending soon.


  • H-1B Visa Holders: Professionals with an H-1B work visa typically apply for a change of status to a B1/B2 visa during a job loss or when their visas are expiring to avoid 'unlawful presence'.


  • J-1 Exchange Visitors: If your J1 visa doesn't require the INA 212(e) two-year home residency, you can change your status to B1/B2 visitor status. However, if your J1 visa has the INA 212(e) two-year home residency requirement, changing your status within the US is not possible.


  • L-1 Intracompany Transferees: Employees under the L-1 visa may consider switching to B1/B2 for personal reasons during gaps between assignments (same company).


Note that each case is unique, and individuals should thoroughly review eligibility criteria and consult with legal professionals for personalized advice.



Applying for Change of Status to B1/B2

Applying for a change of status to a B1/B2 involves the following steps.


  • Eligibility: Ensure you meet the eligibility criteria for changing to a B1/B2 visa. Earlier in this post, we already discussed which visas qualify. Typically, this involves maintaining legal status, having a valid reason for the change, and intending a temporary stay for tourism or personal reasons.


  • Prepare Required Documents: Collect necessary documents, including Form I-539 (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status), a letter explaining the reason for the change, proof of financial ability to cover your stay, and other supporting documents.


  • File Form I-539: Complete and submit Form I-539 along with the required supporting documents to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Pay the associated filing fee of $370.


  • Wait for USCIS Response: USCIS will review your application. Be patient during the processing period, which can take several months. You may check the status online using the USCIS case status tool.


  • Receive USCIS Decision: Once USCIS reviews your application, you'll receive a decision. If approved, your status will be changed to B1/B2. If not, you have to immediately leave the country.


  • Stick to Visa Rules: After approval, adhere to the conditions of your B1/B2 visa, such as maintaining legal status and leaving the U.S. before the authorized stay expires.



Sample Letter for Change of Status to B1/B2

[Date]

[Your Name]

[Your Address]

[City, State, ZIP Code]

[Email Address]

[Phone Number]


U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

[Service Center Address]

[City, State, ZIP Code]



Subject: Request for Change of Status to B1/B2 Tourist Visa


Dear USCIS Officer,


I am writing to formally request a change of status from my current H1B visa to a B1/B2 tourist visa for a temporary stay in the United States. I am providing the necessary documents as outlined in the Form I-539 instructions to support my application. These include:


  • Completed Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status.

  • A detailed cover letter explaining my reasons for the change, emphasizing my desire for a temporary stay.

  • Copy of my current H1B visa and I-94 arrival/departure record.

  • Passport biographic page and copies of previous U.S. visas.

  • Proof of financial ability to cover my stay, including recent bank statements.

  • Passport-sized photographs adhering to USCIS specifications.

  • Documentation establishing my ties to my home country, such as property ownership, and family relationships.


I understand and respect the regulations governing the change of status process and assure you that my stay in the U.S. will comply with all applicable laws. I am committed to returning to my home country upon the conclusion of my temporary stay and will not engage in unauthorized employment during this period.


I appreciate your time and consideration of my application. If there is any additional information needed, or if an interview is required, I am more than willing to provide the necessary cooperation.


Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

[Your Signature]

[Your Typed Name]



How to Fill Form I-539 for Change of Status to B1/B2

Here's a detailed guide on how to fill out Form I-539 for a change of status to B1/B2 visa:


  • Download the Form: Visit the official USCIS website and download the latest version of Form I-539.



  • Part 1: Information About You (Principal Applicant): Fill in your details, including your name, address, date of birth, and other relevant information.


  • Part 2: Application Type: Check Box "3.a. Change of Status" to indicate you are applying for a change of status.


  • Part 3: Processing Information: Provide information regarding your current non-immigrant status, the date you were admitted to the U.S., and details of any previous extensions or changes of status.


  • Part 4: Additional Information About Applicant: Answer questions about your previous immigration history, criminal record (if any), and other relevant details.


  • Part 5: Declaration: Sign and date the form to certify that the information provided is accurate and complete.


  • Part [6,7]: Interpreter Information: Typically you will be filling out the I-539 form yourself, so no interpreter's detail is required.


  • Part 8: Additional Information: If you need additional space to explain your answers, use this section and attach extra sheets.


  • Form I-539A (if applicable): If there are family members included in the application, such as dependents, they should each complete a separate Form I-539A.


  • Supporting Documents: Attach the necessary supporting documents, including the letter explaining the reason for the change, proof of financial ability, and any other required materials.


  • Fee Payment: Include the filing fee of $370 with your application. Check the USCIS website for the current fee amount.


  • Mail the Application: Review your application thoroughly, make copies of all documents, and mail the complete application. You can find the addresses here.



B1/B2 Change of Status Processing Time

USCIS processing times for a change of status to a B1/B2 visa could range from 3 to 9 months, depending on the service center processing your case.


What should I do if I find a job when my B1/B2 application is pending?

Many of us wonder what happens if we find a job and need to join. Do we need to wait for the result of the B1/B2 change of status? The answer is no. There is a lot of misinformation in the market, with some suggesting that the new employer may require you to go through consular processing, which could result in receiving a 221(g) notice and facing extensive processing times.


Based on the latest USCIS guidelines, if you file for an H1B visa using premium processing while your B1/B2 visa application is still pending, USCIS approves your B1/B2 visa right away within the H1B premium processing timeframe. At the same time, they decide on your change of status from B1/B2 to H1B. This means you won't need to go through consular processing because both the approval of the B1/B2 visa and the decision on the B1/B2 to H1B change of status happen while you're in the US, waiting for a decision.


Will my pending I-539 change of status application to B-1 or B-2 be prioritized if I find a new employer who files an I-129 petition with a request for premium processing service?

If an employer files a Form I-129 petition on your behalf, along with a request for premium processing service, USCIS will generally process the pending I-539 and the I-129 together during the premium processing timeframe and issue concurrent decisions. This means there should be no delay in adjudication of the I-129 because of the pending I-539. No formal request is required for the pending I-539 to be prioritized. If USCIS approves the I-129 petition, including any requested change of status, then you generally will obtain the nonimmigrant status requested on the I-129 petition (not the I-539), and may begin working. You generally would not need to depart the United States to obtain the requested nonimmigrant status in this scenario. Reference: USCIS (look for this question under the change of status section).


Documents Required

Following are the documents required to apply for a change of status to B1/B2, these might slightly change for different visa statuses but not a lot.


  • Form I-539: The completed and signed Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status.


  • Filing Fee: Mostly, the Form I-539 fee is $370. Check the USCIS website for the current fee amount.


  • Cover Letter: A letter explaining the reason for the change to B1/B2 status. Clearly state your intentions for a temporary stay, such as tourism, medical treatment, or personal reasons.


  • Supporting Letter: Any additional supporting letters, if necessary, to provide more details about your situation.


  • Proof of Financial Ability: Documentation showing that you have the financial means to cover your stay in the U.S. This may include bank statements, pay stubs, or a letter from a sponsor.


  • Passport: A copy of your passport, including the biographic page with your photo and other relevant information.


  • Current Visa: A copy of your current visa and I-94 arrival/departure record.


  • Form I-20 or DS-2019 or I-797 Approval Notices: If you are currently on an F or J visa, include a copy of your Form I-20 (for F visa) or DS-2019 (for J visa). If you are on an H1B or L1 visa, include the I-797 approval notice.


  • Photographs: Provide passport-sized photos as per USCIS specifications.


  • Proof of Ties to Home Country: Documents showing strong ties to your home country, such as property ownership, or family relationships, to demonstrate your intent to return after the temporary stay.


  • I-539A (if applicable): If there are dependents included in the application, each dependent should complete a separate Form I-539A.


  • Other Supporting Documents: Include any additional documents relevant to your specific situation, such as marriage certificates, birth certificates, or educational transcripts.


Remember that immigration procedures and requirements may change, so it is crucial to consult the most recent guidelines on the official USCIS website or seek legal advice for personalized assistance. Wishing you a smooth and successful application process.



FAQs on Change of Status to B1/B2

Where do I mail my I-539 form?

USCIS mailing addresses may vary depending on the state you are in. You can find the latest mailing address and any updates on the USCIS website or contact the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283 for assistance.


How much is the fee for change of status filing?

The filing fee for Form I-539, which is used for a change of status to a B1/B2 visa, is $370. However, fees are subject to change, and it's crucial to check the most recent information on the official USCIS website or contact USCIS directly to confirm the current filing fee.


Can my change of status petition or application be expedited?

Yes, you can request USCIS expedite processing for a pending B1/B2 change of status, one of the reasons could be financial loss based on the job offer. Read more.



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2 коментарі


Nikunj Kumbhani
Nikunj Kumbhani
06 квіт.

I have filed B1/B2 visa application during 60 days grace period of my H1B visa. What if my grace period gets over but my B1/B2 visa application for change of status is still pending? Should I leave US or I can stay in US while my change of status application is pending?

Вподобати
Hina Singh
Hina Singh
09 квіт.
Коментар для:

Hi Nikunj, According to USCIS:

  1. If an individual files a non-frivolous application to change status before the end of the applicant’s maximum 60-day grace period, they will not accrue unlawful presence while the application remains pending, even after the maximum 60-day grace period has elapsed.

  2. If the application is denied, then the individual starts to accrue unlawful presence the day after the denial decision.


USCIS link (read under change of status): https://www.uscis.gov/working-in-the-united-states/information-for-employers-and-employees/options-for-nonimmigrant-workers-following-termination-of-employment



Thanks.

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