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Use These 20 Questions as a Guide to Plan Your H4 to F1 Visa Conversion

h4 to f1 conversion process and planning

Are you looking for an optimal Path for H4 to F1 Visa to a Career in the USA?

For some, the path would be smooth and straight forward.

For others, it will be bumpy.

For some, there will be a disappointment.

Without H4 EAD, there’s no work authorization.

If you are a highly skilled person with a ton of potential, I’m sure you want to contribute to the U.S. Economy.

But, how?

If you notice how H4 visa holders have found the way to workforce over the years, you will notice the transformation.

Here are the trends (from eyeball test), I have noticed the process and paths followed by spouses on H4 visa to get work authorization (EAD or H1B).

  • Until 2015: H4 Visa to H1B Visa via consulting companies
    • RFE’s for In-House projects put an end to that route (I guess)
  • 2015 to 2017: H4  to H4 EAD (H4 to F1 was not happening yet)
  • 2017 to 2019: H4 to H4 EAD and several folds increase in H4 to F1 to OPT to H1B route.

U.S. Universities are seeing an uptick in applications from H4 Visa to F1 applicants.

But, deciding to go back to school is not an easy one. Right?

You are looking at $20,000 to $50,000 in college expenses.

With a single income from the primary H1B Visa holder, $30k in college education is not easy to afford.

If you do have some 50k around, please do let me know how to earn and save 🙂

For families with kids, it’s a lot more challenging for a spouse to go back to school with added college tuition expenses.

They would have their parents or in-laws stay with them to watch over the kids if the kids are not in the school-going age.

I know H4 Visa holders who converted to F1 with newborns, and they are taking up the challenging by going back to school as a full-time student.

As you are exploring various colleges, courses, and career, you have to take all available legal immigration paths to get work authorization.

Things that are worth having in life don’t come easy.

You choose to live in the US and this journey from H4 to F1 will take time and a few years worth of time and effort.

20 Questions to Ask Before H4 to F1 Conversion

Anyone planning to convert from H4 to F1 should get bae aware of the built-in risk.

There’s a real possibility for you not getting F1 Visa.

More on this later in this article.

Consider finding answers to questions that are relevant to you and your family.

  1. Where to Study?
    1. In-State
    2. Out of State
  2. What program to study?
    1. STEM
    2. Business (Non-STEM)
  3. When to convert to F1 Visa?
    1. Before school starts
    2. After 1 to 3 semesters
  4. How to Convert to F1 status?
    1. Change of Status
    2. Visa Stamping
  5. Where to go for F1 Stamping?
    1. Canada or Mexico
    2. India (or Home Country)
  6. What’s the F1 approval chance?
  7. Who can be the sponsor?
    1. Spouse
    2. Loan
    3. Parents and In-Laws
  8. What if there’s previous F1 denial?
  9. What if F1 is denied and H4 extension is processing?
  10. What if 221(g) is issued on F1 stamping?
  11. What if you don’t have enough funds?
  12. What is the university is a ranked law school?
  13. What if you are attending Day 1 CPT school?
  14. What if H4 EAD revoked?
  15. What if you don’t get H1B Visa?
  16. What is F1 is denied after completing for a couple of semesters on H4?

I can add a lot more questions to this list, but these questions should cover the most scenarios.

Next set of questions depends on your Spouse’s visa situation.

  1. H1B extension just applied in Regular Process
  2. H1B and H4 stamp in the passport is expired
  3. Spouse is planning to switch employers
  4. Uncertainty surrounding H1B extension filing

The Bottomline: H4 to F1 Visa Status Change

As you can see, changing from H4 to F1 visa is not as easy as it sounds.

Every family’s visa situation will be unique.

There’s no one size fit’s all solution for H4 to F1 conversion process and approach.

If you plan to move forward, identify where you are today and how you can get there (H4 to F1 change).

You should know your Plan A and Plan B and Plan C.

Then work out the permutations and combinations.

Above all, how you will react to an adverse outcome in the process. 

Many families take this risk and hope that H4 to F1 would be like a walk in the park.

But if F1 visa is denied or H4 visa holder gets stuck, and if you don’t have a Plan B or looking for Plan B then, you may not have good options.

Some families are risk-takers, whereas others may be risk-averse. Here’s a hypothetical example.

  • Risk Takers:
    • Attend Low-quality schools
    • Attend Day 1 CPT kind of schools
    • Low academic profile and test scores
    • Study a couple of semesters and try for F1 Visa
    • If F1 is denied, try H4 to F1 COS
  • Calculated Risk Takers:
    • Take GRE multiple times to improve test scores
    • Target Public Universities or good Private schools
    • Try F1 before starting college or after completing a few semesters
  • Risk-Averse:
    • Wait for I-140 to be approved.
    • Target H4 EAD

Let me tell you something.

You are most likely to see friends, classmates around you getting H4 to F1 approvals.

 

You probably don’t see H4 to F1 denials as frequently as approvals.

But, H4 to F1 denials do happen.

Only the Visa officers at the U.S. Consulates can determine if you are qualified for the F1 Visa.

  • How can you deal with this H4 to F1 process?
  • How did other H1B and H4 families have dealt with this?

Here’s a quick preview 60 minutes long interview with Tina. She converted from H4 to F1 Visa. We spoke about her journey from H4 to F1 to Full-Time Job Offer via Internship for a semester.

You can watch the entire interview along with three other webinars when you get the H4 Visa Career Guide.

 

Here’s how I would approach the problem:

  • Identify your family needs
  • Know your current H1B Visa situation
  • Identify the possible adverse outcomes
  • Know your Plan A, B & C
  • Talk to an Immigration Attorney to clarify
  • Then carefully move forward.

Here’s some Plan A, B & C walkthrough:

Plan A:

  • Attend F1 Visa interview stamping
  • Get approval and start the school on F1 visa

Plan B:

  • If Plan A – Visa is Denied, enter USA on H4
  • Complete one semester on H4
  • Attend F1 Visa stamping (again)

Plan C:

  • If Plan B stamping is denied again?
  • Enter USA back on H4
  • Then apply for Change of Status
  • Find the pros and cons of this path.

Note: Create Plan A, B &C, and then consult an Immigration Attorney to learn the pros and cons and how to deal with visa denials or if you get stuck with expired visa.

Far too many times, I have seen people consult an immigration attorney after adverse outcomes have occurred, and there’s really no easy path after that.

The worst things that can happen are due to unknowns.

  • The Unknown = The information that you should have known before the adverse outcome

Once, you have figured out after brainstorming, validate your assumptions and answers.

Let’s dig deeper.

To successfully move from H4 to F1, you will go through the following phases:

  1. Identify the optimal path with a timeline
  2. Determine the right college, courses and career goals
  3. Apply and get admission
  4. Plan for Change of Status and schedule

If your spouse has already studied in the USA, it may be a bit easy to navigate the college admission on H4 Visa.

In this stage, the challenge is finding:

  • duration of the program
  • where to study
  • what major

Here’s additional complexity came come into the picture.

  • If you already have a masters degree
  • Your background is Non-IT, and you want to switch to IT

I think I have beath the bush a lot about the potential challenges, but if you a clear roadmap and expectations, you can avoid the bumps along the way.

Good luck.

If you re looking for more insights and guidance for this H4 to F1 Visa, H4 Visa Career Guide may come in handy. It’s a combination of 4 in 1 guide with 10+ hours of video guide and webinar replays and interview.

  1. How to find the optimal path from H4 to F1 Visa (Recorded Video Guide)
  2. Colleges, Courses and Career Planning for H4 Visa Holders (Webinar Replay)
  3. Interview with Tina on how her family navigated this process (Interview)
  4. How to plan your status change from H4 to F1 (examples of F1 Visa approval and denials) (Webinar Replay)

 

2 Comments

  1. Akila on September 16, 2019 at 4:24 PM

    Hi,
    Thank you for this article. It was right in time.
    I currently live in the US on an H4 visa. I have an admission from GGU for the MSHRM program starting in Spring 2020. They are asking me to go to India to convert from H4 to F1 as the process takes a lot of time doing from the US. The course is only for 1 year and I need F1 to take an internship.
    I am considering another 2 year STEM course from SJSU which is my first preference (MSEM). However, SJSU’s results would be out only by December 2019 end. In case I do not get in, it would be very late for me to convert to F1 for GGU as their course starts in Jan 1st week itself. Is it okay if I go to India and get my F1 stamping with I-20 from GGU and then later transfer in US itself in case I get into SJSU? Or will there be any problem? Kindly help! Thank you.

    • Raghuram Sukumar on September 18, 2019 at 7:13 AM

      I sent you an email with details.

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