H4 to F1 Visa Interview – 9 Risk Factors to Consider Before Stamping

Why would anyone want to change from their legal status in the US from H4 to F1 Visa?

I can think for following reasons for converting from H4 to F1 Visa, either by Change of Status or Visa Stamping.

  1. Work Authorization – CPT, OPT and STEM OPT
  2. Mandatory Internship  as part of the degree requirements
  3. Ability to work as Research Assistant or Teaching assistant
  4. A Path to Career in the US – F1 Visa, OPT, STEM OPT to H1B Visa
  5. H4 EAD might be revoked!

In this 6 options for H4 Visa holders, higher education is listed as an option for H4 spouses. And I’m pretty sure, one wouldn’t invest money in college education unless there is a path for a Career after graduation.

Just by the eyeball test, there is an increase in the number H4 to F1 Visa interview since 2016, when compared to earlier years.

Here are the two data points for the predictions:

  1. Increase in the processing time for H4 to F1 visa
  2. Increase in the number of queries in social media for H4 to F1 Visa

While, it’s difficult to get the hard data, but just the increase in the processing time for H4 Visa to F1 Visa by the change of status indicates the volume of applications. And, also by looking at the activity in the social media sites.

What’s covered in this article:

  • FAQ’s About H4 to F1 Visa
  • H4 to F1 Visa Change of Status
  • H4 to F1 Visa Processing Time
  • H4 to F1 Visa Interview in Canada vs India
  • When to attend the Visa Interview?

FAQ’s About H4 to F1 Visa Interview

As I stated above, increase in queries about H4 Visa to F1 Visa conversion, here are some of the questions posted within the past few days (not months)!

I am on H4 visa and started Masters degree from Spring 2018. I am planning to go to India to apply for F1 visa in Jan 2019.  I have recently received the I-20 from my college which states the program start date as 29th Jan 2019, although I started the course in Jan 2018. Should I give program start date in form DS160 as 29th Jan 2018 or Jan 2019?

I will be applying for F1 Visa from H4 Visa. What is the probability that the consulate will put my case in administrative processing? In that case how long they will keep the passport with them?

Hi, anyone here with H4 EAD who successfully got H4 to F1 stamped from India?

I am on H4 Visa here since last two years and planning for H4 to F1 conversion. Can anyone suggest best possible options for this. Also the probability of F1 Visa approval from India – Mumbai consulate?

I am planning for Change of status from H4 to F1 and my course has already started from August 1st. Now, my H4 visa is expiring in mid September. Do I need to hold valid H4 till my COS gets approve? If not, can I proceed with applying the change of status before my visa expiry i.e mid-September? Will, there be any issue?

As you can see, there is no dearth of questions about H4 to F1 Visa conversion.

H4 to F1 Visa Change of Status

Let’s look at the pros and cons H4 Visa to F1 Visa via the Change of Status process. And you can find additional details about Change of Status from Study in the States webpage as well.

The Pros: 

  • H4 Visa to F1 Visa change of status is done through the form I-539
  • For the most part, the applicant can file I-538 with help from the DSO and without hiring an attorneys
  • The filling process is pretty simple

The Cons

  • Timing is the biggest concern. You can’t control when the Change of Status from H4 to F1 will be approved.
  • Once approved, your status is automatically converted into F1 Visa.
  • What happens if the COS is approved in the middle of the semester?
  • You may need to attend F1 Interview while on OPT

H4 to F1 Change of Status processing time

The processing time for H4 to F1 Visa change of status as per USCIS is approximately 15 Months as of today (Oct 2018).

h4 to f1 visa change of status processing time vermont uscis

Duration of typical Masters Degree is 24 months.  Some students tend to complete within 15 months.

When the H4 to F1 change of status processing time is 15 months, it’s not a sound decision to apply for the change of status with USCIS to complete.

I do understand, the possibility of the USCIS improving the processing time.

Future F1 Visa Interview

Assuming you received H4 to F1 approval through the Change of Status and you have started working on OPT.

What if you are traveling for vacation to your country?

Then, you have the following scenarios: Attend F1 Visa interview while working on OPT or STEM OPT.

attending f1 visa stamping while on opt

Which leaves the students studying on the H4 visa to apply for F1 Visa through consular processing (aka attending the visa interview at a Consular Post outside the US) one way or the other.

H4 to F1 Visa Interview

Let’s look at the pros and cons of changing the status by attending the H4 to F1 Visa interview

The Pros:

  • The Process is quick. No need to wait for 15 months.
  • Ability to get work authorization

The Cons:

There are plenty of problems with this. If you are thinking about changing the status by attending the H4 to F1 Visa interview, you have to think about the following risk factors:

  1. Dealing with Potential immigrant intent at the visa interview
  2. F1 visa could be rejected
  3. F1 Visa Rejection and H4 Visa cancellation
  4. 221(g) administrative processing and missing classes
  5. How to answer the question,  “Why H4 to F1 Visa?.”
  6. What if your H4 visa stamp is expired?

In addition the risk factor, there are more factors to consider

  1. Added travel cost
  2. Tourist visa fees for Canada
  3. F1 Visa Interview appointment wait times

Here is a closer look at some the risk factors for H4 to F1 Visa stamping.

The biggest challenge is overcoming the Immigrant Intent – The 214(b) requirement of the F-1 Visa.

h4 to f1 visa interview potential immigrant intent green card process

How could you convince the Visa Officer, that you plan to return back to your home country after completing the degree when you are already living in the US?

  • What if your spouse’s Green Card Process is underway? Wouldn’t that make you a potential immigrant?
  • What if your F1 Visa is denied?
  • What if the US Consulate denies the F1 Visa and cancels the H4 Visa stamp on the passport?
  • What if your F1 visa undergoes additional 221(g) administrative processing?
  • What if you can’t make back to the class in time while 221(g) is pending for several months?

If you are planning to change your status from H4 Visa to F1 visa by stamping, then you are assuming all the risks as listed above. 

If you have decided to take the risks, the next logical question would be to decide where to attend the H4 Visa to F1 visa interview stamping.

H4 to F1 Visa Interview in Canada

I started my Masters degree from January 2018 on H4 visa. My H4 visa was in extension and got approved recently. So, I am planning to attend for H4 to F1 Visa Visa interview. Looking at current scenario, H4 to F1 Change of Status (COS) is taking several months for approval. I was thinking to go to Canada and apply for F1 Visa instead of COS from H4 to F1 Visa. Is it ok to do so or should I apply from India?

If you are planning to go to attend H4 to F1 Visa Interview in Canada, you have to plan for the following scenario:

  • How to prove strong ties to the home country
  • Getting stuck on 221(g) in Canada & missing classes

If Canada is not your home country, how can you prove strong ties to your country for F1 Visa interview?

There are F1 Visa interview experiences where the applicant attended the F1 Visa interview away from their home country and the consular officer specifically denied the visa since the applicant did not have the strong ties to the country.

If I have a H4 visa and I am going to get a F1 visa by going to India and if it takes longer that planned time to get the passport back due to 221(g), can I travel back to the US on H4 Visa? Else, I have to  withdraw my admission? What will happen with the F-1 visa process?

H4 to F1 Visa Stamping in India

For most of the readers of this site, you might be planning to visit India for F1 Visa stamping. All the risk factors mentioned about the F1 Visa stamping applies here. And if you’re from India, then you don’t have to worry about the risk factors that come with H4 to F1 in Canada.

Other Potential Scenarios to Plan

  1. How long is your H4 Visa Valid?
  2. What about your spouses’ H1B Visa?
  3. Do you have valid H4 Visa stamp on the passport?
  4. Is there a H1B and H4 Visa extension petition pending with USCIS?
  5. Does your school offer online courses if you can’t travel back?

H4 to F1 Visa – Options?

Read the following conversation with someone planning go to attend F1 Visa interview in India to convert from H4 Visa.

h4 to to f1 visa stamping options

It boils down to one simple question:

Do you have any other option to avoid H4 to F1 Visa Stamping if the COS is taking 15 months?

If your answer is No, then you got to assume all the risk and travel to attend the F1 Visa Interview.

The Summary: 

Several folks have successfully attended H4 to F1 Visa interview and traveled back to the US and they did that by assuming all the above risks. This is what Karthik had to say about his wife’s H4 to F1 stamping:

H4 to F1 conversion these days is taking lot of time. More than 12 months. So if your current H4 visa is valid for more than 18 months only then it is safe to apply for COS. If not you will end up waiting for the approval and in the mean time your current H4 will expire. So, think and plan for COS.

In our case, we applied and waited for more than 9 months. Then my wife stepped out of the country and got F1 Visa stamped. So talk to your DSO and take actions accordingly. If your stay on COS even after current H4 expiry then your COS may get Denied and you need to leave the country abruptly.

Please decide after taking a closer look at your family’s needs. And please do run your situation with an Immigration Attorney to make sure you have covered all your bases.

Every family will have the situation that can complicate things. So, think and plan.

When to Attend the Interview? The Million Dollar Question

After you have decided to attend the F1 Visa interview, you have two more choices to make

  1. Where to attend the F1 Visa Interview?
  2. When to attend the F1 Visa interview?

We have discussed the “Where to Attend the Visa Interview” in this article and most would prefer to go to their home country.

What about the second question?

  1. How long do you wait after starting college before attending the F1 Visa Interview?
  2. Would it be beneficial to attend the interview before starting the school or after a few semesters?

Let me know your answers in the comments below.

Series: H4 to F1 Visa Interview

  1. H4 to F1 Visa Interview – 9 Risk Factors to Consider (this article)
  2. H4 to F1 Visa Interview Experience with Questions and Answers
  3. H4 to F1 Visa Stamping Documents and FAQ’s