A friend of mine is going to study in the US, but will enter 2-3 months in advance to explore his new home and prepare for things. Therefore he is planning to get a B2 "prospective student" visa and then change Status to F1 before he starts school.

I'm aware that the USCIS doesn't issue visa stickers.

Therefore my question is:

If the person takes a short trip to Canada or Latin America whilst in School (i.e. after having switched to F1 Status), how can he re-enter the US?

(my understanding is that re-entering after a trip of max 30 days to Canada or Mexico is completely painless, but what about if he were to go somewhere else, such as to Brazil for a week?)

  • @MichaelHampton Reduced it to the second, as it should sort of answer the first as well – Crazydre Sep 25 '16 at 23:55

Based on your friend's proposed travel plans, I think he would be best served by leaving the US after his tour and obtaining a separate F-1 visa to return as a student, instead of changing status in the US.

The primary reason for this is: While he can re-enter under automatic revalidation if he travels to Canada, Mexico and adjacent islands for 30 days or less, travel to anywhere else would require he return on a student visa. CBP will not allow him to enter in student status without a student visa, valid I-20 and being active in SEVIS. So, he would need to get the F-1 visa anyway, which would put a real dent in whatever trip he was taking.

Secondarily, he won't be allowed to start classes until the change of status is approved. Unfortunately, a change of status application can take a lot longer than obtaining a visa.

The international office of whatever university he applies to should be able to explain these issues. For example: University of Washington explains how to change from B-1/B-2 to F-1 status and the pros and cons of changing status versus obtaining a new visa.

  • Alright, I think I get the deal now, and it's sort of what I thought. I'm going to tell him this: if he sticks to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean for the next years to come, the B2->F1 route is fairly reasonable. Otherwise, he should enter in WB status for pre-enrollment arrangements, then exit and re-enter in F1 status once the I-20's been issued. Does that sound reasonable? – Crazydre Sep 26 '16 at 6:14
  • @Crazydre Good question. But you've exhausted the limit of my knowledge; the original question was already on the borderline of Expatriates territory, and your immediate question in this comment is far enough across that line that I can't confidently give you an answer. – Michael Hampton Sep 26 '16 at 6:53
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    @Crazydre I think for student interviews one would use WT status. But don't forget that this limits the stay to 90 days, so he is more likely to need to leave before the I-20 is issued. It also guarantees needing to leave, as change of status is not allowed. – phoog Sep 26 '16 at 13:05
  • @phoog I know, but if he's going outside of Canada/Mexico/Caribbean in the near future, he'll need to obtain an F1 visa regardless, thus only postponing the inevitable and subjecting himself to two visa applications – Crazydre Sep 26 '16 at 15:05

If the person takes a short trip to Canada or Latin America whilst in School (i.e. after having switched to F1 Status), how can he re-enter the US?

F-1 visa are normally multiple entry so where one takes a trip should not be an issue. In some cases, the individual may need the school's authorization to depart and return to the US.

Your friend should indicate "prospective student" on his application for the B1-2 visa. Even if he does so, there may be problems associated with his intention to use the B1-2 to enter the US more than the 30 days permitted to the F-1 visa holder. If he already has been admitted to the university, that documentation will show that he intended to be in the US as an F-1 student, and he may be subjected to a more rigorous process when he wants to change status from B1-2 to F-1. This change of status can be extremely challenging, and he may risk delays, or worse, that affect his study plans.

  • He has not been admitted to the school, and is expected to show up for an interview before receiving a decision. Hence the plan to apply for a prospective Student B2 visa – Crazydre Sep 26 '16 at 2:26
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    Then check with the Int'l Student offices at the uni; he may find it easier to take his trip and apply for the F-1 outside the US, and then re-enter. – Giorgio Sep 26 '16 at 2:29

If the person takes a short trip to Canada or Latin America whilst in School (i.e. after having switched to F1 Status), how can he re-enter the US?

He will need a valid F-1 visa. If he doesn't have one when he leaves the US, he will need to plan his trip so that it includes enough time in the vicinity of a US consulate to apply for a new one.

If both of the following are true, he may be able to benefit from automatic visa revalidation:

  • the trip is under 30 days
  • the traveler remains in Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean
  • Given my knowledge of US visas, he will not have an actual F1 visa (but a B2 prospective Student visa), only be in F1 Status after switching (which is what determines his right to be in the US, as opposed to entering the country). – Crazydre Sep 26 '16 at 2:28
  • @Crazydre which, if it is true, will mean that he'll need to get a new F-1 visa after leaving the US and before attempting to reenter in F-1 status. – phoog Sep 26 '16 at 2:33
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    @Dorothy but after change of status in the US, the student does not possess an F-1 visa, which can only be issued outside the country. To travel outside the US and reenter in F-1 status, he would need to apply for a visa during the trip. – phoog Sep 26 '16 at 3:01
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    @Crazydre we're now in chat territory; I'll ping you tomorrow with links/info – Giorgio Sep 26 '16 at 3:19
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    @Crazydre this really belongs on expats. The traveler wantsto enter ona B-2 for the interview and then remain in the US and switch to F-1 status after being accepted. People experienced with this sort of thing will be there, not necessarily here. I'm flagging for migration. – phoog Sep 26 '16 at 3:20

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