Changing your status from “tourist” to “student” has always been challenging. It was made even more difficult recently with a change in government policy, which requires a person to maintain valid tourist status while the request for student status is pending. Add in bad advice from an attorney and it becomes nearly impossible . . . but not completely impossible. Here is the story of one of our clients who was able to overcome all of the above and is now lawfully studying in the U.S.
After submitting multiple applications with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and living in a state of great uncertainty for several months, Priscilla was overjoyed when she finally received approval of her F-1 student status application and was allowed to begin her studies in the United States. Priscilla, whose name has been changed for confidentiality reasons, entered the U.S. along with her three minor children in 2017. She entered with a tourist visa for the purpose of attending a wedding and spending time with family members.
Initially, Priscilla only intended to visit the U.S. for a few months, but she decided to extend the stay to allow for additional time with friends and family members. When it was ultimately time for Priscilla and her children to depart the U.S., her young daughter became ill. Not wanting to subject her daughter to a long international flight during her illness, Priscilla filed another application to extend her tourist status.
Around this time, Priscilla began thinking about her life, her goals, and how to provide a better life for her children. She realized that the best way to do so would be to advance her academic studies. Believing that obtaining a degree from a university in the U.S. would provide her with better job opportunities in the future, Priscilla decided to pursue a MBA degree in the U.S. Priscilla filed a change of status application for F-1 student status with USCIS.
In the months prior to filing the change of status application, USCIS issued guidance in relation to nonimmigrants seeking to change their status from tourist to student. The guidance stated that nonimmigrants seeking to change their status from tourist to student must maintain their tourist status while the change of status application for student status was pending. In compliance with this guidance, Priscilla filed two subsequent applications to allow her to extend her tourist status while the student status application was pending. Unfortunately, Priscilla retained an attorney for assistance with these applications who provided her with misguided advice and advised her that submitting fraudulent documents in her applications was the only way that USCIS would approve them. Priscilla trusted and relied on the attorney and regrettably followed with his misguided advice.
A few months later, Priscilla received four notices from USCIS requesting additional information and documentation in relation to the pending applications. Priscilla was overwhelmed with the requests and was also worried that she would face serious trouble because of the fraudulent information submitted in the applications. Overcome with uncertainty, fear, and concern about the fast approaching deadline to respond to the requests, Priscilla desperately needed guidance. Knowing that she did not want to return to the prior attorney who had provided her with ill-advised advice, Priscilla began seeking competent immigration counsel who could provide her with sound and ethical advice. She contacted Reeves Immigration Law Group (RILG) to see if she had any chance at resolving her complex immigration situation. The attorneys at RILG explained that although it would be very challenging in her case, obtaining student status in the U.S. was possible. The attorneys at RILG further explained that Priscilla would need to submit very detailed responses with supporting documents to USCIS and that she should also disclose and avoid furthering the prior fraud. Although Priscilla knew that her case presented many challenges and that approval was far from certain, she decided to retain RILG to assist with her case.
Priscilla worked closely with the team at RILG in preparing responses to the requests from USCIS. RILG argued that both her tourist and student status applications should be approved and that she should not be inadmissible for fraud/misrepresentation. Less than a month later, USCIS approved all four of her applications. USCIS approved the tourist status extension applications which allowed Priscilla to maintain a valid status while the student status application was pending. USCIS also approved the F-1 change of status application which granted Priscilla student status in the U.S. She is now able to begin her MBA program and remain in the U.S. while she works hard towards attaining her degree. Priscilla is excited about the knowledge that she will obtain during her program and the opportunities that will arise for herself and her children once she obtains her U.S. degree.