Question: I have been here for several months on a Visitor Visa and have found that I love the U.S. I do not want to return to my home country. I have a Visa that states it is a Multiple Entry Visitor Visa for the next ten years. However, when I entered the U.S., I was given a white card that states that I must leave by next month. Is there anything I can do?
Answer: First, while you get the Visa at the U.S. Consulate or Embassy, it is the INS who actually controls how long you will stay in the U.S. They are the organization that you must pass at any port of entry into the U.S. A port of entry can be by road (i.e., from Canada or Mexico), or by airport (anywhere in the world.) When you enter the U.S., the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) will issue what is known as an I-94. This is a white card that is stapled to your passport. It will state exactly when you are authorized to stay in the U.S. If the visa in your passport lasts longer than the I-94, that is irrelevant. Further, if your passport expires during your stay in the U.S. that is also irrelevant as long as the time on your I-94 is still available.
You can file for a change of status. What this means is that as long as the application to change your status is done PRIOR to the expiration of your current stay, you will be able to remain in the U.S. while that application for change of status is being ruled upon.
Question: I read somewhere that the INS wants these type of applications at least 45 days before the expiration of your status. Is that true?
Answer: Normally that is true. However, the law is very specific. As long as you are currently in status at the time the application is received by INS, it will be timely. As a matter of fact, there have been many occasion when my office gets someone in the day before expiration of their status. We prepare the application and actually have it hand delivered on the day of expiration. In that event, it is still timely.
Question: What are the possibilities for changing my status and what types of applications will work?
Answer: Actually, there is a variety of different applications you can do. There are many different kinds of work visas such as the H-1B, H-2B, O-1, P-1 and so on. You can also change to a Student Status such as F-1 or M-1. To change to a working status you would need an employer who would agree to sponsor you. To change to a Student Status, you would need to get the I-20 from a school and then have that submitted with the application for Change of Status.
Question: Once I file the application for Change of Status can I start working or going to school right away?
Answer: No. You must wait while INS rules on the matter. However, you are given an automatic extension of your current status while the Change of Status is pending. Therefore, if you want to stay in the U.S. and your current status is about to expire, there are many ways to change your status and you should take advantage of the appropriate one.