Change of Status COS FAQs

Change of Status (COS) – F1, H1B, L1, H4, L2, F2 – FAQs – All you need to Know !

In US Immigration - Visas by SaurabhUpdated : 1292 Comments

What is Change of Status (COS) ?

When a non-immigrant or an international student/ worker enters US, that alien is given a visa category. This is mentioned in the I-94 that is issued at PoE (Port of Entry). Immigration laws allow the alien/ international student/ worker to move from one visa category to another, with few exceptions, like from H4 visa to H1B or F1 visa to H1 or L1 to H1B, without needing to go out of the country and getting the visa stamped for the new category. This process is called Change of Status and commonly referred as COS in immigration context.

What is the process for Change of Status (COS)?

When applying for COS, following steps happen:
1. The applicant submits COS form (I-539).
2. Additional documents need to be submitted to show that the alien has been maintaining valid status in US, and will be able to maintain status in the new visa category. To demonstrate this, one needs to submit:

  • Copy of current I-94, that states you are in valid status and not I-94 not expired
  • Depending on the status you are in, you need to submit additional documents.
    • If working on H1B or L1, copy of most recent payslips/ pay stubs and W2s
    • If on H4 or L2 as dependent, then copy of spouse’s payslips and W2s (when current visa category is H-4 or L-2)
    • If on F1 visa, copy of I20, if working on F1 OPT, relevant pay stubs as well.
    • If working employment documents like employment letters, etc.
    • Also, if on H4 or L2, then spouse’s employment documents and approval notice of H1B/L1

The above documents are just few examples, if you have any other documents that can prove your status, submit them accordingly.

How long does Change of Status (COS) take to process?

If just the COS is filed, then it takes few months to one year process, there is no specific timeline define. You can check USCIS website to see current processing times.  If the COS is filed along with H1B with I-129 form, then it can also take anywhere from few weeks to few months to process. The actual processing times are available at USCIS website. If you have premium processing option available like for moving to H1B, then you can get it done in 15 days, but you need to check USCIS website, if that is available at that point. For instance, in September 2018, USCIS suspended premium processing until Feb 2019

How long can I stay in US with COS in pending state ? What if my I-94 expires ?

In general, you can stay in US, as long as a final decision on your Change of Status (COS) application is made. In general, if your I-94 expires, your status in US ends and you are considered out of status. But, in the case of COS pending application with I-94 expired, you do not accrue ‘unlawful presence’. You will be in period of authorised stay. If your COS is approved, your I-94 tie back to the expired date and you will be considered as maintaining proper status. If let’s say you get denial on your COS application and your I-94 has expired for the previous status, then you will need to leave US immediately after you get the decision notice. For more info, read Lawful status vs Period of Authorised Stay – How it works 

Can I expedite 221g or RFE processing?

If standard COS is filed, then it cannot be expedited. If it is filed along w/ I-129 form, then it can be upgraded to premium processing. In this case, it will be adjudicated within 15 calendar days. If your COS petition is filed under premium, then once your RFE response is given, the 15 days calendar days clock kicks in and will be expedited.

What happens once COS is approved?

If USCIS approves the COS, then they would issue approved 797 along with an attached I-94. The attached I-94 will have the start and end date of the new visa category along with annotation for the new visa category. Check Sample H4 Approval Notice with I-94. The alien will be on the new visa category from the start date mentioned in the approval notice, and is supposed to start maintaining the new status from that date. For example, if COS is applied from L-1 to H-1, then L-1 status needs to be maintained until COS approval date, and H-1 status needs to be maintained thereafter.

What happens once COS is denied?

If USCIS denies the COS, then alien would continue to remain on your current visa category and need to maintain the same.

Is no stamping required with COS?

When COS is approved, the alien’s visa category changes immediately. No need to go for stamping. However, when the alien leaves the US next and wants to re-enter on new visa status into US, then they will have to go for the visa stamping of that visa category.

Can I travel out of US when COS is pending with USCIS ? Implications ?

You may travel out of US while COS is pending, but the COS will be considered abandoned as you left US. Your petition may be approved, but COS part will be denied and you will need to get Stamping at consulate to get into the new status.

What is Change of Status ( COS) in short ?

COS is a request to USCIS to process your application in a way, so that they grant you new visa status, without leaving the country. It is Change of Status of applicant from X to Y without leaving US.

Can Change of Status (COS) be applied when you are out of US ?

No, COS is not relevant when you are out of US. It is applicable only when you are in US and trying to change your status from one to other.

Will COS Abandonment with Travel out of US impact my Visa Stamping ?

Not necessarily. Your visa stamping at consulate depends on the visa type, its application related supporting documents and not directly related to your travel and COS abandonment.

Any other questions ?

   

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Comments ( 1,292 )

  1. COS Mandatory?

    Hi Saurabh,

    Am in L2 EAD and got H1B approved this year through a consultancy. But I didn’t apply for COS from L2 to H1B. Is it mandatory to apply COS to work in H1B or I can work in H1 after Oct 1 without applying for COS? Please clarify.

    Thanks
    Hema

    1. administrator
      Saurabh

      COS Mandatory?,
      You have two options:
      1. Apply for COS and once approved start working on H-1 from COS effective date
      2. Leave US, get H-1 visa stamped and return to work on H-1.

      1. Ravi Varma

        Thank you Saurabh for the Update, One question based on your reply “They would need copy of A’s approval notice for this. If not available, they would need at least the receipt number and print out of online status showing it as approved” -> If wife leaves the company after Petition is approved, then Providing receipt number/Petition number would work right?

        One more thing: After leaving the company, if Company A revokes the H1 they have applied after the Petition is approved and Wife is in US and working on L2. Company B can still file CAP exemption for the Petition which was approved before right?

        1. administrator
          Saurabh

          Ravi Varma,

          Yes, these can be submitted even after wife has left that employer and/or employer has withdrawn the approved H-1 petition.

    2. Dinesh Shahi

      Hello saurabh,
      Me and my girlfriend are currently studying Bachelor at same university on f1 visa, so now i want to change my status to f2 and my girlfriend will continue her study, so what are the detail process to change my status, we do have a financial problem, so please let me know the all process to change to f2 visa status.
      we have not married yet, to change my status to f2 i should have to married here or not? if so then how to complete the marriage process? please mail me the detail process. we are on great problem. we are waiting for your kind mail.
      Thank you so much!
      Email: [email protected]

  2. Pooja

    Hi Saurabh,
    Thanks for this useful blog and your answers.
    Here is my situation,(COS H4 to H1)
    My husband who is currently working in India got H1 via lottery and got the petition approved.I am working in US with H1 status.
    His employers are not getting suitable jobs for him as of now and asking him to travel in H4 to avoid appearing for visa interview in India
    Ques 1 : If he travels in H4 during september, Can the COS applied immediately by his employer?
    Ques 2 : Is there any denial chances with COS?If so do you know any reasons by your experience?
    Ques 3 : His current employer (India) is ready to hire him at US,so is it possible for them to do a COS and H1 transfer as well,is there any justification we need to tell to USCIS that why are we going for COS from consular processing

    Overall please tell me what are all the risk/advantages involved in this process.Are we in a right path?
    Thanks in advance

    1. administrator
      Saurabh

      Pooja,

      1. They can apply for COS after he lands in US. However, it would be better to wait for at least 30 days before filing COS to address any questions related to intent.
      2. Yes, COS can be denied. Usually this would happen if USCIS determines that you or your husband didn’t maintain H-1 or H-4 status. It could also happen if USCIS questions the intent of entering on H-4 and then applying for H-1 (hence the 30 day wait)
      3. The Indian employer will have 2 options – file cap-exempt petition while he is in India. He then appears for stamping through them and travels to US. The other option is to enter on H-4, and then apply for cap-exempt petition + COS.

  3. Manavi

    Hi Saurabh,

    Thank you for your great job in helping us getting our questions on visas resolved. I really appreciate it.
    I am here again with another question.

    I would like to first begin with some background
    # I was earlier in the US on L1B, with employer A.
    # I have an approved H1B from employer B and an approved COS from L1B to H1B effective from Oct 1
    # My husband is in the US on F1 visa

    Now, my assignment with employer A on L1B came to and end in June and therefore I had to immediately travel back to India.
    Currently, I am in India and considering options to move to us earlier than oct 1. I am planning to get F2 and travel to US and then apply for COS from F2 to H1B, since I already have an approved COS from L1B to H1B, will this have any negative impact ?

    Also, is it possible to change jobs even before my H1B is stamped ? Or is it mandatory to fist get the visa stamped and then switch jobs?

    What do you suggest ?

    1. administrator
      Saurabh

      Manavi,

      Your H-1 COS was approved for a future date. So if you enter on F-2 before Oct 1, you would still be on H-1 from Oct 1 w/o taking any other action. If you enter on F-2 after Oct 1, then you need to get COS approval from F-2 to H-1. You can confirm this w/ your H-1 attorney as well.

      Yes, you can find another employer and have them file cap-exempt petition for you prior to Oct 1. Some employers agree to do so, while others don’t.

      Stamping dates in India are pretty back-logged. Do you see yourself getting F-2 visa stamp interview dates prior to Oct 1?

  4. Ganesh Tiwari

    Hello Saurabh,
    I have a question. Hope you you will be able to help me.

    I am on J1 visa which will expire on 1st August 2016. My school district applied for my H1B visa under cap exempt category and my petition is approved by USCIS and my date of COS is 1st August 2016.

    Since I have summer vacations in school, I was thinking to go to India and come back on or before 1st August. I thought of getting my visa stamped when I go to India but I am not getting interview appointment until September 12.

    Now my question is can I go to India on J1 and come back on J1 before 1st August without need to get my visa stamped for H1? Will this effect my present Change of Status? Will there be any problem in my legal stay in USA or will there be any problem with my I-94? Or I am good to travel because I have valid visa (though near to expiry date) at the time of entry in USA?

    I will appreciate your valuable advise, suggestion and guidance. I will plan my trip to India accordingly.

    Thank you,
    Ganesh Tiwari.

    1. administrator
      Saurabh

      Ganesh Tiwari,

      So you have a future dated COS approval. If you travel outside of US now, return on current J-1 visa stamp prior to Aug 1, then you would still have your COS going into effect from Aug 1. This is b/c COS is for a future date and would still be valid by the time you return to US. You should discuss this w/ your H-1 attorney as well.

    2. Manavi

      Thank you Saurabh.. So, I need not worry about the status. Whatever the status is , it will automatically be changed to H1B, starting October 1st, provided I am already in the US before this date.

      For F2, the appointment is available in August 1st-2nd week.

      1. administrator
        Saurabh

        Manavi,

        I just realized that F-1 and F-2 are being given precedence and are able to get early interview slots. So go for it.

        You can look-up future dated COS approval to understand the nuances around it. Before entering US on F-2, talk to your H-1 employer and attorney as well; for you will be on their payroll from Oct 1.

  5. Venkat

    Hi Saurabh,

    My wife needs to travel to India in the month of August and needs to get a H4 visa stamped on her passport. She entered in to US with a H4 visa that has validity until Sep 2016. She had applied for a COS to F1 in April 2015 and is moving back to H4 status. Will she be eligible for drop-box option at the US consulate or should she appear for visa interview?

    One question in the list of eligibility questions is: “Do you have a previous H4 visa”. Should the answer be ‘Yes’, since she still has a visa stamped on her passport with H4 status valid till Sep 2016?

    Thanks,
    Venkat

    1. Venkat

      Forgot to mention this: She had applied only for a change of status to F1 in April 2015, but did not get F1 stamping on her passport. She only has her previously stamped H4 visa on her passport that is valid until September 2016.

      Thanks,
      Venkat

    2. administrator
      Saurabh

      Venkat,

      She is eligible for dropbox for H-4 visa. She still has H-4 visa in passport and the visa doesn’t become invalid due to approved COS. When she returns on H-4, her F-1 status is lost and she has to again file COS to F-1.

      1. venkat

        Hi Saurabh

        I want to share my situation and request help!!

        My employer(In India) applied I-129 for 2014 and it got approved in july 31 2014 when checked on USCIS website. I did not go for stamping in India and also left my employeer.

        In August 2015 I entered US on F1 visa. As my h1b was not applied with COS it didnt change the status automatically.
        Please also note that I am eligible for CPT from this september.

        Instead of going through all the hectic path from CPT to OPT to H1, I am thinking whether there is any way I can make use of my H1 which was picked and approved by USCIS in 2014.
        I have the case/receipt number and I know that it is valid until October 2017 and do not have the I797 as my employeer is not ready to share now.

        Please guide me, I dont have any idea.

        Thank You

        1. administrator
          Saurabh

          Venkat,

          An employer can file H-1 cap-exempt petition (aka H-1 transfer) along w/ COS for you. Once approved, you can start working on H-1. You would need copy of previous approval notice for this. If not available, then at least the receipt number along w/ print out of online status showing it as approved.

          1. venkat

            Thank You so much Saurabh for the reply,

            I do not have the approval notice(I797) from my employeer who filed the H1 petition for me while I was in india. But I have the receipt number and I know that the validity is until October 2017.

            From your previous experiences could you please let me know what are the chances of my H1 transfer and COS getting approved as per my situation?

            Is the risk worth taking as I may be out of status if it is not approved?

          2. administrator
            Saurabh

            Venkat,

            Approval of your H-1 transfer would consist of 2 things-
            1. Whether you are eligible for cap-exempt petition. Previous receipt number along with print out of online status showing it as approved addresses this.
            2. Whether the petition itself is H-1 eligible for not. This applies to all filed petitions and can go either way depending upon the submitted documents and information.

            You can apply it in PP to get quicker result and still have time to take another action in case it gets denied.

  6. F2toH1B

    Hi Saurabh,
    My current location is India.
    I have a F2 Visa and my h1B is selected in lottery . H1b is under regular processing.
    I am waiting for Petition Approval now.
    1. Can I travel to US on F2 visa before my h1b petition approval? (by taking personal leaves from my firm)
    2 If the h1b petition is approved, say in August, Still H1b will effective from Oct’1st . Thus Can I travel to USA on F2 after my petition is approved (on leaves) and get the stamping done in USA itself and join the work from there itself?

    1. administrator
      Saurabh

      F2toH1B,

      1. If you already have F-2 visa stamped, then you can use it to travel to US.
      2. Same as (1). H-1 will become effective from Oct 1 (or later). However, in order to work on H-1 you will either have to enter US on stamped H-1 visa or file COS from F-2 to H-1 while continuing to stay inside US.

    2. venkat

      Thank You for your guidance Saurabh,

      If it gets denied (hope not:)) will I be able to still continue on F1 status or will I be automatically out of status?

      With PP how long it may take to get to know whether its approved or not?

      1. administrator
        Saurabh

        Venkat,

        If you enter US on F-2 and your H-1 is denied, you can continue to remain inside US on F-2. No impact there.

        PP services would give you the result within 15 calendar days.

        1. venkat

          Great…Thank You again Saurabh:)

          I entered on F1 and not F2….I assume its same for F1 aswell??

          I currently do not have any employeer who can sponsor or file H1 transfer with COS for me….Could you please let me know how easy it is to find an employeer who can do this for me with the situation i am in that too with PP?

          If possible I request you to suggest on how to find an employeer for me right now ( I already have 4 years of working experience with very good MNCs while I was in India)?

          1. administrator
            Saurabh

            Venkat,

            Yes, same applies to F-1 visa holder. You can find employers through your network of friends, family and colleagues. Look-up the openings on sites like indeed, dice etc.

          2. venkat

            Thank You Saurabh

            Could you also please let me know any important dated or deadlines by which I need an employer to file my H1 transfer with COS (the approved I797 is valid until October 2017 only)?

            If H1 transfer is approved, do I need to go to India to get it stamped before start working?

          3. administrator
            Saurabh

            Venkat,

            If you are inside US, then new H-1 petition + COS should be applied before current I-94 expiration date. Once I-94 has expired, you will have to leave US and can apply for H-1 petition + consular processing from outside US.

  7. Das

    Hello Saurabh,

    This year my application is selected in the H1b lottery and waiting for approval. Meanwhile my wife H1b and my H4 & I-94 is about to expire and for that we have already filed for the extension. After this I understood that if my H4 extension is approved after my H1b, then final status will be H4. that means which ever is approved last will become the current status. Is this true ….

    Please clarify on this and what needs to be done, am under tremendous tension.

    1. administrator
      Saurabh

      Das,

      Look-up “Last Action Rule”. This states that the petition that goes into effect last will determine the eventual status. Two scenarios possible:

      1. H-1 is approved prior to Oct 1 w/ a start date of Oct 1. H-4 is also approved prior to Oct 1. In this case, your status would still be H-1 as H-1 goes into effect on Oct 1 i.e. after H-4 approval effective date.

      2. If H-1 is approved after Oct 1 w/ a start date of actual approval date, then your status would be H-4 or H-1 depending upon whether H-4 is approved after that date or prior to that date.

      Makes sense?

  8. vinayak kulkarni

    Hi,

    I am on F-2 now and got picked up in H1-B lottery and waiting for results. I would like to file Change of Status for my wife ( F-2 to H-4) but If we are going to India for stampping this year Do I still need to file her Change of Status or do I have an option to go back and get stamp after October 1 for her. Please help.

    I appriciate your help guys!

    Thanks & Regards,
    Vinayak

    1. administrator
      Saurabh

      vinayak kulkarni,

      Can you mention your travel dates – when do you plan to leave US and return? Also, the interview dates in India are backlogged by 2-3 months. So plan accordingly.

      1. Vinayak

        Planning to travel late November. I also I agree that dates are 2-3 months backloged for visa stamping so please advice

        I appreciate your help Saurabh!

        Thanks,
        Vinayak

        1. administrator
          Saurabh

          Vinayak,

          If your H-1 was approved w/ COS, then filing COS for your spouse is a must. Otherwise she will be out of status from Oct when you move to H-1. This is true even though you both plan to get H-1 and H-4 visa stamped in India, as the travel dates are after Oct 1.

          If the H-1 was approved w/ consular processing, then no action required, as you would remain on F-1 even after Oct 1.

  9. Alicia

    Hi, Saurabh,

    I got selected in H1B lottery this year and currently under F2 status. Do I still maintain F2 status even the H1B got approved now but not effective until 10/1?

    I have to resign from the company and already informed the HR. But it seems they haven’t withdraw my application yet and now the H1B got approved. This month, I found a job at a higher institution which applied the cap-exempt H1B for me. Now I am concerned if the H1B approval will affect the cap-exempt H1B application. If so, what should I do now? Thank you very much.

    1. administrator
      Saurabh

      Alicia,

      Let me see if I got your question correctly. You are currently on F-2, and have an approved cap-subject H-1B w/ start date of Oct 1. You now want to get cap-exempt H-1B through a higher institution.

      In this case, go ahead and ask the school to apply cap-exempt H-1B for you along w/ COS. Whenever it gets approved, your status will change to H-1B and you can work for that school.

      Come Oct 1, your cap-subject H-1B would get activated. At that point, you can either continue to work for school or join the H-1B cap-subject employer. Your choice.

      Does that make sense?

    2. Bahar

      Hi, Saurabh

      My spouse is filling forms for COS from F1 visa to H1B visa.
      I am on F2 visa as a dependent.
      Do I need to fill a separate i-539 form for COS to H4 visa or the i-539 form that my husband is filling is enough for both of us?

      Thank you in advance

      1. administrator
        Saurabh

        Bahar,

        Spouse can be included in the same I-539 form. However, if spouse’s H-1 COS has already been applied, you need to file a separate one.

  10. Zacharia

    Hi , I am currently in L1B visa, my company applied for H1B visa with COS this year and I got selected and got the receipt number . While it is in process, can we have a weekend travel to Canada and come back ?

  11. TN25

    I am currently on F1 OPT(expiring in June 2016).I am planning to travel to India in the 1st week of June and planning to return on H4. I wanted to enquire if I have to get my H4 visa Stamped while returning.

    Below mentioned is my Brief visa history–

    I travelled to US on (stamped) H4 visa which expires in Sept 2016
    My H4 visa was extended (as my Spouse changed Job)- extended H4 (Not Stamped) expires in Dec 2016

    I changed my Visa to F1(Not Stamped) in Sept 2014 and currently on OPT which expires on June 15.

    I am planning to return back to US in the last week of JULY.

    I have 2 Questions

    1. Do I have to get my H4 stamped again?
    2. Would there be any problems in my H4 Stamping considering my husband’s H1 is till DEC 2016

    1. administrator
      Saurabh

      TN25,

      1. H-4 stamping not required as visa stamp expires in Sep’16 and you are returning in Jul’16.

      2. Based upon (1), stamping is not required but if you still plan to go, then it should be ok. BTW, you will be eligible for dropbox as your visa has not expired yet. In addition, you will receive H-1 visa only until Dec’16, and so it would be of not much use after this visit (assuming you don’t travel outside US b/w Sep and Dec’16).

  12. Manavi

    Hi Saurabh,
    I appreciate the effort you are putting on this forum to help us with our queries.

    I need your advise on my situation here –
    I am currently working in US (with company A) on L1B and also have another offer from employer X who filed my H1B visa under Change of Status. My H1B application is through lottery, however I am still awaiting approval. My husband holds F1 status. My current assignment in North America with company A is over and now I am asked to continue on another assignment in my home country.
    Considering the fact that it is change of status from L1 to H1 , and that I have my H1B in process, I am considering 2 options :-

    1. to travel now and reenter US in October (when H1B is approved, not sure if COS will get approved in this case, if COS is not approved will my H1B still remain valid) ?
    2. to resign from my current company and change my status to F2 while waiting for COS to H1B

    Do you think if these options are viable. Is there a better option in this case ?

    1. administrator
      Saurabh

      Manavi,

      1. If you leave US while H-1 COS is pending, then COS is abandoned. H-1 petition would still get processed and may be approved; but w/ consular processing. In Oct, you can enter on stamped H-1 visa and be on H-1 status.

      2. Too many applications in play. You will have COS from L-1 to H-1 and COS from L-1 to F-2 in process and could cause a race scenario.

      I would prefer option (1), but that requires staying away from spouse for sometime. So its your personal choice.

      1. Manavi

        Thank you Saurabh. I really appreciate you taking time to answer my question.

        There is another question that comes to my mind … will it help if my H1B processing is upgraded to premium at this point? I assume that I will get the result sooner , also, with premium processing is COS approval (if everything goes well) guaranteed in 15 days ?

        1. administrator
          Saurabh

          Manavi,

          As you have already made through the lottery, you can upgrade to PP. This way, petition will be adjudicated within 15 calendar days (unless RFE is issued). However, official 15 day SLA doesn’t start until May 12.

          However, it won’t help much w/ the two options you mentioned earlier. You still need to leave US and return on stamped H-1, or file COS to F-2 and put another petition in play.

    2. Prachi

      Hi Saurabh,

      I am currently on H-1B and my exit date with the company is June15th. I am getting into an MBA program and the school initially admitted me for Fall and generated an I-20 for Fall. Which would put me out of status (30 day rule for F-1) so I asked for a admit to summer semester. Do you know how many classes should I be enrolled in as my start date on the I -20 is June 30th. and this is only a 5 week session at the university. Does USCIS request for a transcript (for RFE) to see if I was enrolled fulltime while my COS is in process. I am very confused as the international advisor at the university says I do not need to be enrolled in classes fulltime during my COS is in process but ISO at the other university said I need to be enrolled in 5 credits during the 5 week summer session and the 9 credits for Fall( I was more convinced with this answer). Can you please advise.

      1. administrator
        Saurabh

        Prachi,

        For COS, USCIS will want proof that you will be able to maintain the new status i.e. F-1. This would require I-20 copy, proof of finances etc. But I don’t think they would want proof of how many credits you are taking.

        If you want to join the school on XX date on F-1, then you need to start maintaining F-1 status. If that requires taking YY credits at the school, then that’s what you will have to do.

    3. Rads

      Thanks a lot for the information, it has cleared my greatest doubts on COS .
      I am in a confused situation. Need your expert advise.
      I am currently on H4 status and applied for a university. I got selected and now I want to get my visa converted. I am not very eager to get F1 as the university doesn’t offer CPT from day 1. My classes start from August 2016.
      Now I have two options- Go to India and get visa converted or get it done from the USA itself.
      In case I go to India for F1 visa before the classes begin and if gets denied will I loose my H4 status and need to reapply for H4?
      In case I get it converted from USA and it gets approved will next time I visit India before coming back I have to face interview for F1 conversion? what are the chances of denial that time and what are the consequences?

      What is your suggestion and do I need a attorney for this process?

      1. administrator
        Saurabh

        Rads,

        In case F-1 visa stamping runs into issues, it will not impact existing H-4 visa stamp and you can use it to return to US and stay on H-4.

        Yes, even if you get COS to F-1 inside US, next time you travel outside of US, you will have to get F-1 visa stamped. Generally this is safer than first option as you would have already been studying on F-1 and assumption is that USCIS would have already done the due diligence when approving the F-1. As always, any stamping can run into issues.

        IMO, unless you have a need to travel outside of US, you should try to do COS to F-1 and then leave stamping for next travel. You can do it yourself and don’t need an attorney, but its still an option that you have.

  13. H1b selected via lottery

    Hi Saurabh,

    My h1b was picked in lottery this year and i am planing for a travel to my home country for 2 months.When in india i will have to go for my h4 stamping ..I read that once i return back to US and my h1b is approved it will be without COS from h4 to h1.So in that case either i will have to file a COS again or else i wil have to go back again to my country and do the stamping for H1.Is it fine even i start working even after a year..Coz i have heard tht being in USA with h1 and no pay stub is illegal..Only when i plan to work i need to get my stamping done right?.Will that be fine? Or will there be any time period withing which i should get my stamping?And within this period till i do my stamping i will be in h4 status and will this affect my travel to my country?

    1. administrator
      Saurabh

      H1b selected via lottery,

      You are correct. When you return on H-4, your visa status will remain H-4 and will not change to H-1 as COS would be abandoned. However, this is possible only if you left US while your H-1 petition was still pending. In other words, there are scenarios possible where COS would be approved even if you travel on H-4 and return to US.

      Assuming your COS is abandoned, you can very well stay on H-4. Whenever you are ready to work on H-1, you can file COS to H-1 or enter US on stamped H-1 visa. Once on H-1 status, it becomes important to get paid as per LCA. There is no benching.

  14. Snehal

    Hi, I am currently on f2 and planning to join college for fall 16. It is already April. I have read that COS process take 4-6months. Universities take 4-6 weeks for issuing I20 and college starts around 2nd week of aug. Considering the duration left, what would be the best way to change my status from f2 to f1.

    What is the current timeline for COS processing for f2 to f1?

    Do I still have to file for COS if I am planning to leave the country and come back with f1 stamping before the start of college?

    1. administrator
      Saurabh

      Snehal,

      If you are planning to leave country before start of course, then COS is not required. Just go for F-1 stamping and return on the same to join your school.

  15. Mamta

    I have a B1-B2 visa valid for 10 years… One of my friends is an employer and wants to file H1 visa for me….but I am yet to decide whether i would want to work in the US ..
    Since the time is short, he is putting lot of pressure on me for applying soon..but i dont want to jeopardize my B1-B2 visa.
    Is it possible for me to apply for H1 without change of status and keep travelling on B1-B2….and only if i decide to work in the US then opt for change of visa status ?

    1. administrator
      Saurabh

      Mamta,

      I assume you are currently outside US. In that case, COS doesn’t apply as it can be applied only when you are inside US at the time of H-1 filing and continue to remain inside US through H-1 approval.

      While you are outside US, an employer can file H-1 petition for you. Once petition is approved, you can decide whether to appear for stamping or not. It is possible that they will cancel your B-1/2 w/o prejudice when approving H-1 visa stamp.

  16. Haider

    Hi,
    I just got my change of status from b2 to f1 approved after waiting for 10 long months! My school starts May 13th, is it safe for me to go for f1 stamping to Canada now!? Or should I wait to attend a couple of semesters before going for stamping?

    Thanks,
    H

    1. administrator
      Kumar

      Haider,
      If you plan to leave out of the country and re-enter US, then you will need stamping. If not, I do not see any reason for it…

  17. esra

    Hello,

    I have changed my status from F1 to H4. Since I received my approval by USCIS I haven’t gone outside of the US. This means I don’t have an actual visa stamp on my passport. For some legal documentations like ITIN number or green card process, forms are asking for my visa status and number. Should I fill them up with my former F1 visa number or what else? What do you suggest? Thank you so much!

    1. administrator
      Saurabh

      Esra,

      If your change of status from F-1 to H-4 was approved and you received an I-94 confirming the same, then you are on H-4 status and not F-1. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t entered on H-4 or got it stamped.

      You current status as H-4. If your I-94 still says F-1, then you are on F-1 status.

    2. 1234

      HI Esra,

      I applied for my COS from F1 to H4 2 months back. I haven’t get any response yet. If you don’t mind can you please tell me how long does it take to get approval in COS .I would really appreciate your response. Thank you.

  18. Nupur

    Hello,
    I am a college student currently in US. I am on L2 visa and I am dependent on my dad. My parents are in US on their respective visas. I am going to change my visa status to F1. If I go back to India in my holidays after changing my visa status, do I need to go for visa stamping and if yes then can they reject my visa?
    Thank you.

    1. administrator
      Kumar

      Nupur,
      Yes, if you change your visa status and do NOT have a valid F1 Visa stamp, you will need to go for visa stamping to re-enter US on F1 visa status. It is standard visa interview and involves its own set of risks…Be confident and do the interview, you will be fine.

  19. MayC

    Hi,

    Recently, I received I-797B without I-94 at the bottom. I am in US currently on F1 CPT status and the petition states that I have to exit and re-enter with stamping.
    Can you help me understand whether a separate form is necessary to be filled out by the employer while filling out H1B petition (I129)? If yes, then which form is it that the employer missed to fill out?
    Thank you in advance.

    Regards,
    MayC

    1. administrator
      Saurabh

      MayC,

      You received 797 w/o I-94 attached b/c of one of the following reasons:
      – Your employer submitted the form incorrectly. Do you have a copy of the I-129 that he filed? If yes, then look at Part 2, question 4. b should have been selected for COS.
      – You left US and re-entered US while your H-1 petition was still in process
      – Employer filed the correct I-129 but didn’t provide necessary documents for COS
      – USCIS made an error

      1. MayC

        Hi Saurabh,

        Thank you for providing the inputs and being so quick. Can you list necessary documents that you mentioned in bullet point 3?

        Thank you once again!

        Regards,
        Mayur

        1. administrator
          Saurabh

          MayC,

          They would have to show that you were previously maintaining valid status and will continue to do so after COS approval. Typical documents include your current I-94, I-20, CPT etc; but there could be additional depending upon your case.

  20. Aishwarya

    I’m on my h1b visa currently and my h1b visa stamping is valid until -April 2016. I have received my h4 EAD card which is effective starting feb’2016. If I plan a international tourist trip in mar’2016, would my h1 stamping still be valid for re-entering US?

    1. administrator
      Saurabh

      Aishwarya,

      When you say H-4 EAD was approved, did you move to H-4 from H-1? How can they approve EAD when your current status is H-1 and not H-4?

      1. Aishwaryq

        Saurabh,
        I applied for H4 and EAD concurrently and both of them have the effective date of feb 2016. Until then, my h1b is valid for work permit.

        1. administrator
          Saurabh

          Aishwaryq,

          Ok, your H-4 COS was approved for a future date. Your H-1 visa stamp will remain valid unless it expires or the consulate marks it as canceled. You can use it to re-enter US provided your H-1 employer wants to hire you in US on that visa.

  21. Priya

    Hi,

    Could antbody tell me what does this mean : ADMINISTRATIVE PROCESSING “Your visa case is currently undergoing necessary administrative processing. This processing can take several weeks, or longer. As explained on the day of your interview, if further information is needed, you will be contacted. If your visa application is approved when administrative processing is finished, you will receive notification to collect the passport with the visa from the Loomis branch you selected when you booked your appointment.”

    Is my visa approved or not?

    1. Aish

      Hello Saurabh, My H4 EAD is currently active, can i still re-enter US using the valid H1B stamping (Valid until April 2016) or do i have to get a separate stamping for H4 Visa?

      1. administrator
        Saurabh

        Aish,

        If you want to be on H-4 visa after returning to US, then get H-4 visa stamped. If you enter on H-1 visa, then your status will be H-1 and not H-4.

        You mentioned earlier that you have H-4 EAD going into effect in Feb 2016. Can you tell what is the exact date for it? Also, what date are you planning to return to US?

  22. Priya

    Hello,

    I have applied for COS from H4 to F1 one month ago. Due to some personal reasons I have to go to India this month.
    What will happen to my COS if I change the country before the COS approval.
    Can I come back and will have to aply again for the COS from the starting or just have to provide the new 1-94 to USCIS and my previous COS application will remain the same?

    Could anybody please help me for this question?

    Thanks!

    1. administrator
      Saurabh

      Priya,
      If you leave US while COS is pending, then it will be abandoned. Once you return to US, you have to reapply for COS.

  23. Priya

    Hello,

    I need a help regarding my visa stamping date. I canceled my F1 visa stamping appointment date 5 mins back and trying to book the same date again. But I am not able to see that date available on stamping calender after my cancelation.

    Could anybody help me as after how many minutes of cancelation will that date shows as available?

    Please its very urgent.

    1. administrator
      Saurabh

      Priya,
      Is the date/time available now? If not, then most likely someone else picked it up b/w the time it was canceled and your attempt to reschedule.

  24. Jo

    Hi,

    Currently I’m on h4 visa and My h1 is in process its in RFE stage. I was in India three months ago and I came back to us in the last month. I heard that when we are still in US and if our h1 is in process and has been approved when we are in US then our status directly changes from h4 to h1. Is that true or do I need to apply for COS separately for change of status.

    Secondly, I’m planning to go to India in the month of dec again for my sister marriage. If I go to India do I need to give my h1 interview.

    Suppose if my h1 has been approved when I’m still in US and my visa has been automatically changed from h4 to h1 when I visit India in the month of December do I still have interview.

    1. administrator
      Saurabh

      Jo,
      You left US while H-1 was still in progress. So separate COS needs to be filed after approval, or you need to enter US on stamped H-1 visa

      If you plan to return to US to work on H-1, then H-1 stamping is required. Your H-1 will not be approved w/ COS as you left US.

      1. Jo

        Hi saurabh,

        Thanks for the reply. Well I’m already in US currently and I did come on h4 visa when my h1 is in processing. So once my h1 is approved do I need to fly to India and give interview or do my company need to file cos .

        Appreciate for your response.

        1. administrator
          Saurabh

          Jo,
          Both options are available. You should check w/ employer if they are willing to file COS. If not, getting it stamped from home country is the only other option.

  25. Mahesh

    My wife is currently in F1 OPT and is not working, i wanted to apply for COS from F1 to H4 and i read above that we need pay stubs for my wife since she is on F1 OPT. Is it mandatory to have pay stubs for my wife to apply for COS form F1 OPT to H4?

    1. administrator
      Saurabh

      Mahesh,
      For any COS, she needs to show that she is currently maintaining status. For OPT, one can be unemployed for only 90 days. So if she is still within those 90 day period, she may be fine w/o payslips. If she is over that 90 day period, then she is out of status and COS may run into issues. A better option in this case would be to travel outside US, and return on stamped H-4 visa (no visa stamp required if previous H-4 visa stamp is still valid).

  26. Priya

    Hi ,

    I am on my H4 Visa and planning to go for my MBA in Jan 2016. I will apply for my COS from H4 to F1 by 15th Oct.

    Could anyone please guide me how much time it takes in COS?

    Also can I get my F1 stamping in Canada?

    1. administrator
      Saurabh

      Priya,
      COS can take 2-3 months and there is no PP option available. As for stamping, its better to go to home country. Canada/Mexico is a preferred option if you are going for visa renewal, or if you are going for employment visa after completing education in US.

      1. Priya

        Thanks for your reply. But if I have USCIS approved COS, I-20 from college then what is the exact reason for denial while stamping? Do you have any idea ?

        Please help!

        1. administrator
          Saurabh

          Priya,
          They may decide not to entertain the visa request itself. If you don’t believe to CA or US, you are considered a TCN (Third Country National). Consulates in CA/MX may refer the case back to home country if they feel that applicant’s home country is better equipped with information to process the visa. You may call US consulate in CA to ask about their policy and if you can apply there.

          Having an approved COS doesn’t guarantee visa approval. Things may still go wrong at the consulate, so its better to have back-up plans in case you run into issues at the consulate.

  27. reddy

    I am on H1 b for 7months without job and my employer is not ready to give my paystubs . i am waiting from 2 months for his reply and now he is asking me to leave to india or pay huge amount for my paystubs. if i go back to india and go for h4 stamping will they ask me my pay stubs?. please let me know

  28. Aley

    Hello,
    if I apply for a change of status and I am currently doing my OPT (F1) and want to get my J1 and continue working for this company.
    Am I allowed to keep working here once my opt expires and I didn’t get an answer regarding my J1?
    Thank you very much.

  29. Jack

    Dear,
    I have questions for my immigration related filing.
    Currently I am on OPT and want to change my status to H4. My spouse will be filing his H1B extension with me.
    My question is, if we file his H1B extension under premium procedure will that reduce my wait period for H4 COS. Would that make the process faster for me?

    Thank you in advance for your advise.

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  32. Ram

    I got my H1b through 2013 quota. I797 got until Aug 2014 and hence, Visa got stamped until Aug 2014.
    So currently, the status is expired and I have never travelled to US.

    Now my Spouse got H1B and she travelled to US. As a dependent I got H4.
    Now If I travel to US on H4, will US employers will help to renew the H1b (which is got expired)
    In case if it is possible, what are the usual complications/issues?
    As H1B will get renewal in US directly!

  33. Chinmay

    Hi Saurabh,

    I am currently on an H1B visa and my wife is on an H4 visa. My wife has not been to the US thus far. I found a consultant company who is ready to sponsor her H1B visa. My question is:
    1) Does she have to be in the US when the filing is done? Or Can she remain in India when the filing is done in April?
    2) If she comes to the US before April, can she go back once the filing is done i.e. in a month’s time? Or Does she have to wait for the H1B approval results? i.e. May-June. She has a job in India and wants to go back if its OK.
    3) If she is in India and if she can apply for H1B being there and if things go well and her H1B petition is approved, can she still come to the US on H4 visa before 1st Oct? i.e. 1st Sept after the petition is approved? OR Does she have to get her H1B stamped to enter US?

    Please answer all the above questions. A lot of decisions depend on the above.

    Thanks in advance.

  34. RAVISH

    HI,
    MY WIFE IS ON H1B , I WANT TO TRANSFER HER STATUS TO H4. BUT SHE DOES NOT HAVE PAYSTUBB FOR LAST 3 MONTH AS SHE WAS ON MATERNITY LEAVE. IS IT OK TO SUBMIT PRIOR PAYSTUB WHILE FILING CHANGE OF SATUS OR IT IS ADVISIBLE TO START WORKING FOR SOME TIME THEN TRANSFER?….H4 STATUS WILL BE CONSIDERED FROM THE DAY USCIS RECEIVES APPLICATION OR THE DATE WHN THEY APPROVES IT? IN CASE H4 STATUS CONSIDERED FROM DATE OF APPROVAL BY USCIS, DOES SHE HAS TO WORK DURING PROCESSING TIME AS H1B EMPLOYEE?

    THANKS

  35. KK

    Hello Guys,

    I have situation, My H1 B was approved on August 13, 2014. I studied in state university. I completed my Master’s from it. Now I received Change of status 1797 B form with I 94 attached to it. My opt is expiring on Oct 30. When I apply my H1 Petition, I have some BCBS as my Client, before Approval I changed my Client now to some Molina Care. My H1 will not get activated unless I go to India for stamping. Please suggest me something.
    Thanks in advance.
    KK

  36. Karan

    F1 to L1 possible?

    I am currently on OPT. I have filed H1-B and not sure whether I was picked up in lottery.

    I came to USA in 2012 Jan and prior to that I was working for a large MNC for 4 years. The same MNC now wants to hire me and do L1. Is a COS possible from F1(OPT) to H1. I will be satisfying the one year requirement for L1. The thing is, they will be hiring me in US not in India. As far as i know, hiring in India and transferring to US on L1 should be possible but how about hiring me in US and doing a COS here.

    Saurabh, very much appreciate if you could reply. Many thanks.

  37. MW

    COS from H1b to H4:

    For Form i-159, in Instruction sheet, no where it is mentioned to submit Payslips or W2.
    Refer Section 9 in below pdf.
    http://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/files/form/i-539instr.pdf

    Can you recheck and confirm why Payslip or W2 required?

    1. administrator
      Saurabh

      MW,
      When applying for COS, one needs to show that they were in valid status prior to COS filing and also that they will be able to maintain valid status once COS has been approved.

      I assume you are filing COS from H-1 to H-4. So you need to submit your H-1 paylsips and W-2 to show that you have been maintaining legal status until COS application date. In addition, you will have to submit spouse’s payslips and W-2 to show that you will be maintaining legal status on H-4 (H-4 status is driven by H-1’s status).

      If you have those documents, then do submit them. If you don’t have them (which means valid legal status wasn’t maintained inside US), then you can submit w/o those documents. USCIS will probably issue RFE asking for those documents and you will have to provide them at that time.

  38. Saurabh

    I have been in USA for 10 months and my L1b visa got expired few days back but my I94 is valid till 2016, which means that I can legally stay and work here in USA till 2016. However, I cannot leave USA till I get a valid visa (not just valid I94).

    Can I apply for H1 visa and continue working in USA on L1 till October and then switch to H1?
    My company’s visa guy is suspecting that if I want to apply for H1, then I have to go back to India and cannot work in USA on L1 till October, is it true?

  39. Saurabh

    I have been in USA for 10 months and my L1b visa got expired few days back but my I94 is valid till 2016, which means that I can legally stay and work here in USA till 2016. However, I cannot leave USA till I get a valid visa (not just valid I94).

    Can I apply for H1 visa and continue working in USA on L1 till October and then switch to L1? My company’s visa guy is suspecting that if I want to apply for H1, then I have to go back to India and cant work in USA on L1 till october, is it true?

  40. H1B Applicant

    Hi,
    I am applying for H1B through a consultant this April 2014. I am currently on H4 visa valid until Sep 2014. I am planning to travel to India in April and come back to US in June 2014.

    Should i go for stamping in India if my H1 visa gets approved?
    Does change of status happen automatically on H1 approval? meaning it starts in April 2014.
    Is it wise to travel to India after my H1 application?

  41. rao

    hi,

    I have applied for L1b To H1B Cap exempt process.
    I am waiting for Labour to be cleared

    Any idea how many days it will take to complete the proces

    Labour approval + sending docs to USCIS + getiing receipt number + USCIS decision?

  42. CD

    Anybody got their petition approved without change of status ? What are you being suggested by your attorney ? My attorney is saying to go for an I129 with amendment of status in premium processing. He is saying it’s a mistake from USCIS but as MTR takes forever we should go for an amendment petition.

  43. Shruti

    i plan to change my status from H1B to L2. My lawyer stated that i can resign from my current job (H1b) and be on a “Change of Status” applied for L2 once a receipt is received from USCIS. My I94 is valid till Nov 2014. Please reconfirm. This contradicts to the statement on your page ” if COS is applied from L-1 to H-1, then L-1 status needs to be maintained until COS approval date, and H-1 status needs to be maintained thereafter.”
    Please advice. Thanks

  44. Anup

    Hello Saurabh,

    I am an employee of company X and was working on L2 EAD till July 30. Same employer filed H1B petition (Change of status) and it got approved. As my L2 EAD expired on July 30, we travelled back in July it self. Now my H1B approval notice (I797A) has I94 attached. I believe I need to go for stamping before reentry to US for new visa – H1. My question, what I should do with I-94 ?
    And also will this case any issue when I go for stamping ?
    Finally, Is there any other documentation / paper work need to be done before going for stamping ? Please let me know.

  45. PV83

    1> currently I am working on L1b with I-94 valid till 2015. I had filed H1b with consular processing so that I can activate H1 when ever I want . However my H1b has come with new i-94 date on Oct,23,2013 valid till sep-1-2016.
    I belive my COS from L1 to H1 is done. My wife’s L2 PA is on OCT,14,2013. I will continue to work on L1b so that she can join me on l2.

    My question is .. will there is be any problem while her L2 PA in India. Is it ok to go for L2 stamping? Please suggest .
    Her L2 PA date was scheduled before my new I-94 came.

    2> Will COnsulate have my new visa H1 status or they will have my current status as L1 as I am continuing to work on L1?

    Please suggest ASAP.

  46. atmin

    Hi All,

    here is my case :-
    My Employer is same for L1B & H1B
    1. Currenlty iam having L1B visa , as i get my stamping in canada and come back in USA on 2-Oct-2013. At same time i have H1 B approved Petition which was effective from 1-oct-2013 to 15-may-2015 but i want to stay on L1 B therefore i get my L1 B stamped from canada and come back in USA after 1 oct 2013 therefore my H1B COS not applicable.

    Now my L1B is getting maxout on july 2014, can it be possible to stay after july on H1B. may be i need to file COS again in order to make my H1B valid. So in that case i no need to go out from USA and get my H1B stamped. I want to avoid going out for stamping .

    Please guide me .

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