How might a pending I-526 petition affect an application to change from F-1 to F-2 status?

The F-1 and F-2 visas do not carry dual intent and therefore do not permit the applicant to express immigrant intent. A pending I-526 petition carries an intent to immigrate, which can make it difficult for the applicant to successfully change status from F-1 to F-2.

A pending I-526 petition is a clear indication of the applicant’s long-term goal to eventually permanently relocate to the United States. By contrast, applying for an F-1 or F-2 visa or adjusting from one to the other will require the applicant to demonstrate nonimmigrant intent. The applicant will need to prove that their intention is to depart the United States after the expiration of their visa or completion of studies and that the nature of their stay in the United States is temporary.

In these cases, it is highly advisable to seek counsel from an experienced immigration attorney who can assess the applicant’s unique case and circumstances to determine whether changing status is a possibility and if not, what other avenues may be available for the applicant to explore.

Changing from F-1 to F-2 Status

To change from F-1 to F-2 status, the applicant must maintain their current status until the change has been processed. In other words, the applicant must take action to change status before the expiration of their current F-1 visa.

Applicants who wish to change from F-1 to F-2 status have two different options: (i) returning to their home country, applying through the local U.S. embassy or consulate office, and re-entering the United States in new status or (ii) applying internally by sending an application to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The first option entails submitting an I-20 Request Form along with supporting documents. After receiving a new F-2 dependent Form I-20, the applicant should have their parent or spouse sign and date the form before returning to their home country and applying for an F-2 visa through the local U.S. embassy or consulate office.

Applying internally entails filing Form I-539 and appending a number of supporting documents, including valid immigration documents such as the applicant’s passport, Form I-20 and Form I-94, evidence of financial means, evidence of the familial relationship between the applicant and spouse or parent with F-1 status, a letter of interest explaining why the applicant wishes to change status, and a check for the filing fee.