It’s not uncommon to arrive in the United States for one reason and then decide to stay for another. You might arrive for a school and then found an employment. You might come on a tourist visa and decide that you want to attend the school. It is prohibited to engage in any activity that is not allowed under your current visa. If your plans change while in the country, you need to change your immigration status as soon as possible. Determine your eligibility The first step to changing to a different status is going to the immigration attorney and discussing whether you’re eligible to make the change. Generally, you must be lawfully admitted to the United States and your current status must be valid. That is, you can’t apply for a change of status after your original status expires. If you’ve committed any crimes while in the United States, you’re probably ineligible for a change. In addition, if you’ve violated any conditions in your original status, that may cause problems as well. Some types of visas cannot be changed for another type of a nonimmigrant visa. A fiance visa is one example. A person who entered the US on affiance visa has to either get married or leave the country since the only purpose of the fiance visa is to re-unite the couple for marriage. You also can’t change your status if you’re in transit through the United States on a boat, plain, train with a transit visa. In a few limited circumstances, you don’t need to change your status. If you’re here on B-1 business status, you can stay on vacation until your status expires. In addition, spouses and children of people on diplomat or foreign media status may not have to apply for a change. There are more than 40 different statuses, and your immigration attorney can help you determine if you need to apply for a change of status and if you’re eligible to receive an approval of your application. For employment related changes If you want to change your status so that you can work in the United States, your employer needs to prepare and submit Form I-129. Your employer must show that you’re going to perform work that qualifies for approval. You must also show that you meet the requirements to change status. When you’re seeking an employment-based change, your spouse and children don’t automatically receive a change along with you. They need to complete and submit form I-539. It’s not a form that your employer submits. However, it’s a good idea to coordinate with your employer, so that you submit all of the documents at one time. For changes that aren’t employment related If you want to change your status for reasons that aren’t related to employment, you submit form I-539. You should submit this form at least 45 days before your current legal stay expires. However, it might take even longer than that to process your application. Form I-539 asks for demographic information, address history, and your personal behaviors in the past. Why work with an immigration attorney? Changing your status can be a long process. Until your change in status comes through, you can’t stay in the country. If the paperwork isn’t done on time, you have to leave. It’s extremely important to make sure that the paperwork you submit is complete, correct and filed on time. An immigration attorney can ensure that your paperwork gets done right the first time and won’t be returned for corrections. If there are things that you can do to speed up the process, your attorney can help you put them into action. An immigration lawyer can also give you guidance as to the best course of action. There may be options that you hadn’t considered that can help you achieve your objectives. These options may be able to make the process faster, more convenient and less expensive. With so much on the line, an immigration attorney can help you make the process of changing your immigration status in the United States as smooth as possible.