B-1, B-2, VWP or F-2 Visa Study Restrictions


B non-immigrants

B-1 visitors for business and B-2 visitors for pleasure are prohibited from enrolling in a course of study unless they apply for and USCIS approves a change of status from B status to F-1 or M-1 student status per 8 C.F.R 214.2(b) (7) and 8 C.C.R. 248.1, as amended by 67 Fed. Reg.18062.

If you begin a course of study prior to the approval of a change of status application you will be considered to have violated a condition of your immigration status. USCIS will deny a change of status request if you as a B-1 or B-2 nonimmigrant are enrolled in a course of study before filing the application for change of status or while the application is pending before USCIS. 8 C.C.R. 248.1 © (3)

The INS memo from J. Williams dated April 12, 2002 specifies, The term 'course of study' implies a focused program of classes, such as full-time course load leading to a degree or, in the case of a vocational student, some type of certification. Casual, short-term classes that are not the primary purpose of the alien’s presence in the United States, such as a single English language or crafts class, would not constitute a “course of study.” Courses with more substance or that teach a potential vocation, such as flight training, would be considered part of a “course of study” and thus would require approval of a change of status.”

As the phrases “course of study” and “actions inconsistent with B non-immigrant status” have not to date been clearly defined, students in the B-1, B-2 and VWP are:

  • Strongly encouraged to consult with an IISS DSO before you enroll in course.
  • B-1 and B-2 students should be aware that should  you pursue full-time study and later decide to attempt to apply for a change of status to F-1 or M-1 without departing the U.S., you will need to apply independently or have an attorney apply on your  behalf.

Study Restrictions for F-2 Visa Status Holders

Individuals in F-2 status are restricted from study as listed by the following per per 8 C.F.R. 214.2(f) (15)(i)

  • The F-2 spouse of an F-1 visa student may not engage in full-time study.
  • F-2 children of an F-1 visa student may only engage in full-time study if the study is in an elementary or secondary school.
  • F-2 spouses and children may engage in study that is vocational or recreational in nature.
    • The phrase “avocational or recreational in nature” has not been further defined by the Department of Homeland Security although information from the Federal Register states, “…If a student engages in study to pursue a hobby or if the study is that of an occasional, casual or recreational nature, such study may be considered as vocational or recreational.”

Individuals who are of F-2 visa status should therefore be aware that even part-time study might be interpreted by USCIS as something other than “vocational or recreational” if it counts toward a degree requirement, leads to a specific educational or professional objective or it satisfies a pre-requisite. Prospective students who currently hold B-1, B-2 or F-2 visas are strongly encouraged to consult with an IISS DSO before enrolling in courses.

  • F-2 students should be aware that should they pursue full-time study and later decide to attempt to apply for a change of status to F-1 or M-1 without departing the U.S., they will need to apply independently or have an attorney apply on their behalf.