Over ten million people come to the United States annually either as tourist (B-2) or Business (B-1) visitors. In any given year, approximately 500,000 people will come to the U.S. to study as (F-1) student visitors. Student visas and visitors visas are meant to be temporary. At the time of applying for F-1 visa, you must intend to return home when your studies are completed. At the time of applying for B-visa, you must intend to leave the U.S. before your visa expiration date, as stated on your Form I-94. Each visa has its benefits and its drawbacks, and each visa may raise an issue of fraudulent intent if its holder is not compliant with the visa limitations.
Specifically, B-1 visa allows you to be in the U.S. for business purposes, such as making investments, buying goods, attending seminars, or performing other temporary work for an employer located outside the United States. It is sometimes difficult to draw the line between permissible business activities and illegal employment on a B-1 visa.
Unlike, B-1 visitor, the B-2 tourist may not engage in business-related activities at all. A condition of being admitted on a B-2 visa is that you are visiting solely for purposes of pleasure or medical treatment. You may not accept a job in the U.S. or operate a business on a B-1 or B-2 visitor visa. B-2 visitor visas are often multiple entry, meaning you can use them for many trips to the United States. Although you may make many trips to the U.S. on your visitor visa, the length of each visit is normally limited to between 30 days and six months.
The key benefits of F-1 student visa are as follows: 1) you may work legally in a part-time job on campus, or off campus with special permission; 2) you may apply for extension of stay indefinitely , as long as you continue to maintain your eligibility for the status and your designated school official grants an extension to complete studies. As one of the qualifying requirements for F-1 visa, you must provide evidence of your ability to pay for your entire course of studies and for your necessary living expenses without working. If you bring your minor children or spouse with you, you should also provide evidence that you would be able to provide for your family without working and without any public assistance.
At the time you apply for a student visa, you must have enough cash on hand to cover all your first-year expenses. The best evidence of your ability to pay educational expenses is a letter from a bank, or a bank statement, either in the U.S. or abroad, showing an account in your name with a balance of at least the amount of money it will take to pay for your first year of education. Alternatively, you can submit a written guarantee of support signed by your parents or other close relatives - a promise in writing to finance your education, together with your relative's bank statements.
Qualifications for B-2 visa are not as strict as for F-1 visa. For example, you only required to prove your financial ability to cover expenses for your trip to the U.S. and your expenses during your stay here. You also do not have to have a good English language ability. Because it can be more difficult to get a student visa that a tourist visa, USCIS presumes that any request to change status from B-2 tourist visa to a (F-1) student visa indicates a fraudulent use of the B-2 visa at the time of entry to the U.S., and will therefore, always deny the request for change of status, with two exceptions.
The first exception is if you made it clear when you applied for the B-2 visa that you were entering the U.S. to look for a school to enroll in. As a prospective student, you can come to the U.S. as a tourist for the purpose of locating a school you want to attend. If you do this, however, be sure to tell the consul at your B-2 visa interview that this is your intent so that s/he can make the appropriate annotation in your passport (usually "Prospective Student - school not yet selected"). When you enter on B-2 tourist visa, and if you later request a change of status to F-1 student visa, USCIS will presume that you committed fraud by applying for a visitor visa when you intended to come to the U.S. on a B-2 visa and do not have the annotation indicating that you are a prospective student, you will need to leave the U.S. before your authorized stay expires, so that you can apply for a student visa from you home country.
The second exception is if you made it clear when you applied for the B-2 visa that you already were accepted as a student in a U.S. more than 30 days before the start of your course in order to be a tourist. Usually, consular officials let each school decide for itself who is and is not qualified to study there. Still, during the consular interview at which your visa is approved or denied, the official will be listening closely to your ability to understand and communicate in English. Occasionally, the U.S. consulate may refuse to issue a student visa because it thinks your English is not good enough.
Additionally, if you decide to apply for a green card before your studies are finished, the U.S. government will allow you to maintain student status while pursuing a green card, but only if you are able to convince its consular representative that you did not intend to immigrate when applying for either B-visa or F-visa. Proving it can be difficult.
Consultation with an immigration attorney would be highly beneficial in most circumstances. A lawyer can help to make sure that you qualify for a specific visa, that you understand its pros and cons, and that this visa option is the best choice in your individual circumstances.