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Change Status out of G-4 to Non-Immigrant Visa

For many G-4 visa holders in the Washington, DC area, after a few years of working for an international organization like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, or United Nations, they may decide to seek a different non-immigrant visa in the U.S. They may choose to continue their studies as an F-1 Student or even enter the private sector as an H-1B Temporary Worker. However, as members of international organizations, they are entitled to certain immunities and privileges which must be waived before they can officially change status.

The process to Change Status can already be a confusing one, so the added requirements of waiving these privileges and immunities can be overwhelming to those unfamiliar with the US immigration process. See https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/other-visa-categories/visa-employees-nato/change-status.html for Department of State guidance. Fortunately, with the assistance of a trained immigration attorney, it can be made clearer.

STEPS

First, you must determine what is the most appropriate status to change to.

Ø If you are going to study in the US as an F-1, you should first apply to the school, and, with their help, obtain an I-20 which proves your intent to study.

Ø If you are going to work in the US as an E-1, E-2, E-3, H-1B, L-1, O-1, O-2, P-1, P-2, P-3, your employer should give you a formal job offer and file an I-129 Petition on your behalf. For reasons discussed below, for employment petitions, timing is very important.

Second, your foreign mission or international organization must notify the State Department, Office of Foreign Missions or the UN Protocol and Liaison Services that you are leaving your assignment. This would be the same step if you were just leaving your employment and returning abroad so your organization should have procedures in place to complete this. This officially ends your G-4 visa stay.

Third, G-4 visa holders should submit two (2) original Form I-566, Interagency Record of Request directly to the Diplomatic Liaison Division of the US Department of State, or the US Mission to the UN within the 30 day grace period given to G-4 visa holders after termination. You should also submit evidence that you meet the minimum requirement to change status, such as:

Ø Your I-20 if you will be studying.

Ø The I-797 Notice and job offer if you will be working in an employment category.

Once the appropriate agency approves the I-566, usually within 5-7 days, they will sign and return the Forms I-566 to you. You will then file this form along with an I-539, Application to Extend/Change Status directly to USCIS.

IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS

The biggest thing to consider with changing status is the timing. As discussed above, once your foreign mission or international organization notifies the appropriate agency of your termination, you have only 30 days to get your Change of Status paperwork to USCIS. Within these 30 days, you should account for at least 5-7 business days for processing the I-566.

Additionally, while the form I-129 generally allows for Change of Status from one non-immigrant visa status to another employment-based non-immigrant visa, G-4 applicants cannot use this provision. According to Department of State guidelines, for those seeking to Change Status from G-4 to another working non-immigrant visa category, they must present an I-797 receipt notice with their I-566, Interagency Record of Request. In order to do this, the I-129 must already at least be pending, if not approved. In practice, the I-129 should already be approved before filing so that the I-539 Application to Change Status is not rejected.

The current wait times for Change of Status via form I-539 are generally six months to a year. During this time the Applicant can remain in the US but they cannot work (unless otherwise authorized), they cannot study, and they cannot travel abroad. For employment-based Change of Status, the wait time for an I-129 approval should also be considered.

Therefore, when timing out when to leave a G-4 position and transitioning via the Change of Status process, applicants should be very careful to time things out correctly to minimize their risks and achieve their goals. Using an attorney who is well-versed in immigration law can help immensely with this. A skilled attorney could also help advise you whether it is better for you to attempt a Change of Status or process instead through your consulate.

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Washington, DC 20006

Phone: 202-798-7328
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