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Can I come home for summer?

Published:Tuesday | June 10, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Dahlia Walker-Huntington

Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,

A student went to the United States (US) on a non-immigrant visa but got into a school in the US and changed to a student visa. The student would like to come to Jamaica for the summer holidays. Will it be a problem for the student to go back to the US?

- V

Dear V,

If you travel to the US on a non-immigrant visa, e.g. B1/B2 visitor's visa and after being in the US for 30 days decide that you want to apply to attend college or in the case of a person who has not yet graduated from high school, to attend private high school, you can do so. You would have to change your status from B1/B2 to F1 student status.

However, if you attempt to make any changes before being present in the US for 30 days or more, it will be presumed that you intended to change status when you entered as a visitor and therefore violated your B1/B2 visa and the change can be denied and you can be asked to leave the US.

When you have successfully changed your status in the US from a visitor to a student, your visitor's status no longer exists. If you leave the US, in order to return to your student status, you must apply to the US embassy in Kingston for a F1 student visa. Notwithstanding the approval by US Citizenship and Immigration Services in the US of the F1 status, it is up to the consular officer at the embassy in Kingston to decide to grant you the F1 visa and stamp it in your passport. Without that visa you would be unable to return to your studies in the States.

Often, the US embassy will also stamp 'cancelled' on your B1/B2 visa. If your B1/B2 is not cancelled and you return to the US on that visa, you cannot attend school.

It is an unfortunate dilemma that many persons have found themselves in over the years. Many leave their personal belongings behind in the US during a brief visit to Jamaica during a school break and are unable to return for them and to pack up their apartments.

Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises immigration law in the United States; and family, criminal and personal injury law in Florida. She is a mediator, arbitrator and special magistrate in Broward County, Florida; and an adjunct professor at Miami Dade College's School of Criminal Justice.