Can B-1 or B-2 Visitors Enroll in School?

A common question from B1 or B2 visa holders is whether they are allowed to enroll in school. The short answer is no, not directly. If you wish to study in the U.S. while in B status, you must change it to F or M status first.

If you enroll in a full course of study while in B1, B2 or B1/B2 status, you will be considered out of status. This violation of visa terms will make you ineligible to extend your stay under B status, or later change your status to another non-immigrant class such as F or M.

If you want to go to school while in B status, the correct procedure should be:

  1. Contact the school you’re interested in and find out all eligibility requirements (test results, financial support, etc.);
  2. After being admitted to the school, work with the designated school official (DSO) to obtain proper documents for foreign students (I-20, for example), but do not enroll in any classes;
  3. Apply for Change of Status (Form I-539) with USCIS, to change your B visitor status to F or M student status. Whether to choose F1 or M1 depends on the type of school and program you intend to enroll in. Do this before your authorized stay under B status expires, which is specified on your I-94 card. If your B status is about to expire, you may apply for an extension of stay (Form I-539);
  4. Once you have received USCIS approval on your change of status request, you may begin enrolling in classes. You will also receive a new I-94 from USCIS indicating your student status and a new period of authorized stay;
  5. If for some reason you cannot change your status to F or M while in the U.S., you may still be eligible to apply for a student visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad. In this case you will have to leave the country first, apply for a new F or M visa, and re-enter under the new F or M status.

The discussion above refers to a course of study, such as a formal program leading to an academic degree or vocational certification. If you are only interested in recreational classes or casual, short courses that generally do not require academic enrollment, you may take such classes without acquiring a student status first. Again, contact the school or class provider to find out whether the class you’re interested in is a course of study in nature. Below is an example of what’s permitted from the U.S. Embassy in Sweden:

If you are going to the U.S. primarily for tourism, but want to take a short course of study which is recreational (and not for credit towards a degree), and the course is less than 18 hours per week, this is permitted on a visitor visa. As an example, if you are taking a vacation to the U.S., and during this vacation you would like to take a two-day cooking class for your enjoyment, and there is no credit earned, then this would be permitted on a visitor visa.

Important: All children in the U.S. have the right to public education, regardless of their or their parents’ immigration status. So a school-aged child in B1 or B2 status is allowed to attend K-12 schools, as long as studying is incidental and was not the primary purpose when s/he applied for the B visa.

58 thoughts on “Can B-1 or B-2 Visitors Enroll in School?

  • I want to take one year full time certificate program (vocational school). But the school said they don’t offer M1 visa for this program and they said I can take this program using my B1/B2 visa. Is that right?

  • It sounds to me that the 1-year certificate program is beyond recreational or casual, but I don’t know all the details. Does the school have designated school officials (DSO) who handle immigration matters? If not you might want to consult an attorney before enrolling, just to make sure.

    Also your B visa should be valid for a maximum of six months, so you won’t be able to finish the program unless you leave and re-enter. Again, double check with a lawyer.

  • Hi,
    I have B-2 visa which will expire next month and I’ve applied for an extension. During my stay here, I’ve discovered a university having non-credit courses that does not require student visa. I’ve double checked it with the department that they don’t require student visa since it’s non-credit and short study. In my reason for extension letter I’ve explained that I’ve taken these courses and would like to take more courses. I’ve also included an offical letter from dean that I’ve enrolled to these courses and need to take 3 more courses to complete the program. But now I’m worried if I’ve made a status violation. I will return to my country if I get a denial from extension application but would it be a problem for my future visits if enrolling these courses would put me in a status violation? Thank you!

  • It sounds to me that the short studies you’re taking shouldn’t impact your current B-2 status. However, that reason alone doesn’t guarantee that USCIS would approve your extension request. If it is denied, simply leave as you’re planning to. Keep in mind that if it is indeed denied, the time you remained in the U.S. after your current I-94 expiration will count toward your unauthorized stay. Although a short period shouldn’t jeopardize your future visa applications, you will want to keep all the documents handy.

    Obvious this is just personal opinion and is in no way legal advice. I hope it turns out Ok for you. And please keep us posted.

  • Hello,

    I just wanted to ask about the B1/B2 visa, my family and I have this visa going on for the next 4 years but we wanted to know if it’s possible to travel to to the US and stay there temporarily until my father starts business and apply for residency .. so can the children enrol in schools with this visa ?
    and If not.. how can I apply to change the type of visa and what is the recommended type I should apply for wishing for residency?

    Thank you

  • Although your B1/B2 visa is valid for the next four years, each time you visit the U.S. you will mostly likely get a six-month authorized stay. B status allows you to visit the country temporarily, and has many restrictions on what you can do. Your children may enroll in public schools as explained above, but for everything else you may want to seek legal assistance to avoid jeopardizing your legal status. I can’t provide specific advice because I’m not a lawyer and is not a law firm.

  • Hi, my newphew is visiting the USA and he will love the possibility to enroll in a ESOL program, he is 17 years old, and not planning to go to high school, just English language classes, can he do it with his B status visa?

  • If his main purpose of visiting the U.S. is tourism (not studying English, for example), and the ESOL program is a short, casual class that is not part of any academic program, he should be able to enroll while in B status. There is no clear cut answer, however. Some English classes, including certain intensive ESL programs, do require F-1 student visas. You might want to contact the ESOL provider and inquire about the nature of their program.

  • Hi,
    I’ve been reading through the previous comments, and have my own question in regards to M-1/B-2 Visa.
    I am a student from Germany, currently studying under a M-1 Visa in Berkeley, California. My Visa was issued for one year, and I never knew that one may apply for an extension. I am currently looking into whether and how I might be able to extend my stay here, and I would love to continue school for a second year to achieve the Master’s degree in Chinese Massage and Medicine. Firstly, I have to find out if my school is eligible/authorized to grant extensions, is that correct? It is, obviously, a vocational school, so they provide M-1 Visas. If they indeed are able to, then what are the requirements besides proof of sufficient funds, sponsor letter, proof of intension to return home? In case they cannot grant extensions, I am thinking of applying for a B-2 visitor’s Visa (change of status?), how would I best go about that? It is usually used for pleasure and leisure only, isn’t it? Or could I also state that I would love to still be able to visit weekly practice sessions and review a couple of weekend-classes (which would be free of charge for me as a Graduate)- or should I just say I would like to travel and visit some friends only, to be on the safe side? Or be honest and say I would like to intensify my study through the above mentioned? Would that be a violation of my status and intentions as a then-visitor?
    Thanks for reading this lengthy question and if you have time I would greatly appreciate some thoughts or input on the topic 🙂
    Have a good day,

  • Your school can’t extend your stay; USCIS is the agency with authority to extend or change your non-immigrant status. You may want to download and read instructions for Form I-539. Switching to B-2 isn’t preferred because of its many limitations. For one, B2 doesn’t allow you to study for a degree.

    We are not a law firm and cannot provide any legal advice. You may want to start with your school first, and with their assistance figure out extension/change of status issues.

  • Please say the road-map for being an immigrant of U.S.after coming to U.S.through B1/B2 VISA.

  • I will be travelling to US on a B2 visa for a year to be with my husband who is working our there. Our children aged 5 & 7 will also be with me on a B2 visa. Can they attend school either public or private for the year that we’ll be out there?

  • Hi,
    i know there is already answer above, but want to ask one of the relative is in USA in B2 visa, they have their child as age of 4 and 10, now my question is, can they go for school? if yes,what kind of school? what if their parents are going to apply for asylum? do they (child)
    need to wait so long period to get SSN and after that going to school?

  • I am interested to see the response to the above regarding a 5 year old that is here on a B2 visa and whether or not they can attend elementary school. Public or private.

  • Children in B status may attend public K-12 schools if studying is incidental, i.e. their intention while applying for a B visa was not to study in the U.S. It is also important to contact the school district directly to inquire about specific requirements. If your situation is rather complicated, please consult an immigration attorney.

  • Hello My father had applied for a B1/B2 visa for the family and I wish to join highschool when I go there later in this month . I am 14 years old , will I be able to join highschool? Also I will be travelling there alone with my Grandfather who is a green card holder there , will I have problems at the airport? And we have our immigrant visa on process would my visit to the US and joining Highschool hamper my immigrant visa in any way?

  • Hi !
    I have a question regarding what a Visitor (B1 visa ) is allowed to do, most notably Continuing Education courses. I was researching on the USCIS webpage looking at requirements and instructions for study visa’s and it stated that study authorization is not required if you are taking a course (non-credited) that is less that 18 hours/week. I am interested in take an online course that is 16 weeks long, and is a certificate but is non-credited. I am interested to take the Sport Nutrition course .

    I am a bit wary about doing this, and want to make sure that I am not doing anything illegal. I have a 10 years B1 visa and I plan on making sure that my status remains legal in all ways. My employer is a Canadian Citizen, and I presently reside in Canada – and I come to the United States to provide services as a therapist to my employer who spend more than 6 months in California every year .

    I don’t want to be bored out of my mind while I am here ,so I’ve been researching what options I might have to pursue different courses and so forth to occupy my time as I work only few hours a day .

    Any information on what I can and cannot do, as well as, any suggestions on what I can legally take part in throughout my stay over the time I am in California be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you

  • Hi,

    I got b1/b2 visa since 2014,till now i did not travel to USA,When i travel before i met US Embassy consult then they said me your current visa has been revoked, But Visa had given expiration date is 10yrs, So please advice me how to resolve that or i am eligible for this trip or not,

    I have one more doubt sir, In case of my visa is revoked then i am eligible for reapply new visa or any problem with embassy

  • Who told you your visa was revoked? U.S. Embassy official or a private “consultant” who charges a fee for their services? I’d be skeptical if I were you. If your visa was indeed revoked – rather uncommon – then you’ll need to find out what exactly was the reason and go from there.

  • Unfortunately we are not in a position to say whether or not a program is safe to enroll for a B visitor. We can’t make that determination.

  • I am confused as to what the law says here. I have been told that my daughter )6 years old) could go topublic school (elementary) while we are on a B1/B2.
    I have contected the office of Public School and they replied that it was possible. I would need to apply by person.
    On the other hand I have read somewhere that no-one is allowed to study on a B1/B2 visa. If it’s found out my visa and my daughter’s visa could be revoked.
    I just want to do what’s legal.
    I am travelling on a B1/B2 visa with the intention to find a suitable course and study in a non intensive english course so i can do with b1/b2. (given 3 months on B1/B2)
    Can my daughter go to school with any problem in her visa
    Any advice will be very much appriciated.

  • Please read the PDF document linked at the bottom of this post. That’s the government’s official answer to questions regarding children and public education, including children on B2 visas.

  • I found this in the law of the goverment,
    In some cases, a B-2 child is allowed to study if accompanying a parent and the study is incidental to the reason for the parent traveling to the United States. For
    example, missionaries may enter as a B-2 and the children may attend K-12 school while the parent is pursuing the primary purpose of the visit. The length of stay
    will not be extended to allow a minor child to complete a school year.

    But i dont understand what they mean, can you help me

  • It simply means that when the child applied for the B2 visa, his/her primary purpose was not to study in the U.S. This would be a violation of visa laws. The primary purpose of the parent(s) and children when applying for visitor visas must be consistent with what their non-immigrant visa allows, and enrolling a child in a public school must be incidental.

  • First, thanks for your advice, but is not clear for me what i can do.
    I and my dougther have visa b1, and i am going to study a non intensive program of inglish during 8 weeks, i know that i can do with my b1 visa, but i dont know if this situatiin is incidential. So i dont no if is legal that my dougther enroll the public school during this time too.

    Can you help me please, becuse i dont want to nothing that affect my visa and my daugther visa.

    Again thanks

  • Hi, i’m 30 years old. I’m in u.s.a. With b1/b2 visa; i got married last month And i start the papers with imigration just one week ago (for work And green card) . I would like to take a english classe non credit(just to learn better talk And listen) for one month Or two. Can i o that Or i need to wait for be resident? Thank You

  • Hi Marian,

    We’re not a law firm and therefore are not allowed to offer legal advice – so we can’t say whether it’s Ok or not. You may want to contact the school district and get their opinion. They may have enrolled students in similar situations before.

  • Hi Ioana,

    Your situation is a bit more complicated because your current status may have changed due to the filing of I-485 or other immigration paper work. Again, we can’t say whether it is Ok or not for you to enroll in a certain program. Please consult with the school and/or an immigration attorney to make sure.

  • My son is 16yrs old. He wants to go and stay with a friend in USA for 6 months as a visitor they are both keen on baseball and my son wants to train with his friend and his friend in USA can assist him with his skills. While there i would like him to attend school as i am not happy for him to go and visit his friend for so long with no schooling. Can he do this on a B2 visa? As F1 and J visas are for particular programs or schooling courses. This has been very difficult to get an answer to?

  • Hi,
    I have b1/B-2 visa which will expire in june and I’ve applied for an extension. During my stay NY here, I’ve to discovered a school for automotive technician 6 month course having credit courses that does require student visa. I’ve double check for any school they required visa but did not found. please can u tell me about any school or uni which require a visa for the same course. plz tell me about it. please find out any school in new york city.. In my reason for extension letter I’ve explained that I’ve taken these courses. But now I’m worried if I’ve made a status violation. I will return to my country if I get a denial from extension application but would it be a problem for my future visits if enrolling these courses would put me in a status violation? Thank you!

  • I have b1/B-2 visa which will expire in june and I’ve applied for an extension. During my stay NY here, I’ve to discovered a school for automotive technician 6 month course having credit courses that does require student visa. I’ve double check for any school they required visa but did not found. please can u tell me about any school or uni which require a visa for the same course. plz tell me about it. please find out any school in new york city.. In my reason for extension letter I’ve explained that I’ve taken these courses. But now I’m worried if I’ve made a status violation. I will return to my country if I get a denial from extension application but would it be a problem for my future? Thank you!

  • Hi,I’m 28 years old came to USA on B2 visa for client support and now I’m willing to pursue my higher education(masters) to have a good growth in my profession but I got married and my family is in India. So, I need your help to overcome the situation because I have already completed my 4months stay here and what about my family is there any possibility for them to come USA after my process gets successful

  • I filed an immigrant visa petition (I-130) for my wife & her daughter which was approved. We are awaiting NVC to approve them for an immigrant visa interview in our home country but they are taking forever & school in the U.S. starts in 2 weeks. Our daughter is already enrolled here,just pending her SSN. Both wife & daughter currently have B1/B2 visa. If they come to the US next week on their B1/B2 can our little one start school until we adjust their status to immigrants? What does that process even look like?

  • There is a young lady and her B2 visa has expired she went to high school and graduated in the last 2 years and has applied for college. She was admitted but they found out she had B2 visa and it was expired and she said that her dad is a US Citizen and has his green card. What is the step for this young lady if she wants to get her F1 visa and right now she is out of status because they are expired. Should she go back to her home country or what is the process needed to follow.

  • If she’s been out of status for the past two years she definitely needs to consult an immigration attorney. Don’t leave the country before talking to an attorney because her unlawful stay may trigger an entry ban.

  • Hi, first of all, thank you for the factual blog, I just wanted to ask you ione thing, suppose that one followed all the steps you posted and was finally enrolled in high school. Would he still have to pay the fees for highschool?

    Thank you.

  • Hi am Rob am in the US on B1\B2 Visa which expires in 2018 .

    I want to pursue a PhD program what I found very interesting for my career aspiration.

    Is it possible to change my status to enable to enrol for the program what are the steps to take to change my status.

  • Although your visa may have an expiration date of 2018, your authorized stay in the U.S. is much sooner than that. It was determined when you entered the country, and you must leave or change your status before that date.

    If you’re accepted to a PhD program you can work with the school officials to change your status from B to F1, for example.

  • I would like to enter the US with my school aged child to finish his school education there. What visa shoukd i apply fir for both of us. I am not going to be working there, just looking after my child? Would any prior funf deposits in a US bank help? Also, should i apply for the visa (whatever is or if eligible) first or enroll my child in the school first?

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