Divorced & Waiting for a Visa: How to Move from F-3 to F-1

Imagine you're eagerly awaiting your visa, and suddenly, divorce enters the scene. How does that impact the adjustment of status process to move from F-3 to F-1? Unfortunately, many have faced this obstacle and aren’t sure how to move forward. 

We’ve prepared this blog post to help you understand how to navigate it. Continue reading as we share one of our client cases and provide all the US F-3 to F-1 visa support needed to reach your US immigration dreams!

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How Josh and His Team Help People

In case you don’t know,  Josh Goldstein is an immigration lawyer near you in Los Angeles and Boston. Josh and his team have helped many people worldwide get immigration benefits, move from F-3 to F-1, get work permits, get green cards, and gain US citizenship.

Josh’s law firm is especially committed to helping people who have delayed immigration cases. This is done by successfully filing mandamus lawsuits against USCIS and consulates worldwide.

Our Client’s Story: From Married to Divorced

First, we’re going to discuss a particular immigration case that involves divorce and how that would impact somebody who is waiting for a visa to become current in the F-3 versus the F-1 preference category. Let’s explain the situation and see if this interests you and connects with what might be going on in your particular case.

The Question: Moving from F-3 to F-1 Visa?

The woman who came to us as an Indian national was referred to our US immigration firm by one of Josh Goldstein’s all-time favorite clients. 

Her question was: “My mother petitioned for me on June 22nd, 2015, under the married son/daughter over 21 of USC (F-3 category). This needs to be converted to an unmarried son/daughter over the age of 21 of USC (F-1 category) since I have been divorced. Would converting from F-3 to F-1 make the process faster?”

She said, “As per the June 2020 visa bulletin (F-1 cases for India), February 2015 cases are being processed, and my priority date is June 22nd, 2015. Hence, we thought it would be beneficial to request USCIS to change my file’s category.”

Imagine you're eagerly awaiting your visa, and suddenly, divorce enters the scene. How does that impact your journey to move from F-3 to F-1?

F-1 to F3: How the Visa Bulletin Works

Now, let’s unpack this case. First, let’s go to the visa bulletin. If you don’t know about this critical bulletin you can find it by searching for it on any search engine. It comes out every month. The State Department publishes it. And the visa bulletin gives you your place in a long line.

Where are you in this line if you’re waiting for a visa to become current? That’s the question the visa bulletin answers. And you’ll notice that you have the F-1, F2A, F2B, F-3, and F4 categories for family-sponsored preferences. And they’re described here in this section.

These are all the preference petition categories. And each month, it tells you which one is current. Also, there are separate categories for China, India, Mexico, the Philippines, and every other area except for those. 

How Do Priority Dates Affect the Change From F-3 to F1?

She started as a married son or daughter of a US citizen. She started in the visa bulletin F-3 category. Now, as to the F-3 category for July 2020, they were working on cases filed in May 2008. Since she’s gotten a divorce, she would move from F-3 to F-1 category. The current priority date for July 2020 was July 8th, 2014.

So the answer to her first question, whether converting to F-1 would make it faster, is yes. It would make it more quickly. The date for the F-3 visa bulletin category is May 2008. And that for F-1 is July 2014. That’s a good six years faster. That would be good. However, we want to say a couple of things about the divorce.

Additional Challenges in Transitioning From F-3 to F-1

The bulletin does not progress in a straight line. The visa bulletin moves or retrogresses every month. It could go forward, or it could go backward, and it could even jump ahead. We don’t know how long it’ll take. It could take about a year. 

To apply for a green card through adjustment of status, she would also have to be in status when she applies. And if it’s a year or so away, she has to find a way to remain in F-3 immigration status. This proved to be a tricky situation considering the political climate at the time.

If she were to leave the US and cancel her process, then we have another problem. Trump was messing around with visas. The consulates also claimed to be closed for the coronavirus, and they were closed for some time. Also, his presidential proclamation was preventing the issuance of visas.

Top Tips: How to Move From F-3 to F-1

Now that we’ve discussed the ins and outs of the visa bulletin and how it might affect you, let’s continue and provide you with our top tips on moving from F-3 visa category to F-1 visa category

Move From F-3 to F-1 Top Tip 1: The Divorce Must Be Legitimate

First of all, the divorce must be a bonafide, legitimate divorce. Sometimes, people who are married and they’re in the visa bulletin F3 category will get a divorce solely for immigration purposes. 

They do this so that they can obtain a faster green card. And if you do that, you’re going to destroy all your immigration chances to move from F3 visa bulletin category to F-1 because that’s fraud.

A divorce should happen for bona fide reasons. In other words, there was a breakdown in the relationship and things of that nature. You don’t want to run out and get a divorce just to get a green card a little bit faster because that’s fraud, and that’ll come back to bite you.

Move From F-3 to F-1 Top Tip 2: How to Make the Move

Secondly, how do you move from F-3 to F-1? We advise you to send a letter to USCIS or the National Visa Center, depending on where your case is. Send them a copy of the divorce decree and a letter to them along with the approval or receipt notice for the case.

To process the move from F-3 to F1, you’ll also need to supply supporting documents and apply with the I-539 application form to change your status through US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 

Then you’ll have to wait for USCIS to process your application. Once approved, you'll receive official documentation confirming your F-1 to F3 status change.

Communicating with the USCIS or the National Visa Center by sending a letter is challenging. But we think this is the procedure you’re supposed to follow to get them to change your classification and move from F3 to F1.

Please note the exact requirements may vary. It's advisable to consult with an immigration professional or refer to the latest USCIS guidelines for accurate and up-to-date information.

Move From F-3 to F-1  Top Tip 3: Remain in Status the Entire Time

Here are a couple more things to know. Our client’s job was part of her case. But if you want a US green card without returning to your home country, you must have stayed in status the whole time.

You must be in status when applying to move from F-3 to F-1. As you’ve seen, our client’s case was not going to be current for some time because her priority date was June 2015, and they were working on July 2014. So she could have about a year to go.

Josh and his team have helped many people across the country and around the world get immigration benefits, move from F-3 to F-1, work permits, green cards, and US citizenship.

Stay Informed: The Next Elections

PLEASE NOTE: Although the YouTube video might refer to the previous elections, the importance remains unchanged for 2024.

Who knows where we will be a year from now? Trump might not be president. Then again, Trump could win the election, be inaugurated for a second term, and change immigration laws. And he could come out with new regulations, such as Travel Bans, which would mess with the visa issuance process. There could be some bumps ahead.

Those are Josh’s thoughts on this particular scenario. If your parent or family members petitioned for you when you were married, and now you're divorced and want to move from F-3 to F-1 status, this provides a helpful overview of the process and challenges.

Take the Next Step, and Let’s Work Together 

Your immigration journey is special, just like your own story. If you have questions or are unsure about moving from F-3 to F-1, don't be afraid to ask. Your concerns matter, and we're here to help guide you. Our team is here for you whether you need answers, support, or just a little direction. 

Every step you take brings you closer to your dreams. Stay strong, stay informed, and, most importantly, keep moving forward. Share your case, and let's work together to create a future where your immigration dreams come true!


Keep reading for more valuable insights as we address frequently asked questions our law firm receives regarding moving from the visa F-3 to the F-1 category.

1. Will I lose my residency if I get a divorce?

If you’re a green card holder with lawful permanent residency when you get divorced, your status should not be affected. However, the divorce may impact the waiting time before you can apply for your permanent resident status.

2. How do I move from F-3 to F-1 when I leave the United States after a divorce?

In this situation, you would leave the US and apply for an F-1 visa at a US embassy or consulate in your home country. If they approve your F-1 visa application and issue the visa, you can re-enter the United States using your F-1 I-20 form and F-1 visa.

3. Should I notify immigration of my divorce?

It's not as tricky if you get a divorce after having your green card for 10 years. You don't have to tell USCIS about the divorce when renewing your green card, but you must do it if you're applying for US citizenship.

4. Will my 10 - year green card be lost after a divorce?

If you divorce with a 10-year green card, it usually doesn't affect renewing it—just complete Form I-90 when it's time for renewal.

5. Can I sponsor my new spouse after a divorce?

You can sponsor a new spouse if you're single, eligible to sponsor and meet the requirements. To check if you're eligible, talk to us.

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