My situation is the following: I'm currently on an H1-B. I would like to quit working and go back to school full-time; for this I need to obtain an F1. I'm aiming for this Fall, so lets say the first day of class is Sept 1st, 2012. I have 2 ways of going about to get the F1:
1. Change of Status - I would apply for a COS while in the US. Once/if it gets approved, I can start school. However, I understand that if I leave the US after this, I will anyway need to apply for an F1 stamp at a consulate abroad (preferably my home country) to permit re-entry.
2. Consular Processing - Go straight away to my home country and apply for the F1 there instead.
I've got a few questions around what recommended way to do this would be, particularly regarding certain implications that may arise given the course of action I choose. Here are my questions:
1) In general, what is a more safe/reliable way to get the F1? i.e. which approach has better odds? I understand this is a generic question and every case is different, but is there any statistical evidence about which way most people get approved via?
2) If I choose option# 1, and if I get the COS approved -- does this in any way increase my chances of getting the F-1 visa stamp approved thereafter whenever I leave/re-enter the US ?
3) If I choose option# 2 to go back home to apply for my visa stamp:
a) If my F1 gets approved, and if I am still employed at the time of this with my valid H1-B -- can I re-enter the US on my H1-B, provided this is before the start date indicated on my F-1 ? Or will getting the F1 approved invalidate my H1-B, hence requiring me to wait in my home country till the F1 start date passes after which I can re-enter the US on it ?
b) If my F1 gets denied, can I still re-enter the US on my H1 to continue working for my employer?
I should also mention that I also hold a valid B1/B2 visa at this time that is valid for the next few years. My goal is basically to maximize my chances of F1 approval, while at the same time not jeopardize my chances of being 'stuck' outside the US for too long so as not to be able to wrap up my job responsibilities if possible.
Thanks very much,