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Change of Immigration Status

Change of Status to F-1

If your primary purpose for being in the United States has changed, you may need to change your immigration status or depart the U.S. by the end date of your current program. Applying for a change of status can be a complicated procedure. The steps outlined below may help to guide you through the process but the change of status application is your application, signed by you. You may wish to consult an immigration attorney to assist you.

Most non-immigrants can change their immigration status in two ways:

  • Apply to the United States Citizenship & Immigrations Service (USCIS) for a change of status within the United States; or
  • Travel out of the U.S. and re-enter in the new visa status – you may need to return to your country of citizenship or legal permanent residence where you can apply for a new visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy. Some individuals may be able to obtain a visa from a U.S. consulate in a third country.

Please be aware that if you have both a student and a tourist visa in your passport, you are not automatically able to transfer from one status to another. You need to formally apply to change your status with USCIS before your current status ends.

Paying the SEVIS Fee

Payment of a SEVIS fee is required for individuals applying for an F-1/J-1 visa to begin a program, and for individuals currently in the U.S. applying for a change of immigration status to F-1/J-1. Click here for details».

Change of Status within the United States

Individuals in the U.S. may wish to change their status without departure from the U.S. Nonimmigrants in C, D, K, or M status, J-1 visa holders who are subject to the two-year home country requirement, or those who entered the United States under the Visa Waiver Program cannot change to F-1 status from within the U. S. Full-time students who enter the U.S. with a tourist visa may not begin studies until USCIS has approved their change of status to F-1 status.

If you change your immigration status while in the U. S., the next time you leave the U.S. you will need to apply for a visa to re-enter in your new status.

To Apply

To apply for a change of status from any non-immigrant status to F-1 or J-1 from within the U.S., you will need to submit the documents listed below to USCIS:

  • Check or money order for $290 (made out to U.S. Department of Homeland Security)
  • Cover letter written by you explaining: why you wish to apply for a change of status; why you did not initially enter the U.S. in the appropriate status; why you are now requesting the change of status; and why your goals/intentions changed after arriving in the U.S.  You should also demonstrate strong ties to your home country to show that you do not intend to immigrate to the U.S.  If you have been offered an assistantship you should include a request to expedite the process due to pending assistantship (see personal letter sample).
  • Original Form I-539 with your signature (found at www.uscis.gov/forms)
  • Original Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 from Babson College
  • I-94 (arrival/departure record)
  • Proof of SEVIS Fee payment
  • Proof of financial support
  • Photocopy of your previous visa or notice of immigration status
  • Photocopy of the page in passport which indicates its validity for at least six months into the into the future & photo page
  • Any other documentation indicating you have maintained your current immigration status

Criteria for Specific Non-Immigrant Visa Categories

Individuals in certain immigration categories will need to supply additional documentation with the change of status application and/or meet certain eligibility criteria. Please consult with ISSS regarding any questions about documentary or eligibility requirements.

Changing from H-1 or H-4

In addition to the items in the section above, applicants should include:

  • Copies of all previously issues Forms I-797 showing H status
  • Evidence that the individual has maintained valid H status e.g. a letter from the H-1 employer confirming current employment and 2-3 most recent pay stubs
  • For H-4: Copies of spouse’s or parent’s H-1 immigration documents: passport identification and expiration page(s); I-94 (arrival/departure record); Forms I-797; and 2-3 recent pay stubs

Once the change of status to F-1 or J-1 student is effective, the individual must cease work for the H-1 employer. It is permissible to begin study while the change of status application is pending.

Changing from J-1 or J-2

In addition to the items in the section above, applicants should include:

  • Copies of all previously issued Forms DS-2019
  • For J-2: Copies of spouse’s or parent’s J-1 immigration documents: Forms DS-2019; passport identification and expiration page(s); entry visa stamp; and I-94 (arrival/departure record)

It is permissible to begin study while the change of status application is pending.

Both J-1 and J-2 visa holders who are subject to INA Section 212(e), also known as the “two-year home residency requirement,” may not apply to change of status within the U.S. unless they have received: a waiver from USCIS; a waiver recommendation from the U.S. Department of State (DOS); or have fulfilled the requirement. Changing J category, e.g. from J-1 research scholar to J-1 student, requires an application to DOS, not to USCIS. Change-of-category requests are rarely granted. Please consult with an International Student Advisor for details.

Changing from F-2

In addition to the items in the section above, applicants should include:

  • Copies of all previously issued F-2 Forms I-20
  • Copies of spouse’s or parent’s F-1 immigration documents: Forms I-20; Passport identificaiton and expiration page(s); entry visa stamp; I-94 (arrival/departure record); and Employment Authorization Document --if the F-1 spouse or parent is engaged in post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT).

The F-1 status must be approved before commencement of study is permitted.

Changing from B-1 or B-2

Applications for change of status from B-1/B-2 to F-1 made by persons who have either already applied to a U.S. school from abroad or who apply for a change of status shortly after entry to the U.S. are routinely denied. However, if the B-2 visa is marked “prospective student,” the change of status may be approved. The F-1 status must be approved before study is permitted.

Mailing Your Change of Status Application

It is recommended that you photocopy your complete application for your personal records before mailing.

Mail your completed application either through USPS (with delivery confirmation/return receipt or via an express mail courier (FedEx, UPS, DHL) to:

By U.S. Postal Service (USPS):

USCIS
P.O. Box 660166 
Dallas, TX 75266

By Express Mail and Courier Service:

USCIS
ATTN: I-539 
2501 S. State Highway 121 Business Lewisville, TX 75067

Your obligations while a change of status is being adjudicated are as follows:

  1. Report to the Glavin Office (Hollister 220) when you arrive at Babson College
  2. Provide the Glavin Office with any documents you receive from USCIS, including the receipt notice and approval notice when your change of status has been adjudicated
  3. Maintain full time enrollment
  4. Report any change of address within 10 days via the Babson portal

It can take from 3 weeks to 3 months to process a change of status application. If your application is approved, you will receive a Form I-797 Approval Notice verifying the change of status.  Please bring this to the Glavin Office so that we can register you in SEVIS and make a copy for our records.  If your application is denied, you will be required by law to leave the U.S.

Obtain a New Immigration Status by Travelling Outside the U.S.

If you decide to change your status by traveling, you must leave the United States by the date your current status expires. You can re-enter the U.S. with new immigration documentation (i.e. Form I-20 for F-1 status or Form DS-2019 for J-1 status) once you have paid the SEVIS fee, and obtained a new entry visa from the U.S. consulate in your home country. Upon re-entry you will be in your new status. You will not be allowed to re-enter the U.S. more than 30 days before the start date on your Form I-20/Form DS-2019. Please remember that obtaining a new status by travel usually requires a visit to the U.S. consulate or embassy and a new entry visa.

Please email email ISSS if you have any questions about changing your immigration status.