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 options outlined below may help to guide you through the process but you may wish to consult an immigration attorney for more complex situations.

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.

Please email email ISSS for additional information in order to determine the best action for your situation.

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. Visit Homeland Security's fee payment tutorial page.

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. Changing status is a complex application process and there are many timing considerations to avoid falling out of status during the transition.  The approval process can take several months.

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.

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.

Change of Status through travel 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 requires a visit to a U.S. consulate or embassy for a new entry visa.