Change of Non-Immigrant Status

Contact an adviser in International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) to discuss your options and the Change of Status process.

When you enter the United States in nonimmigrant status, you do so for a specific purpose, such as study, work, or travel. You may enter the U.S. with one purpose and later change your purpose. When this happens, you may need to obtain a new status. Different visa/status categories allow different activities.

There are two ways of gaining a new nonimmigrant status:

Option 1: Leave the U.S., apply for a new visa at a U.S. consulate, and reenter the U.S. with the new visa and other relevant documents. You will gain your new status when you are admitted into the U.S.

  • Advantages:  This process is usually faster than changing status in the U.S.  You will obtain the visa and the status
  • Disadvantages: Possibility of visa processing delay. Travel can be expensive.  

Option 2: Submit an application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for a change of status. This option allows you to change your nonimmigrant status while remaining in the U.S. With this option you may gain the new status but you will not receive a new visa; visas are only issued outside the U.S.

  • Advantages: You can stay in the U.S. during processing. You can avoid the hassle of a visa application process (for now)
  • Disadvantages: Processing can be very slow (three to six months), which may jeopardize your ability to begin your new activity, such as studying or accepting a research or teaching assistantship or other campus employment.  You must stay in the U.S. during processing; exiting the U.S. cancels the application. You must still obtain a visa stamp to match your status the next time you travel outside the U.S. (except for trips under 30 days to Canada or Mexico).  The application may be denied, which could require you to quickly depart the U.S.

When deciding which option is best for you, you should consider various factors: upcoming travel plans, application processing times, the expiration date or special conditions of your current status. The regulations of your future status will help determine if it is best to travel and re-enter or apply to change status in the U.S. The following general information explains the process for applying to change nonimmigrant status inside the U.S.

Eligibility

You may be able to change status if:

  • You are maintaining your current status.
  • You are eligible for the new status.
  • Your current status does not prohibit change of status in the U.S. See below for restrictions.

You generally cannot change status if:

  • Your period of authorized stay has already expired.
  • You have otherwise violated the conditions of your current status.

Restrictions

  • Individuals in J status who are subject to the two-year home-country residence requirement cannot change to another non-immigrant status inside the U.S.; this must be done by traveling outside the U.S. and re-entering in the new status.
  • Persons admitted under the Visa Waiver Program (marked "W/T" or "W/B" on the I-94) cannot change nonimmigrant status.
  • Persons who hold C, D, or K status cannot change nonimmigrant status.
  • A vocational student in M status cannot change to F status.

Application Procedures

Contact International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) for detailed information about your change of status. 

Processing Timeline

Processing times vary, so be prepared to wait three to six months to learn the outcome of your application. To review current processing times and your pending case status, visit the USCIS Case Status Service Online.


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