Who can request a Change of Status with USCIS?

Non-immigrants in the United States who have maintained lawful status may request a change to an F-1 or J-1 status if their primary purpose for being in the United States changes. Non-immigrants who are interested in changing their status should read the information below and then make an appointment to meet with an International Student Advisor (ISA) at the UF International Center.

Generally, non-immigrants who have filed a timely application for change of status to a different nonimmigrant status or have filed an application for extension of stay can remain in the United States while their application is being adjudicated by USCIS. This assumes that the person was in valid nonimmigrant status when he or she filed the application, and that the current nonimmigrant status of the applicant will continue to be valid up until the date that the new status is requested to begin.

A person who has been approved for a change of visa status while in the U.S., and intends to travel outside the U.S., must obtain a new entry visa from a U.S. Consulate or Embassy before returning to the United States.

Restrictions on Changing to F-1 or J-1 Status

Certain non-immigrants are not permitted to change status to F-1or J-1 while in the United States. Such non-immigrants may still be eligible for F-1 or J-1 status, but the only way they can get F-1/J-1 status is through obtaining an F-1/J-1 visa and re-entering the United States. The following non-immigrants are not permitted to change status to F-1/J-1 in the United States:

  • M-1 students
  • C, D, and K non-immigrants
  • J-1 physicians admitted to receive graduate medical education or training*
  • J non-immigrants subject to the 212(e) 2-year foreign residence requirement*
  • Aliens admitted as visitors under 8 C.F.R. § 212.1(e), holding B-1/B-2 visas**
  • WT and WB visitors admitted under the Visa Waiver Program.

*A non-immigrant already present in the United States with J-1 status, may not change J-1 categories within the U.S. For instance, a J-1 Research Scholar may not change to J-1 Student within the U.S. Any J non-immigrant subject to the 212(e) may not change to any other visa status within the U.S.

**A visitor that has a "prospective student" notation on his or her B-2 visa is able to request a change to F-1 status. A denial of the change would result in a notice from USCIS requesting the applicant to voluntarily depart the United States.

Cautions

A person in a visa status that is not authorized for work/full-time study (i.e., F-2), may not be employed or enrolled full-time for classes until the person receives notification from USCIS that the application for F-1 status has been officially approved. This process can be lengthy, so it is essential to apply for the change of status as soon as possible.

An applicant currently in F-2 status may not work in the U.S. and may not attend school on a full-time basis. But part time study is allowed.  The applicant may begin studying on a part-time basis while the application seeking F-1 status is pending. If the application seeking F-1 status is approved, the applicant would then need to continue studies on a full-time basis.

Change of Status OUTSIDE of the United States

For Newly Admitted students that choose to travel abroad to apply for the F-1/J-1 visa, the International Student Advisor will process an I-20/DS-2019 for the student, following the I-20/DS-2019 Process for Degree Students guide. The student will use the I-20/DS-2019 to apply for the F-1/J-1 visa at the U.S. consulate or embassy in the home country. F-1/J-1 status is obtained once the student enters the U.S. with the valid Passport, F-1/J-1 visa, and I-20/DS-2019.

For Currently Enrolled students that choose to travel abroad to apply for the F-1/J-1 visa, the International Student Advisor will process an I-20/DS-2019 for the student. The advisor will provide the student with a detailed email asking for submission of all the required documents for processing the I-20/DS-2019. The start date of the I-20/DS-2019 will likely be the start of the next available semester in which the student will enroll.  A confirmation letter from the academic department may be required to determine the length of the time needed on the I-20/DS-2019. The student will use the I-20/DS-2019 to apply for the F-1/J-1 Student visa at the U.S. consulate or embassy in the home country. F-1/J-1 status is obtained once the student enters the U.S. with the valid Passport, F-1/J-1 visa, and I-20/DS-2019.

When the student enters the US in F-1/J-1 status, the student is required to come to UFIC to complete the Check-in Process. The student needs to bring the I-20/DS-2019, passport, and visa to UFIC to complete the Check-in.

The "travel option" allows for more control of the change of status process since arriving in the new status will depend on how soon the student can travel to apply for the F-1/J-1 visa and how soon the student is able to return once the F-1/J-1 visa is granted. If international travel is already planned to occur at some point before studies begin, the method for applying outside the U.S. is recommended. The student needs to schedule an appointment to see an ISA.

Change of Status INSIDE the United States

This option requires the submission of a Change of Status (COS) application to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and the applicant may remain in the U.S. while the application is pending. The applicant must make an appointment to see an International Student Advisor (ISA) in order to assemble an application packet. The applicant needs to review the "Change of Status to F-1/J-1 Checklist" link below and bring all the materials indicated in the list.

We advise the applicant to make copies of all documents submitted before mailing the application to USCIS. And we recommend using USPS Certified Mail or Delivery Confirmation to mail the complete application packet to USCIS. These mail options provide a tracking number which is important for tracking when the application arrives at USCIS.

The Change of Status application process is quite lengthy once the application reaches USCIS. In recent months, we have experienced wait times of 8 to 10 months so it is advised to apply early and allow sufficient time before the applicant is due to commence studies. In approximately 2 to 3 weeks from the application arrival at USCIS, the applicant can expect to receive a "Notice of Action" document that confirms receipt of the case and provides the case number. The applicant can use the case number to track the progress of the application on the USCIS site.

Once the Change of Status has been APPROVED, the applicant must bring the Approval Notice with attached I-94 to UFIC within 15 days of receipt.

Forms (for Change of Status applications INSIDE the US)

Additional Resources (for Change of Status applications INSIDE the US)

Requesting Change of Visa Status to F-2/J-2

Who can request a Change of Status to F-2/J-2?

A spouse or minor child (under age 21) of a student/exchange visitor in valid F-1/J-1 status may request a change of status to F-2/J-2 to accompany the primary F-1/J-1.  The primary F-1/J-1 student/exchange visitor should request that the dependent spouse or minor child be added to his/her I-20/DS-2019. Upon receipt of the request, a new I-20/DS-2019 will be issued for both the F-1/J-1 student/exchange visitor and the F-2/J-2 dependent.

The dependent can apply for the F-2/J-2 visa either outside or inside of the United States.  When applying outside the U.S., contact the U.S. consulate or embassy where the dependent will apply for complete details about the application process and a list of all documents needed. Once the F-2/J-2 visa is approved, the dependent will use the valid passport, visa and dependent I-20/DS-2019 to enter the U.S. in F-2/J-2 status.

When applying inside the U.S., an appointment to see an International Advisor in order to obtain the updated I-20/DS-2019 and assemble the application packet is needed.  The applicant must bring all of the materials indicated on the Change of Status to F-2/J-2 checklist linked below.

We advise the applicant to make copies of all documents submitted, before mailing the application to USCIS. And we recommend using USPS Certified Mail or Delivery Confirmation to mail the complete application packet to USCIS. These mail options provide a tracking number which is important for tracking when the application arrives at USCIS.

This application process takes several months to complete. Generally, the applicant may remain in the U.S. to await the results. In approximately 2 to 3 weeks the applicant can expect to receive a "Notice of Action" document (acknowledgement of receipt) that gives the case number. Once the Change of Status has been APPROVED, provide a copy of the Approval Notice to the International Advisor within 15 days of receipt.

Forms (for Change of Status to F-2/J-2 applications INSIDE the US)

Additional Resources (for Change of Status applications INSIDE the US)

Requesting Change of Visa Status from a Dependent Visa Status

Children holding a dependent visa status can maintain the dependent status up until the age of 21, as long as the Primary visa holder also maintains all terms of the Primary visa. If the dependent child is approaching the 21st birthday, s/he may request a change of status to F-1/J-1 student. The applicant must request the change of status prior to the 21st birthday. We recommend applying for the change of status at least 8 to 10 months prior to the 21st birthday, preferably prior to the semester in which the applicant will become 21. The application will take several months to process once it arrives at USCIS.

The Form I-20/DS-2019 will be issued with a start date according to the next available semester.  If the application is approved in time for the start of the semester, the applicant will then be required to enroll as a full time student in that first semester. All F-1/J-1 students must register full time each fall and spring semester thereafter. Although the summer is considered the annual vacation period at UF, if an applicant is approved for F-1/J-1 status beginning in a summer semester, the applicant must register full-time during that first summer. But enrollment in future summer semesters is optional unless required by the academic program.

If the dependent child fails to apply for a change of status prior to the 21st birthday, a change of status inside of the U.S. will no longer be possible. The applicant would need to prepare to change status by applying for the student visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad.