Student Visa: Change of Status
Definition of F-1 and J-1 Status
An F-1 or J-1 visa and F-1 or J-1 student status may be granted to an alien “who is a bona fide student qualified to pursue a full course of study” at an academic or language institution authorized to admit international students. The applicant must prove that he/she wishes to stay in the United States temporarily and solely for the purpose of study, and that he / she has a permanent residence in a foreign country which he/she does not intend to abandon.
Change of Status
In order to change status to F-1 or J-1, you will either have to exit the U.S. and reenter the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 status, OR you will need to file for a change of status in the U.S.
For either procedure, you will first need to:
- Obtain a Form I-20 (F-1) from the Office of International Admission or Form DS-2019 (J-1) from the Department of International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS).
- Pay the SEVIS fee: The SEVIS fee must be paid online through use of a credit card, locally using the Western Union Quick Pay service, or by mail through use of a check or money order. For detailed and helpful information on the SEVIS fee, required Form I-901 information, payment options, processing times and other related issues, please read the information provided through the SEVP website: http://www.ice.gov/sevis/i901/faq.htm.
Option 1: Change of Status to F-1 or J-1 by Travel
You may acquire F-1 or J-1 status by leaving the United States before commencing your academic program, obtaining an F-1 or J-1 student visa, and reentering the United States in F-1 or J-1 status.
- Apply for an F-1 or J-1 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. ISSS recommends applying for the visa in your country of citizenship or permanent residence.
- Enter the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 status by presenting your Form I-20 (F-1) or Form DS-2019 (J-1), passport, F-1 or J-1 visa, and SEVIS fee receipt to the immigration inspector at the U.S. port-of-entry. You will receive a Form I-94, which has to be stamped F-1/DS or J-1/DS.
Option 2: Change of Status to F-1 or J-1 while in the United States
In order to apply for a change to F-1 or J-1 status in the U.S., you must complete and submit the following documents to ISSS, and ISSS will forward them to the appropriate U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Lockbox. It is permissible to begin study while the change of status application is pending.
- Letter addressed to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services requesting the change of status, and explaining why the change is needed.
- Form I-539 (Rev. 11/23/2010; available from ISSS).
- Form G-1145 (Rev. 05/10/2010; available from ISSS). Applicants filing a Form I-539 at a USCIS Lockbox facility may elect to receive an e-mail and/or text message notifying them that their application has been accepted.
- Money order for $290.00 made payable to the “Department of Homeland Security”.
- Original Form I-20 (F-1), signed and dated in item #11, or Form DS-2019 (J-1), completed on the bottom of page 1 with your signature, place, and date.
- Receipt for payment of $200.00 (F-1) or $180 (J-1) SEVIS fee.
- Copy of current registration, if available.
- Photocopy of your passport and passports of any dependents (include photo page, biographical page, expiration date page, entry visa page, and page bearing stamp of last entry to the U.S.).
- Photocopy of your Form I-94 and copies of Forms I-94 of any dependents (front and back).
- Photocopy of financial support documents for yourself and any dependents.
- If applicable, additional documents for:
Change from a Dependent (i.e., F-2) Status to F-1 Status:
- Copies of your spouse’s (i.e., F-1 status) Form I-20, school transcript, proof of enrollment, passport photo page, biographical page, expiration date page, entry visa page, and page bearing stamp of last entry to the U.S., and Form I-94 (front and back).
- If you are an F-2 dependent, you cannot begin a full course of study or be employed in the U.S. until you receive notification from USCIS that your status has been changed to F-1. This process can take several months.
Change from H-1 or H-4:
- Copies of all previously issued Forms I-797 showing H status.
- For H-1: Evidence that you have maintained valid H status, i.e., a letter from the H-1 employer confirming current employment, and two or three of the most recent pay stubs.
- For H-4: Copies of spouse’s or parent’s H-1 immigration documents, i.e., passport photo page, biographical page, expiration date page, entry visa page, and page bearing stamp of last entry to the U.S., Form I-94 (front and back), Forms I-797, and two or three of the most recent pay stubs.
- Once the change of status to F-1 or J-1 student is effective, you must cease work for the H-1 employer. It is permissible to begin study while the change of status application is pending, as long as you maintain your H-1 or H-4 status.
Change from J-1 or J-2:
- Copies of all previously issued Forms DS-2019
- For J-2: Copies of spouse’s or parent’s J-1 Forms DS-2019, passport photo page, biographical page, expiration date page, entry visa page, and page bearing stamp of last entry to the U.S., and Form I-94 (front and back)
- Both J-1 and J-2 visa holders who are subject to INA Section 212(e), also known as the “two-year home country physical residency requirement,” may not apply to change status within the U.S. unless they have received a waiver from USCIS, a waiver recommendation from the U.S. Department of State, or have fulfilled the requirement.
- Changing J category, i.e., from J-1 research scholar to J-1 student, requires an application to the U.S. Department of State, not to USCIS. Change-of-category requests are rarely granted. Please consult with an ISSS advisor for details.
Important Notes on Change of Status Requests in the US
Change from B-2 Status to F-1 Status
If you request a change from B-2 (tourist) status to F-1 or J-1, be aware that this change is normally denied, unless the B-2 visa bears the notation “prospective student.” If your request is denied, you must leave the U.S. and obtain an F-1 or J-1 visa (usually in your home country), and re-enter the U.S. You are not permitted to enroll in classes until such time as USCIS has approved your change of status to F-1 or J-1 or you have obtained an F-1 or J-1 visa and entered the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 status.
Visa Waiver Program “WT”
Also, if you entered the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program, designated “WT,” you may not request any change of status in the U.S., but must follow the same procedure described above in case of denial of the change of status from B-2. The Visa Waiver Program allows nationals of some countries to enter the U.S. without a tourist visa and to remain for 90 days without being able to extend their stay, change status, be employed or enroll in classes in the U.S.
Change of status applications may take several months to be approved. Check the USCIS web site at www.uscis.gov for current processing times. You will be notified when ISSS receives Form I-797 Notice of Receipt from USCIS approximately three weeks after filing the application. It is possible to check the status of the application on-line at www.uscis.gov using the receipt number found on the receipt notice.
Travel abroad while a change of status application is pending is considered to be an abandonment of the application. If you have to leave the United States while the application is pending, you should consult your ISSS advisor, who will provide instructions on how to cancel the pending change of status application and obtain a new or amended Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 for travel.
Program Start Date
If the request for change of status to F-1 or J-1 has not been approved by the program start date on the Form I-20 (F-1) or Form DS-2019 (J-1), you have to notify your ISSS advisor to determine whether the program start date on the document needs to be deferred. Failure to do so may result in the SEVIS record being “terminated” and lead to a serious violation of immigration status.
You may not begin an assistantship, or engage in on or off campus student employment of any kind until the change of status has been approved.
Even with an approved change of status, you will need to obtain a visa for the new status during your next trip abroad.
If your change of status application is denied, you may be required to leave the United States on short notice and obtain an F-1 or J-1 visa (usually in your home country), and re-enter the US.
For further information, visit the International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) website at www.miami.edu/internationalservices and/or contact your ISSS Advisor at firstname.lastname@example.org
Although your International Student and Scholar Advisor is here to assist you, it is your responsibility to maintain your immigration status. It is imperative that you familiarize yourself with the regulations that govern your status. Failure to comply with these regulations will result in the loss of your student status and may subject you to deportation.