International

Change Your Visa Status

It may be possible for you to change your visa status, depending on the type of visa you have currently and the visa status you want to apply for.

A United States non-immigrant visa holder may apply for a different non-immigrant visa at a US Embassy or Consulate. Authority to grant such a visa lies within the discretionary power of the consular officer.

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From F-1 to Another Status

If you hold F-1 status, you are eligible to change status to any other immigration status for which you qualify. Students in F-1 status are considered to be in status for 60 days after completion of a program or study or Optional Practical Training, and may apply for a change of status during the 60 day grace period.

If your change of status cannot be approved before the end of your authorized F-1 program, including the grace period, you will not be able to apply for a change of status in the US.

From F-1 to F-2

An F-1 student can become an F-2 student if they marry another person holding an F-1 visa status. An F-1 student currently studying in the U.S. may change immigration status to F-2 (dependent of an F-1) provided that:

  • The F-1 who wishes to change to F-2 status is currently maintaining proper F-1 status.
  • The F-1 spouse for whom the student will be an F-2 dependent is currently maintaining F-1 status and can prove that he or she has the finances necessary to support the F-2. At the University of Cincinnati, we require $4,000 in additional support for an F-2 spouse.

Students (the F-1 and/or prospective F-2) who are enrolled at the University of Cincinnati should schedule an appointment with an advisor at UC International Services. We will review all documents to ensure that the petition is in proper order. To schedule an appointment, please call 513-556-4278.

To change status from F-1 to F-2, the following documents will be required:

  1. completed I-539 change of status application form. Print and fill out the form.
  2. completed I-539A Supplement for the applicant and each accompanying dependent.
  3. A fee payable to the Department of Homeland Security. You can pay with a check or money order payable to the Department of Homeland Security, or a completed Form G-1450 - Authorization for Credit Card Transactions.
  4. An I-20 issued for the F-2 Dependent (this will be made during the appointment).
  5. Copies of passport, visa, I-94 card (front and back) or electronic I-94 and all I-20's for the F-1 wishing to change to F-2 status.
  6. Copies of passport, visa, I-94 card (front and back) or electronic I-94 and all I-20's for the F-1 who will support the prospective F-2.
  7. Proof of marriage of the F-1 and prospective F-2.
  8. Proof of financial support for the F-1 and F-2.

Once the I-539 form is filed with USCIS, every change of status applicant and accompanying dependent must attend a biometric services (fingerprinting) appointment. The appointment will be scheduled at the Application Support Center (ASC) closest to the applicant’s address. Each applicant and accompanying dependent must also sign a separate Form I-539A.


From J-1 to Another Status

If your status is J-1, your eligibility to change to another nonimmigrant status may be limited.

  • If you are subject to the J-1 two-year home residency requirement, you are eligible to change only to A or G visa status with appropriate accreditation.
  • If you did not come to the United States to receive graduate medical education or training, are not subject to the J-1 two-year home country residency requirement, or have had the requirement waived, you may apply for a change to any other nonimmigrant status for which you are qualified. 

Persons in J-1 or J-2 status are considered to be in-status for 30 days after completion of program or after completion of academic training, and may apply for a change of status during their 30 day grace period. If your change of status cannot be approved before the end of your authorized Exchange Visitor Program, including the grace period, you will not be able to apply for a change of status in the US.

From J-1 to J-2

The Department of State (DOS) and USCIS do not look favorably on a request by a J-1 exchange visitor to change to J-2 dependent status, since J-1 exchange visitors are expected to return home immediately upon completion of their program in the United States. Such requests usually are either denied or referred to the DOS.

Any other nonimmigrant who wishes to request a change of status to J-2 should schedule an appointment with UC International Services. We will review all documents to ensure that the petition is in proper order. To schedule an appointment, please call 513-556-4278.

To change status to J-2 the following documents will be required:

  1. completed I-539 change of status application form. Print and complete the form and bring it to us to review.
  2. completed I-539A Supplement for the applicant and each accompanying dependent.
  3. A fee payable to the Department of Homeland Security. You can pay with a check or money order payable to the Department of Homeland Security, or a completed Form G-1450 - Authorization for Credit Card Transactions.
  4. A DS-2019 issued for the J-2 Dependent (this will be made during the appointment).
  5. Copies of passport, visa, I-94 card (front and back) or electronic I-94 and all certificates of eligibility or I-797 approval notices issued to the prospective J-2 beneficiary.
  6. Copies of passport, visa, I-94 card (front and back) or electronic I-94 and all DS-2019's for the J-1 who will support the prospective J-2.
  7. Proof of marriage of the J-1 and prospective J-2.
  8. Proof of financial support for the J-1 and J-2.

Once the I-539 form is filed with USCIS, every change of status applicant and accompanying dependent must attend a biometric services (fingerprinting) appointment. The appointment will be scheduled at the Application Support Center (ASC) closest to the applicant’s address. Each applicant and accompanying dependent must also sign a separate Form I-539A.


From Another Status to F-1 or J-1

The following visa statuses may not change their visa status under any circumstances:

  • C
  • D
  • J - subject to two-year home country residency requirement
  • K
  • Visa Waiver Program

If you are currently hold any other non-immigrant status, you may have the ability to change your status to F-1 within the United States. To be eligible to change status in the US, your current status must not expire until at least 30 days prior to start date of classes for the semester you will begin your studies.

In the current immigration environment, changes of status are taking up to 9 months or more to be adjudicated. We highly recommend that you travel home to apply for an F-1 visa rather than apply for a change of status in the United States.

To be eligible to change status in the U.S., your current status must not expire any earlier than 30 days prior to start date of classes for the semester you will begin your studies.

  • Any person classified as a dependent spouse, unmarried child under the age of 21, or member of a principal’s immediate (except F-2 or M-2) family, may remain in the U.S. as long as the principal is in status and is specifically authorized by immigration regulations to attend college full-time or part-time. F-1 students must study full-time. Are you ready to accept that responsibility?
  • In addition, non-immigrants in A, E, G, H, I and L, NATO, O-1, O-3, R, and S status may be eligible for in-state tuition at public institutions, while F-1 students are not. This is a financial factor you should take into account. 
  • F-2 or M-2 spouses or children wishing to attend college must change status to F-1 prior to enrolling. 
  • A dependent child in E, F-2, H-4, I, J-2, L-2, M-2, O-3, P-4, R-2, or TD status must change status in order to lawfully remain in the US after his or her 21st birthday, after marriage, or after moving out of their parents’ household. 
  • Dependent children in A and G status may remain in status after age 21, but not after marriage or becoming independent of the principal.

In order to process a change of status to F-1, you will need to complete the following steps:

  1. Obtain Form I-20 to attend the University of Cincinnati issued for the purpose of “Initial Change of Status.” In order to obtain an I-20, you must have been admitted to the University of Cincinnati, confirmed your offer of admission, and provided our office with proof of financial support for your program of study. 
  2. Upload your sources of financial support using the “Sources of Financial Support” eForm in iBearcatsGlobal
    1. The “Sources of Financial Support” eForm is linked under the “Pre-Arrival Checklist” in the “Limited iBearcatsGlobal Services." 
  3. Fill out the Change of Status to F-1 eForm in iBearcatsGlobal. This eForm walks you through the change of status process step-by-step and lists the documents required for your application.
    1. Depending on your status, you may also be required to provide additional supporting documents.
  4. Within about 5 business days, you will receive an email to make an appointment with an advisor for the final processing of your Change of Status. 
    1. Bring a credit card to your appointment with UC International. We will help you to pay the I-901 SEVIS Fee.
  5. Mail the I-539 change of status application, required fee and all supporting documents to the USCIS for adjudication.
    1. Every change of status applicant and  dependent must attend a biometric services (fingerprinting) appointment, which will be scheduled at the Application Support Center (ASC) closest to the applicant’s address once the I-539 form is filed with USCIS. 
    2. Each applicant and dependent must also sign a separate Form I-539A. 

Once your change of status application is approved:

  • Submit your I-797 approval notice to UC International using the “Notification of Change of Immigration Status” eForm
  • Complete the “Pre-Arrival Checklist” found in the Limited iBearcatsGlobal Services section of iBearcatsGlobal prior to the semester you are scheduled to begin your study at UC. 
  • Start studying at the correct time. 
    • Students applying for a change of status from F-2, M-2 or B-2 should not begin study until the change of status is approved. 
    • All other status holders should begin study as indicated on the I-20, whether or not the change of status to F-1 is approved prior to the beginning of classes.

Before you submit an application for change of status to the USCIS, you must complete Form I-566 and send it to the Department of State for a recommendation.

  • The recommendation must be enclosed with your change of status application when it is sent to USCIS. If the State Department does not recommend approval, USCIS is not going to say “yes.”
  • Form I-566 must be signed by an official of the diplomatic mission employing you or your parent or spouse and submitted to the Office of Protocol, US Department of State.
  • As long as you are accredited or listed by the Department of State as entitled to diplomatic status, you may not change to F-1 status.

Applicants changing from the B status must take special care to show that they did not intentionally apply for the wrong visa or intentionally enter the U.S. in the wrong status.

  • If you knew you were going to enter school when you applied for entry into the U.S., you cannot change your status unless you stated to the USCIS port of entry official that you wanted to go to school or investigate different schools. • 
  • Your B-2 status must remain valid until at least 30 days prior to the start date indicated on your I-20 form. If for some reason the change of status to F-1 is not approved by the date your current B-2 status expires, you will be required to file an additional I-539 form to extend your B2 status. Failure to do this will result in a denial of your change of status to F-1 request. 

You must use your application to describe the tourism, family visits, or medical treatment in which you engaged and the circumstances under which you decided to become a student. If there is any evidence available, take care to include it. This evidence is necessary to establish that you only had the intent to be a tourist when you entered the U.S. and that you actively engaged in those activities. Answer these questions on a separate sheet of paper to help facilitate the change of status application:

  1. Give the date and location of issuance of your visitor’s visa. Make a copy of the visa page in your passport and submit it with your application. 
  2. Please explain specifically what information was given to the American Consulate when you obtained your tourist visa as to the purpose of your trip to the United States. 
  3. When you arrived at the port of the entry in the United States and applied for entry as a visitor, what reason for your visit did you give the Inspector? 
  4. Did you indicate to the American Consulate Official or to the admitting Immigration Inspector that you might want to study in the United States? 
  5. Explain how, and on what date, you decided to study in the United States. 
  6. How and on what date did you first contact the school or university as to your desire to enroll as a foreign student? 
  7. On what date were you informed by the school or university that you had been accepted for admission? 
  8. Did you bring the documents necessary for admission to the school, (i.e. transcripts from previous schools), with you or were they mailed to the school from abroad by you? 
  9. If your intent to attend school in the United States was before your entry in to this country, why didn’t you apply for the appropriate student visa from the American Consulate in your home country, rather than getting a tourist visa? 
  10. Have you been in the United States before? If yes, please state when, for what purpose, and how long did you stay? 
  11. Do you have any relatives in the United States and if so, what type of visa are they here on?

Persons in C or D status are not permitted to change to any other status.

Changes from E status to F-1 are usually granted to dependents as long as the principal is still employed as a treaty trader or investor at the time the application is submitted. Proof of this employment should be included with the application.

If an F-2 spouse or child wishes to begin an academic program, he/she must change to F-1 status prior to enrollment.

  • The F-2 should show that he/she is going to attend school full-time and that he/she has very definite career plans for which a degree is necessary.
  • The original F-1 spouse should submit proof that he/she continues to be in status at the time of the application.
  • All applications for F-1 (from F-2) status must submit proof of the relationship to the F-1 (birth or marriage certificate).
  • F-2 dependents must also include a copy of his/her SEVIS I-20 form.

Before applying for a change of status, you must complete Form I-566 and submit it to the Office of Protocol at the Department of State for a recommendation. However, if the employer is the United Nations or a mission to the UN, the I-566 is submitted to the United States Mission to the UN.

  • When the State Department returns the form to you, it must be enclosed with your change of status application. If the Department of State recommends against approval, the USCIS will not approve your change of status. 
  • You may not change from any G status as long as you, or your principal spouse or parent is accredited as a diplomat. 
  • The I-566 must be signed by an official of the diplomatic mission employing you, or your parent or spouse. 
  • All applicants in G status must take care to show the Immigration Service that they intend to return to their home country after completion of studies.

Changes from H-4 status to F-1 are easily made when the application includes proof that the principal is still employed by a sponsoring employer.

Principle H-1, H-2 and H-3 visa holders may apply for changes while in status, but extra care must be taken in answering the questions on the I-539 attachment. The USCIS must be convinced that the applicant is not simply trying to postpone return to the home country, that the original H activity was genuine, and that there is a valid professional or academic objective connected to the plan for study. State clearly that you will return to the home country after studies.

Changes from I status to F-1 status are not difficult when it is shown that the principal is still employed by the media sponsor. It is very important to convince the USCIS that the applicant intends to return to the home country when studies are completed.

J-1 or J-2 applicants must obtain waivers of the two-year home residency requirement, if subject, before applying for a change, and must maintain J status at all times until the waiver is granted and the change of status application is submitted.

  • When there is no need for a waiver, applicants do not need permission or approval of the Department of State or program sponsors to change to F-1.
  • Persons in J-1 or J-2 status are considered to be in-status for 30 days after completion of studies or after completion of academic training, and may apply for a change of status during the 30 day grace period.
  • A foreign medical graduate who entered the U.S. in a status other than J and then changed to J status to obtain graduate medical education or training may not change to F-1 status.

Persons in K status may not change to any other nonimmigrant status.

Changes from L-2 to F-1 are easily made as long as there is evidence that the L-1 principal continues to work for the sponsoring company.

An L-1 may change to F status when the application is submitted while he/she is still working for the sponsoring company and when it is shown that there is a valid academic or professional objective. All L applicants should be careful to show that they intend to return to the home country when studies are completed. 

A student in M-1 status may not apply to change to F-1 status unless they can show that the USCIS mistakenly admitted the student in M-1 status when it should have admitted him/her in F-1 status.

There are no rules against changes from M-2 to F-1 or M-1 to F-2. M status is valid until the expiration date on the Form I-94, plus 30 days. M-1's and M-2's are also in status while awaiting a USCIS decision on an application for practical training that was submitted before the end of 30 days after completion of studies, during any authorized practical training, and for 30 days after the completion date on the Form I-20 submitted with the application for practical training approval.

Although both principals and dependents in the seven NATO statuses are often eligible for changes of status to F-1, there are many exceptions and special rules.

Persons in N-8 and N-9 status are special immigrants to the United States and are not eligible to change to F-1, J-1, or any other temporary nonimmigrant status. After certain time requirements have been met, persons in N statuses are expected to adjust to permanent resident status.

Though there is no rule preventing a change to F-1 status by an O-1, it may be difficult to convince the USCIS of the need for additional education.

Persons in O-2 status should show that they engaged in the activities for which the status was granted.

Students in O-3 status should have no difficulty in making the change to F-1, as long as the O-1 or O-2 principal is still in lawful status at the time the change of status application is filed. A person in O status is considered to be in valid status for 10 days after the authorized stay is expired.

Principals in P-1 status may find it difficult to convince the USCIS of the need for an academic program.

Changes from P-4 to F-1 should be easily made, as long as the principal is still in status.

Persons in P status are also in valid status for 10 days after the expiration of authorized stay.

When there is evidence that a person in Q status has engaged in the activities for which he/she was admitted to the U.S., a change of status to F-1 should not be difficult. Q status is valid for 30 days past the authorized stay.

There should be no obstacle to a change to F-1 status for a person in one of the R statuses, especially if the planned education will enhance a religious vocation for the principal or provide a career in the home country for the dependent. However, both should meet a high standard of convincing the USCIS of the intent to return to the home country.

Persons in the S statuses may not change to other nonimmigrant statuses.

Persons in these statuses, when the principal is employed or doing business required under the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement should encounter little difficulty in changing to F-1 status. However, returning to Canada and reentering with a Form I-20 may be faster, easier, and simpler than applying for a change through the USCIS.

Persons admitted under the Visa Waiver Program may not extend or change status under any circumstances.