Office of International Programs

Changing Your Immigration Status

Many people already living in the United States must change their visa status in order to become a full-time student. Or sometimes students apply to change their visa once they have completed their studies in order to spend additional time in the US as a tourist. A few examples are noted below regarding current status and eligibility for study.

  • If you are in the U.S. in F-2 (spouse or child of an F-1 student) or B-2 (tourist) status you CANNOT begin your studies until your change of status is approved by the Immigration Service.
  • Visitors in J-1 (in au pair or worker) status may be able to take 1 class. However, written permission must be granted by both the organization that issued the visa and the local employer.
  • Visitors in H-4 status may study full or part time.

Important Information about the Timing of a Change of Status Application!

Those on other visa statuses, please consult with our office as to your eligibility for study under your current status.

Changing immigration status can be done two different ways:

  1. Traveling abroad and applying for a new visa stamp at a U.S. embassy or consulate OR

  2. Filing a change of status application while remaining in the U.S. This process can take at least 30 days, so you must plan accordingly if you are required to change your status prior to beginning your studies. If As long as you file before you current status expires, you are allowed to remain in the U.S. until you receive a response from the Immigration Service. Please note that the next time you travel outside of the country, you will still need to apply for a new visa stamp at the U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.You should note that when you apply for a COS within the US it is a request. It costs approximately $370 to apply for the change and you will also need to pay the $200 SEVIS fee for a total of $570. It  may take 30-180 days for an answer. You must also undertand that the answer may be yes OR no. If your request is denided you are expected to depart the US immediately.

Here are some examples of typical changes of status: 
A. Change from B-1/B-2 Visitor to F-1 Student

It is not recommended to come to the U.S. on a B-1/B-2 visitor’s visa if you are planning to attend school full-time. The Immigration Service often will deny the applications for changes from B-2 to F-1 if they feel that the person falsified his or her intentions when entering the U.S. and simply entered on the visitor’s visa to avoid the hassle of applying for an F-1. Please note that you CANNOT come in on the Visa Waiver Program and change to F-1.

Note: you will not be allowed to enroll at USM if you are in B status and waiting for your change of status to F-1. You cannot begin classes until your change of status has been approved an you are officialy in F-1 status.

B. Change from J-1 Exchange Visitor to Other Visa Categories

Students and scholars who are not subject to the two-year home residency requirement are free to change status to any other visa status for which they qualify. However, if you are subject to the two-year home residency requirement then you are prohibited from changing your visa status to F-1 student within the U.S. You must leave the country and apply for the F-1 student visa in your home country. Please be aware that even if you do return to the U.S. on the F-1 student visa, you are still subject to the residency requirement and will not be able to obtain the H-1 or L-1 visas or permanent residency until you fulfill the requirement or obtain a waiver.

Exchange Visitors are also prohibited from changes in categories within the Exchange Visitor Program in the U.S. For example, you cannot change from a J-1 student to a J-1 scholar or vice versa. Usually you can leave the U.S. and begin a new program.

C. Change from F-1 Student to B-2 Visitor

As part of your F-1 student status, you have a 60-day grace period to remain in the U.S. after you complete your studies. If you wish to stay longer to be a tourist, you can apply for a change of status to B-2 visitor. You must document that you have sufficient funds to support yourself during this time since no employment is permitted on the B-2 visa. You also will need to convince the BCIS of your intentions of returning home after your visit. The BCIS generally will only allow you to remain in the U.S. for an additional 30-day period unless you have a compelling reason for staying longer.

If you already have a valid tourist visa in your passport or you are from a country which allows you to enter on a “tourist wavier”, the change of status can be accomplished by leaving the country and re-entering as a tourist.