Changing Status in the U.S.

Overview

Individuals in a lawful immigration status in the U.S. may apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to change that status while remaining in the U.S., for example from H-1B to F-1. J-1 students who are subject to and have not fulfilled the two-year home residency requirement will need to travel to change status.

There are two methods to complete a change of status in the U.S.: by mailing or electronically filing your application.

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Filing by Mail

Eligibility

  • You must be in your previous status when you apply; i.e. your previous status must not have expired. 

  • J-1 students who are subject to and have not fulfilled the two-year home residency requirement, will need to travel to change status. You are not eligible to file by mail in the U.S.

Timing

  • If you are in F-2 or B-2 status, USCIS advises that petitions for change of status should be  received by the Service Center no sooner than 30 days before the start date on your Form   I-20 or DS-2019, or else they may be denied. NOTE: This does not apply to other statuses that permit study in a degree program, such as H-1B.
  • It usually takes 4-5 months for a request for change of status to be adjudicated.
  • You cannot travel internationally while the COS application is pending.  If you do, your application will be considered 'abandoned' and will be cancelled. If you have travel plans, you may be able to change your status by traveling outside of the U.S., applying for the appropriate entry visa (e.g. F-1/J-1) and re-entering with the new status. 
  • Your current status should last up to the new status start date.  If changing to F-1, your previous status should last until at least 30 days before the new status start date.  For example, if your F-1 I-20 start date is 9/26, your current status should last until 8/26.

Steps

  1. Obtain form I-20 (for F-1 status) or DS-2019 (for J-1 status) from OIA. To do so you must follow all instructions provided on the admitted student section of our website.
  2. Obtain, complete and sign a Form I-539.  Follow the instructions that come with the form carefully and attach all required documents.
  3. Mail documents to:

USCIS
P.O. Box 660166
Dallas, TX 75266

Documents to prepare

  • A completed Form I-539You must complete this form yourself or with an attorney and mail it to USCIS; OIA cannot assist you with this part of the process.
  • Your original University of Chicago I-20 or DS-2019; remember to complete and sign #11 on the I-20.
  • Copy of passport biographical page(s) (those showing your name and photo).
  • Documentation of your I-94:
    • If you entered the U.S. on or before April 29, 2013: Photocopy of your I-94 Departure Record card, front and back.
    • If you entered the US on or after April 30, 2013: Visit the USCBP website to retrieve and print out a copy of your electronic Form I-94.
  • A check or money order for the filing fee (see the USCIS website for the current fee) payable to "U.S. Department of Homeland Security".
  • Evidence of your funding.
  • Evidence of SEVIS fee payment.
  • Evidence that you have maintained your prior status since entry into the U.S. If you are changing from an employment-based status such as H-1B or L-1, such evidence may include W-2 forms, a copy of your most recent pay voucher, or a letter from your employer confirming that you are still employed).

  • Optional document: Form G-1145, "E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance,"   if you want to be notified by email and/or text message when your application is received.

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Filing Electronically

Eligibility

  • You must be in your previous status when you apply; i.e. your previous status must not have expired. 
  • J-1 students who are subject to and have not fulfilled the two-year home residency requirement will need to travel to change status. You are not eligible to file for a change of status in the U.S.

Steps

  1. Obtain form I-20 (for F-1 status) or DS-2019 (for J-1 status) from OIA. To do so you must follow all instructions provided on the admitted student section of our website.
  2. Visit USCIS ELIS review instructions and create an account. Click here for student specific Q&A. The following Internet browsers are supported for USCIS ELIS use: Microsoft Internet Explorer versions 6 and higher; Mozilla Firefox versions 3 and higher.
  3. Create legible scans of the following documents:

    • ​Your original University of Chicago I-20 or DS-2019; remember to complete and sign #11 on the I-20.

    • Passport biographical page(s) (those showing your name and photo).

    • Documentation of your I-94:

      • If you entered the U.S. on or before April 29, 2013:  Your I-94 Departure Record card, front and back.
      • If you entered the US on or after April 30, 2013: Visit the USCBP website to retrieve and save a PDF version of your electronic Form I-94.
    • Evidence of your funding; Evidence of SEVIS fee Payment.

    • Evidence that you have maintained your prior status since entry into the U.S. (if you are changing from an employment-based status such as H-1B or L-1, such evidence may include W-2 forms, a copy of your most recent pay voucher, or a letter from your employer confirming that you are still employed).

  4. Complete and submit the electronic form.  Click here for detailed guidance on how to address each question, upload documents and make payments.

  5. Save the completed application.

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While Application is Pending

  • You may begin your program of study, unless you are currently in F-2 or B-2 status. If you are in one of these two statuses, you must wait until your request for a change of status has been approved before you can start classes. If you are in F-2 or B-2 status and consider changing your status, please contact our office first because this will likely affect when you will be able to start your studies.
  • Do not plan to travel internationally before adjudication. If you do, your application will be considered abandoned.
  • You are not eligible for employment (on-campus or off-campus) or other F-1 or J-1 benefits until your change of status has been approved.
  • For additional information on changing your non-immigrant status, please see http://www.uscis.gov/.

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