Studying in a Status Outside of F-1/J-1

Can I study in my current non-immigrant status?

In the U.S. immigration system, F-1 and J-1 are designated as 'student statuses,' which make the status holder eligible for full time study in the U.S.  Outside of F-1 and J-1, there are a number of non-immigrant statuses that allow for part time or full time study.  However, not every immigration status allows visitors to study in the U.S.

If you are currently in the U.S. under a different immigration status that generally allows for full time study (e.g. H-4, L-2, A-2 etc), you may be eligible to attend your program in your current status. In this case, you would not require F-1/J-1 sponsorship from the University of Chicago. You must check with your current immigration sponsor to see if you are able to participate in your UChicago program with your current status.

FAQ: Studying at UChicago in Other Statuses

  • How can I determine if I am able to study in my current status?
    You must check with your current immigration sponsor to verify that you are legally eligible to study at UChicago in your current status. Your sponsor is the entity or company that issued your immigration documents (e.g. the current employer or school).

    If you are not in a category that legally allows study when you start your UChicago program (such as Tourist status), you will be in violation of your immigration status, which can have a negative impact.
  • What statuses allow for study in the U.S.?
    The SEVP Sheet on Nonimmigrants: Who Can Study explains study benefits for primaries and dependents in different immigration statuses. However, each immigration sponsor interprets immigration regulations differently. Even if your current status states that study is allowed, always check with your immigration sponsor before engaging in any study.

    NOTE: visitors in B-1/B-2 Tourist status or who have entered with the Visa Waiver Program (WVP) are NOT legally eligible to study or take courses.  Studying at UChicago while in tourist status or under VWP would likley violate your status and have a negative immigration impact.
  • I verified with my sponsor that I am eligible to attend courses in my current status.  What do I need to do for OIA?
    If you are going to attend the program in your current status, you don’t need to submit anything to OIA (e.g. the FRS, financial documents, etc) or receive anything from our office.  You will not need an I-20 or DS-2019 from UChicago if you won’t be applying for F-1 or J-1 sponsorship from us. However, you may still need to submit some kind of documentation to your admissions department.  Check with your admissions office for more information.
  • Can I study part time or full time in my current status?
    You must check with your immigration sponsor to see what study benefits your current status has, if any.  Some statuses allow for full-time, some for part-time, some for 'incidental', and some for no study at all.
  • Will I be eligible for CPT, OPT, or on campus employment with my current status?
    No. Work authorization is a benefit of F-1/J-1 status.  If you are not in F-1/J-1 status, you will not be eligible for any F-1/J-1 benefits, including work authorization.  Contact your immigration sponsor for questions you have about your eligibility to work in your current status or what other options you may have.
  • If I start school in my current status, can I change to F-1 or J-1 status in the future?
    Typically, yes.  As long as you are otherwise eligible and are continuing in your full-time academic program, you should be able to apply for F-1 or J-1 status in the future.  For example, you could start a two-year program in H-4 status (assuming your sponsor allows it) and change to F-1 after the first year.  You must attend full-time courses to be eligible for F-1/J-1 sponsorship.

    However, not all UChicago programs are able to sponsor students in F-1/J-1 status.  If your program is non-credit, part of a certificate program, part-time, or not academic in nature, it is likely that it does not fit the government requirements for sponsorship and the University is legally unable to sponsor you in F-1/J-1 status. Contact your program or OIA if you have any questions about future University sponsorship.
  •  How do I change my status to F-1/J-1, if needed?
    If you do want to change your status to F-1 and you are going into an eligible UChicago program, your first step is to apply for an I-20 by submitting documents to your admissions department (e.g. passport, FRS, financial docs, etc) and then change your status by either leaving the U.S. and getting an F-1 visa or submitting a Change of Status application in the U.S. (if eligible). An overview of the entire process can be found on our admitted student website.
  • If I get an I-20 , will it automatically change my status to F-1?
    No. The I-20 itself does not change your status to F-1 and does not make you eligible to legally attend courses.  The I-20 just shows that you are eligible to apply for F-1 status. You will still need to follow the change of status procedures and either change your status through travel or submitting a change of status application in the U.S. (if eligible).
  • If I change to F-1/J-1 status in the middle of my program, will I still be eligible for OPT, CPT, or other employment benefits?
    Generally, yes.  OPT/CPT and other employment eligibility is based on the time spent in your full time academic program in total, not necessarily on the time you've spent in F-1/J-1 status. Do note that, if you have been studying part time, the time spent in your program will not count towards work authorization eligibility.  The timing for work authorization eligibility can be tricky, so make sure to work with OIA long before making any change.
  • If I stay in my current status, can I work on campus?
    No. You must contact your immigration sponsor for information about any benefits of your current status, including any employment eligibility.