New Students: Changing Status

Changing Your Immigration Status to F or J Student Status

Overview

F-1 or J-1 student status is appropriate for individuals who intend to pursue full-time study in the United States. Those currently in the United States in another nonimmigrant status may obtain F-1 or J-1 student status via travel abroad OR by applying to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for a change of status without departing the United States. International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) strongly recommends that you make an advisory appointment with an International Advisor in ISSS to determine which option is more suitable for you.

Per the Immigration and Nationality Act, both methods require that the individual demonstrate the following:
1. Admission to an academic program
2. Funding to cover at least 12 months of tuition and living expenses for F-1 seekers, or funding to cover the entire program length for J-1 seekers.
3. Nonimmigrant intent (that he or she intends to depart the United States after completing the program of study)

Procedure:

1. Make an advisory appointment with an International Advisor in ISSS   
At this appointment the International Advisor will explain the steps needed for you to obtain F-1 or J-1 status. Bring all your current and previous immigration documents, your UConn admission letter, and your proof of funding to this meeting.

2. Receive a Certificate of Eligibility (Form I-20 for F-1 or Form DS-2019 for J-1) from the University of Connecticut
The ISSS Advisor will determine which type of visa is appropriate and will advise you on which documents, Form I-20 or Form DS-2019, you need from UConn during the appointment.

3. Applying for F-2/J-2 Dependent Status
UConn F-1/J-1 students whose spouse or children under the age of 21 need to change from their current immigration status to F-2/J-2 status may generally follow the same procedures to change status. However, the support documentation needed for this application is different than for F-1/J-1 change of status applications. The F-1/J-1 UConn student must request a dependent I-20/DS-2019 from ISSS using the “Dependent Request Form” and should make an appointment with their International Advisor.

Option 1: Obtaining F-1 or J-1 Status By Travel

Individuals may acquire F-1 or J-1 status by leaving the United States before commencing their academic programs, obtaining an F-1 or J-1 student visa stamp at a U.S. embassy/consulate abroad and reentering the United States in F-1 or J-1 status. If beginning a new program of study, you may enter in F-1 or J-1 status no earlier than 30 days before the start date of your program.

Students will be instructed to pay a SEVIS fee upon receipt of the Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 and to use the Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 to apply for an F-1 or J-1 visa stamp at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. ISSS strongly recommends that the individual apply for the visa stamp in his or her country of citizenship or permanent residence.

Upon entry to the United States, students should present the Form I-20 or Form DS-2019, passport valid for at least 6 months into the future, valid F-1 or J-1 visa stamp, and SEVIS fee receipt to the immigration inspector. They will receive an entry stamp marked “F-1 D/S or J-1 D/S” in their passports.

NOTE: Please provide copies of your F-1 or J-1 documents to International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) upon your return to the United States.

Option 2: Obtaining F-1 or J-1 Status by Applying for Change of Status in the U.S. 

Individuals currently in the United States in certain eligible nonimmigrant classifications may apply for a change of status to F-1 student or J-1 exchange visitor status. This process does not require departure from the United States.

Eligibility – In general, non-immigrants who are maintaining lawful status may apply for change of status to F-1 or J-1.

Exceptions – The following non-immigrants are not eligible to apply to change status within the U.S.: J nonimmigrants subject to the Section 212 (e) two-year home residence requirement, those in WT or WB (visa waiver program participants), M-1, C, D, K, and S non-immigrants.

USCIS reviews applications for change of status based on an applicant’s ability to document and justify a change of intent after arrival to the United States. Applications are approved at the discretion of the USCIS adjudicator. Note that F-1 or J-1 status can be granted only up to 30 days prior to the program start date indicated on the Form I-20 or Form DS-2019. The applicant’s current nonimmigrant status must be valid at the time the application is received at USCIS and that the current status will continue to be valid up until the date that the new status is requested to begin.

To apply for a change of status to F-1 or J-1 within the United States, applicants must submit the documents listed below to USCIS. An applicant may need to include additional documents depending on the immigration status he or she currently holds. The Immigration Services International Advisor will give you a full list of items suitable for your particular situation in the advisory meeting.

Special note for applicants changing from A or G status:
Before applying for change of status to USCIS, the applicant must
• Complete Form I-566 and submit it the US Department of State in Washington DC through the diplomatic mission or international organization.
• After Form I-566 is signed and returned by the Department of State, the applicant must submit the form with all of the items listed on page one.

Special note for applicants changing from B status:
Applications for change of status from B-1 or B-2 to F-1/J-1 made by persons who have either already applied to US schools from abroad or who apply for a change of status shortly after entry to the United States are routinely denied. However, if the B-2 visa is marked prospective student, the change of status may be approved.

Special note for applicants changing J category:
Changing a J-1 category, e.g. from J-1 research scholar to J-1 student, requires an application to Department of State, not to USCIS. Change-of-category requests are rarely granted. Please consult with an ISSS International Advisor for details. It is not possible to change category between two different J-1 program sponsors.

E-Filing (ELIS) vs. Paper Filing
It is possible to file your Change of Status application online or paper-based. Please refer to the USCIS website for further details on e-filing through ELIS. Please be advised that if you choose to file your application online, International Student & Scholar Services is unable to provide detailed assistance on the application procedures.

Mailing Your Application (Paper Filing)
Photocopy your complete application for your personal records. Please also submit a duplicate photocopy of your complete application to ISSS for your immigration file. We advise that you send your completed application by Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested or by express mail with tracking. For the mailing address and instructions, refer to the I-539 application on the USCIS website.

What to do after the application is approved
You must notify your ISSS International Advisor, providing a copy of the Form I-797/Approval Notice as soon as you receive notification from USCIS. The ISSS International Advisor will advise you on check-in procedures with our office and activate your SEVIS status.

[Frequently Asked Questions on Change of Status] 

Q: Can I leave the U.S. after I filed my change of status application to USCIS?
A: You should not leave the U.S. while your change of status application is pending with USCIS. If you leave the U.S. with the application pending, USCIS would consider you to have abandoned your application to change your non-immigrant status.

Q: Can I begin study while my change of status application is pending with USCIS?
A: If your current status is B or F-2, you may NOT begin to study until your change of status application is approved and you are registered in SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System). If your current status is other than B or F-2, it is permissible to begin study while your change of status application is pending. Please consult with an ISSS International Advisor to confirm.

Q: Can I work on campus while my change of status application is pending with USCIS?
A: No, you cannot have any F-1 or J-1 benefits, including on-campus employment eligibility, until such status becomes effective.

Q: My change of status application is approved. I don’t have a valid visa for my new status in my passport. What do I need to do?
A: You can legally stay in the U.S. in your new status. However, you will have to apply for a new visa for your F-1/J-1 status at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate the next time you travel abroad (except for those traveling to Canada, Mexico and the U.S. adjacent islands for a less than 30 days or less and are eligible for re-entry under the automatic revalidation rule) in order for you to reenter the U.S.