Change of Nonimmigrant Status

Definition: Changing your immigration classification (i.e. B-2 to F-1, F-2 to F-1).

Application Procedure
Applications for change of nonimmigrant status (COS) are reviewed and adjudicated by CIS. The adjudication (decision) is based upon the applicant’s ability to justify and demonstrate (through documentation) their change of intent after they arrived in the U.S.

Step 1 – Make an appointment to meet with the International Student Advisor/DSO to discuss your specific situation. Please bring the following documents with you to the meeting:

  • Passport;
  • Visa documentation;
  • Form I-20 (if applicable);
  • Form I-94 arrival/departure record (the white card in your passport).

Eligibility: In order to be eligible for a change of status, you must:

  • Qualify for a Form I-20;
  • Be maintaining your current status lawfully;
  • Have had a change of plans after your arrival in the U.S.

Be prepared to candidly discuss your specific situation with the International Student Advisor/DSO. The coordinator for international student services/DSO will need to make a determination as to whether or not you are eligible to apply for a change of status.

Important Note: If you currently hold a J-1 Visa and wish to change your status, you must first determine if you are subject to Section 212(E) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), commonly referred to as the “two year rule.” Please consult with the coordinator for international student services for further information.

Step 2 - You must submit an application for a change of status to CIS. The purpose of this application is to demonstrate to CIS that your intent changed after you arrived in the U.S., and that you should be granted a change of status. This application packet should be sent to CIS by certified mail, return receipt requested so that you have proof that your application packet was received. The coordinator for international student services/DSO can provide you with the materials needed to do this. Once you have all the documentation completed and assembled, the coordinator for international student services/DSO will review and photocopy your application packet. The application packet includes the following documents:

  • A completed Form I-539, Application To Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status.
    • Complete parts 1 through 5 of the Form.
    • For Part 4, Question 3F - Financial Support Statement must be attached.
    • It is recommended that you sign the Form I-539 in blue ink. This will show the adjudicating officer that the signature is original and not photocopied.
  • A letter to CIS requesting a COS. This letter should state the reason(s) for a change, how/why your intentions changed once in the U.S. and any other relevant information.
  • A completed/Signed New Form I-20 or DS-2019, along with the documentation indicating financial support (i.e., bank statement; Form I-134, Affidavit of Support).
  • A letter of admission to the college.
  • Passport (photocopy)
  • Previously issued visa documents (Form I-20, DS-2019, etc.) (photocopies)
  • Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record (photocopy)
  • U.S. Entry Visa Stamp in passport (photocopy)
  • Dependent’s (spouse and children) documents - if applicable (photocopy)
  • Documentation of Health Insurance coverage for J’s - if applicable.
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  • If filing a paper application, Personal Check/Money Order for the required $400 application fee made payable to CIS.
    • A personal check is recommended, since the application receipt number will be printed on the canceled check, but is acceptable only if your name and address are preprinted on the front.
    • Dates on personal checks should be written in mm-dd-yy format (i.e., November 14, 2020 would be written as 11-14-20).
  • Mail your application to:
    United States Citizen and Immigration Services
    Vermont Service Center
    75 Lower Weld en Street
    St. Albans, Vermont 05479-9765

Important Notes:

When completing the Form I-539 be certain that you have correctly entered your name. What you may refer to as your “family name,” “last name,” or “surname” should be written first, and what you may refer to as your “given name,” or “first name” should be written second. Entering your name incorrectly can result in a number of problems and/or delays in the processing of your application. Additionally, once the paperwork has been processed, the procedure for correcting your name on documents issued to you is quite inconvenient!

Effective September 1, 2004, when filing an application for a change of status to an F, M, or J classification (except for changes between F-1 and F-3 or between M-1 and M-3) continuing students are required to pay the SEVIS Fee.

Step 3 - After receiving the application for a change of status, the USCIS reviews the documentation and then determines whether or not a change of status should be granted. After the application has been adjudicated you will receive written notification of the decision.

Important Note: When CIS has begun processing your application, they will send you a Notice of Action. This is a receipt which informs you that the application has been received and is being processed. The notice will have an “application receipt number.” Keep this notice in a safe place. Without the receipt number you will not be able to check on the status of your case.

Processing Time: Currently, the processing time for a COS is approximately six to eight weeks. If you have an application receipt number, you can check the status of your case online.

Points to Consider

  • If you are applying for a change of status to an F, M, or J classification (except for changes between F-1 and F-3 or between M-1 and M-3), you will need to pay the I-901 (SEVIS) Fee before filing your application.
  • An application for change of status shortly after arrival can arouse suspicion that the individual intentionally misrepresented his/her intentions in order to obtain a U.S. visa and enter the country. An example of this would be entering the U.S. on a B-2 visa with the intention of enrolling at a college or university.
  • The coordinator for international student services/DSO cannot support your application for a change of status if (s)he feels that you intentionally misrepresented your intentions in order to obtain a U.S. visa and enter the country.
  • A change of status is not a visa change.

    • It is always better to return to your home country and go through the process of getting an F-1 Visa.
    • Changing your nonimmigrant status may not be viewed favorably by the U.S. Consulate, if you later apply for an F-1 Visa.
  • If the CIS adjudicating officer feels that additional information is needed in order to complete the review of your application, you will be sent a Request for Evidence (RFE), commonly referred to as a “Blue Sheet” since they are on blue paper.

    • Please note that the only circumstance in which CIS is required to issue an RFE is when initial evidence (evidence that is specifically indicated in the regulations, on the application or petition, or on accompanying instructions) is missing from the application. Issuance of an RFE is discretionary. This means that if your application is complete, but the evidence provided is insufficient to support your application, it can be denied without an RFE being issued beforehand.
  • Immigration Officers who adjudicate applications for a change of status [to F-1] have been directed that they need to be fairly certain that applicants have the necessary financial resources for their entire course of study (i.e., two years for an associate’s degree, four years for a bachelor’s degree) before approving the change of status.

    • Thus, some applicants have received an RFE requesting documentation indicating that the applicant has secured funding for the duration of their academic program, as opposed to only the first year.
    • It is therefore suggested that applicants for a COS provide documentation that indicates that they have the actual “liquid” assets that they will need to meet their educational expenses for their first year of study, along with an affidavit of support for the remaining years that can be viewed as credible.
  • If your application for a COS [to F-1] is approved after the semester/term has started, and it is too late for you to register for classes, you are still considered to be “in status” until the next semester/term that you are eligible to register for begins.

    • However, to be considered “in status” in this situation, you must not engage in any activity that would violate F-1 Status, such as unauthorized employment. Additionally, you should not engage in study of any kind.
  • File your application in a timely fashion.
  • When applying for a change of status, you must maintain your current status until 30 days prior to the program start date indicated on your Form I-20.
  • Make sure that all documents are properly signed.
  • Make sure that the proper fee is enclosed.
  • Use the current version of the Form I-539.
  • Make sure that the Form I-539 is signed legibly.