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Changing immigration status

If you are presently in the United States in a nonimmigrant status (such as F-2 or H-4) and have been accepted for admission as a full-time student, it may be necessary to change to F-1 or J-1 student status in order to study at MU, particularly if your program of study involves on-campus employment, a graduate assistantship or an internship. Some nonimmigrant statuses (e.g., H-4) allow school attendance without changing status but also prohibit employment.

There are two ways to obtain a new nonimmigrant status:

  1. Travel outside of the U.S., obtain the proper visa and re-enter the U.S. using the new visa.
  2. Submit an application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and receive a new status. Note: USCIS does not issue visas necessary for travel into the United States.

Each option has its own advantages and disadvantages. An International Center adviser can assist you in reviewing your options. Please contact an adviser or come to walk-in advising.

Changing your immigration status by travel

Once you have obtained an I-20 or a DS-2019 from the International Center, you can travel outside of the U.S. (preferably to your home country), apply for an F-1 or J-1 entry visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate overseas, and re-enter the U.S. using your new visa. To apply for a new visa, you will need to present:

  • I-20 for F-1 students or DS-2019 for J-1 students.
  • Valid passport.
  • Copy of your admission letter from MU.
  • Financial support documentation demonstrating sufficient resources to cover the tuition, fees and living expenses for your program of study.
  • Proof of ties to your home country, e.g. family relationships, employment, property, etc.
  • Receipt documenting that you have paid the SEVIS I-901 fee.

All of the above documents should be presented when applying for a visa and (with the exception of the ties to your home country) again upon entering the U.S. Upon clearing Immigration inspection, you will be in F-1 or J-1 status and your new I-94 will be marked accordingly. Review the I-94 to make sure that the official marked the correct visa class.

Changing your immigration status by application to USCIS

Once you have obtained an I-20 or DS-2019 from MU, you may submit an application to USCIS to request a change in your nonimmigrant status to F-1 or J-1 status. The following documents are required with all change of status requests; for additional requirements based on your current status, please see additional documentation required for specific visa types.

  1. Prepare all of the materials on the changing to F-1 status page (including the supplemental evidence based on your current status).
  2. After you have prepared the documents, you can apply online through the USCIS ELIS or mail the application to USCIS.
  3. USCIS will adjudicate your application within several month receiving it. Processing time is case-by-case and can take longer than five months to process in some cases. It is not unusual for USCIS to contact applicants with requests for more information prior to making a final decision. Once USCIS completes adjudication of your application, you will receive written confirmation of the decision.

Please note that the non-travel option leads only to a change in your immigration status. You will not obtain a new visa in your passport by this method. If you receive a change of status in the U.S., you must still obtain a new visa the next time you travel outside the U.S. if you wish to re-enter as an F-1 or J-1 student.

Important restrictions

If any of the below apply to you, your status can be changed only by traveling outside the U.S. and re-entering with a new visa. You cannot use the non-travel option.

  • You are currently in the U.S. under the visa waiver program or on a B-1/B-2 visa.
  • You are currently in the U.S. as a J-1 exchange visitor or a J-2 dependent and are subject to the two-year home residency requirement
  • You are currently in the U.S. but are in violation of your current immigration status.