Change of Status (COS)
A person's non-immigrant status must match the purpose of his/her stay in the U.S. A change of status may be necessary when the objectives of the visit have changed. For example, a person may come to the U.S. to study on an F-1 student visa and then later decide to change to a J-1 Research Scholar to do postdoctoral work after completing his/her PhD degree.
Changing non-immigrant status can be a complex process. The timing of the change is critical and must be done with care to avoid falling out of status during the transition. Before you undertake a change of status, we recommend you make an appointment to speak to an International Student Coordinator about the process.
In general, there are two ways to change nonimmigrant status:
- Travel outside the U.S. and re-enter in the new status, or
- Stay in the U.S. and request a change of status by application
to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Traveling outside the United States is the same process that you encountered when you were applying to come to the United States from your home country to study:
- Apply to and receive acceptance from an SEVP-certified school
- Fill out and return to the ISSS office the request for I-20 form
- Receive a Change of Status Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Status” from your designated school official (DSO)
- Pay the I-901 SEVIS fee
- Apply for a visa to travel to the United States
- Return to the United States to begin your studies.
Remaining in the United States and submit an application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to change your nonimmigrant status by following these steps:
Gather the following information and complete all required forms:
- Fill out and return to the ISSS office the Change of Status request for I-20 form
- File online the Form I-539.
If your change of status is approved, immigration will mail you the new immigration document and a new I-94 Card indicating your new status. The entire process may take up to four-five months for processing. You may NOT study until you have received an approval from immigration for the Change of Status.
After you receive approval, please stop by the International Center with your new immigration document and I-94 card so that we may copy them for your file. The International Center will keep a complete copy of your application on file.