The following information is for students, scholars, and employees who are currently in the US and want to change from one non-immigrant status to a student status (e.g., F-1 status or J-1 status) in order to be able to study, research, or work at Tufts. Note: the information offered below is intended to be general in nature and does not constitute legal advice. Because change of status procedures can be quite complex, the International Center strongly recommends consulting with a qualified immigration attorney about options and requirements for changing non-immigrant status. The International Center is unable to prepare change of status applications on behalf of individual students, staff, or dependents.
Obtaining Non-immigrant Student / Scholar Status
If you are already in the US in a non-student or scholar status, but would like to change to student / scholar status, you may need to apply for a change of status. Common change of status scenarios include the following:
H-1B temporary worker stopping employment to become an F-1 student
H-4 or F-2 dependent child seeking or needing to become an F-1 student due to age limitations
J-1 research scholar seeking to pursue full-time study as an F-1 student or J-1 student
F-1 student seeking to become a J-1 scholar
In most cases, the fastest way to obtain a new non-immigrant status is by departing the US, applying for a new visa, and returning to the US on the new visa. However, it may not always be possible or feasible to travel outside the US. In these situations, you may investigate whether it is possible to apply for a change of status from within the US.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic traveling internationally (to / from the US) and applying for US visas overseas may be subject to long delays or restrictions. Consult with an international student advisor about your individual situation if you are seeking to obtain a new non-immigrant status to become a student or scholar at Tufts.
Is Changing Status Required?
In certain instances it may not be required to change to student or scholar status. Your current status may permit you to study or engage in research without needing to switch to a F-1 student or J-1 student or scholar visa. Because individual cases may be quite different, consult with the International Center and/or an immigration attorney about your options.
In particular, persons already in the US in a protected status (e.g., Temporary Protected Status, refugee / asylum status, etc.) or as a pending immigrant should always consult with an immigration attorney before taking steps to obtain F-1 or J-1 student status.
Change of Status from within US
If travel outside the US is not possible or feasible, you may be eligible to apply for a change of non-immigrant status by submitting a Form I-539 application to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Your I-539 application packet will include, at minimum:
A completed and signed Form I-539
The I-539 filing fee and I-539 biometrics fees (consult the USCIS web site for a list of required fees and amounts)
Copies of your current immigration documents, including your current passport ID page, visa (if applicable), and Form I-94
Copies of documents relevant to your requested status, such as a copy of your Tufts I-20 or DS-2019, admission letter, and financial documents
A signed letter of explanation that explains the reason for the change of status request
If you are changing to H-1B status based on employment at Tufts, do not follow this process. The International Center will request a change of your status in our H-1B petition for you.)
If you are in A or G status and seeking F-1 or J-1 status, you must also obtain a Form I-566 approval from your home country mission and the US State Department before you can apply to change your status. A and G visa holders should consult with their sponsoring diplomatic mission or embassy for additional assistance with the I-566 process.
Change of Status Restrictions and Requirements
In order to apply for a change of status from inside the US, you must currently be in valid status and you must submit your I-539 application to USCIS before your current status expires
You cannot apply for a change of status from within the US if any of these apply:
You are subject to Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, based on either current or past participation in a J-1 Exchange Visitor Program
Your current non-immigrant status has already expired
You are currently in the US under the 90-day visa waiver program (WT or WB status)
If you are applying to change to F-1 or J-1 status, your current status must be valid up to at least thirty (30) days before the start of your F-1 or J-1 program
J-1 status applications may be require the submission of an additional bridge application with USCIS in order to fill the gap between the current status and requested status. It is highly recommended to check on this requirement with an immigration attorney.
USCIS can take six months, and in many cases much longer, to process a change of status request
If you are currently in a status that does not allow you to study and/or work, you will not be able to begin any study or employment until USCIS approves your new status and your new status becomes effective
If you are in F-2 status you may only study on a part-time basis while a I-539 is pending with USCIS
If you are in visitor status (B-1/B-2) you are not permitted to pursue degree study until your request for F-1 status is approved
The I-539 filing, even if approved, does not give you a new visa; it only provides you with permission to remain in the US under new rules and regulations
Even if your request for a new status is approved by USCIS, if you later travel outside the US you will still need to apply for the appropriate visa at a US consulate outside the US