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Updated February 11, 2021

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 a New Non-immigrant Status

If you are already in the US with a particular status, but your primary purpose changes and/or your current legal status is going to expire, you may need to obtain a new non-immigrant status. Examples of when a new status may be required 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
  • J-1 research scholar seeking to pursue full-time study as an F-1 student (or vice-versa)
  • J-1 research scholar seeking to become a J-1 student (or vice versa)
  • F-1 student finishing studies and becoming a J-1 research 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. In other cases, it may not 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.

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

Notes:

  • 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
    • Depending on how much of a gap there is between the expiration of your current status and the start of your requested F or J status (as reflected by the start date on your most recently issued Form I-20 or Form DS-2019), you may be required to submit to an additional bridge application with USCIS in order to fill the gap between your current status and requested status
  • 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