Change & Reinstatement of Status

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Change & Reinstatement of Status

If you are currently in the United States and wish to change from your current nonimmigrant status to an F-1 or J-1 student status, you can either do so via travel abroad or through an application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), in which case you would not need to depart the U.S.

You can acquire F-1 or J-1 status by leaving the United States and applying for an F-1 or J-1 student visa stamp at a U.S. embassy or consulate. Upon approval of the visa, you would then reenter the United States in F-1 or J-1 status.

If you decide that you would like to change your status by travel, here are the steps you should take:

  • Apply for an F-1 I-20 or J-1 DS-2019 by completing and submitting the CGPS I-20/DS-2019 Request Form.

  • Pay the SEVIS I-901 fee upon receipt of the I-20 or DS-2019 (Instructions on how to pay the SEVIS fee are available on the CGPS SEVIS webpage. Find more information on the DHS website

  • Apply for an F-1 or J-1 visa stamp at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. CGPS recommends that the individual apply for the visa stamp in his or her country of citizenship or permanent residence.

  • Present the Form I-20 or Form DS-2019, passport, visa stamp, and SEVIS fee receipt to the immigration inspector upon reentry into the U.S. 

  • Check your new I-94 entry record to ensure that you are recorded as having entered in F-1 or J-1 status.

If you are currently in the United States, you can apply for a change of status from certain nonimmigrant classifications to F-1 or J-1 student status without leaving the United States. Please note that USCIS officers are instructed to adjudicate all applications for change to F-1/J-1 status with reference to the same standards that consular officers use in determining eligibility for an F-1/J-1 visa.

It is recommended that you contact CGPS to discuss your eligibility to apply for the change of status and for information regarding the timing of the application.

On February 6, 2018, USCIS revised their special instructions for nonimmigrants applying for F-1 student status to state that the applicant must maintain their current nonimmigrant status while their change of status application is pending. This is necessary even in cases where the SEVIS start date has been deferred to a date beyond 30 days from the expiration of the applicant’s current status. If your current nonimmigrant status will expire more than 30 days before your F-1 program start date and you wish to remain in the United States until that start date, you must find a way to maintain a valid nonimmigrant status until it is at least 30 days before your program start date even while the application is pending. This is called “bridge the gap”. It is recommended that you ask an experienced immigration lawyer any questions about procedures and maintenance of status (including the need to file a bridge extension) while the change of status application is pending at USCIS.

For more information, please see USCIS Changing to Nonimmigrant F or M Student Status.

The following applicants filing a change of status to F-1 through USCIS must wait until their change of status application is approved by USCIS before they can begin studying in their degree program:

  • Nonimmigrants changing to F-1 from B-1 or B-2 status; and

  • Nonimmigrants changing to F-1 from F-2 dependent status (except in the case of F-2 minors studying at the primary or secondary level)

Also, please note that an applicant changing status to F-1 through USCIS may NOT work on-campus campus or begin an assistantship position (GA, RA, TA) until the change of status application has been approved by USCIS.

Certain nonimmigrants are not permitted to change status to F-1 while in the United States. Such nonimmigrants may still be eligible for F-1 status, but the only way they can get F-1 status is by obtaining an F-1 visa abroad. The following nonimmigrants are not permitted to change status to F-1 in the United States:

  • M-1 students

  • C, D, K, and S nonimmigrants

  • J-1 physicians admitted to receive graduate medical education or training

  • J nonimmigrants subject to the 212(e) 2-year foreign residency requirement

  • Aliens admitted as visitors under 8 C.F.R. § 212.1(e)

  • WT and WB visitors admitted under the Visa Waiver Program

If you decide that you would like to change your status in the United States, here are the steps to take:

  1. Contact CGPS to discuss your eligibility and the timing of the change of status application.

  2. Along with completing the I-20/DS-2019 request form, provide CGPS with the following documents:

    • A copy of your most recent I-94.

    • A copy of your passport personal data page(s) (i.e., the page(s) with your photograph and the expiration date of your passport).

    • A copy of your current nonimmigrant visa.

    • Additional documents such as your I-797 and an employment offer letter if you are on an H-1B visa.

    • Evidence of financial support (e.g., funding letter from your department or a bank statement showing personal or family funds). Information about this is in the I-20/DS-2019 request form.

  3. CGPS will issue your new I-20/DS-2019 and will send you instructions on how to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee.

  4. Make an appointment to complete your change of status application.

    • Collect the following documents/copies and bring them with you to the appointment.

    • Filing fee: $370 (make personal check payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security”)

    • Completed Form I-539

    • All documents mentioned in step 2

  5. Mail the application in to USCIS.

To qualify for F-2/J-2 status, the following requirements must be met:

  • The applicant must be the spouse of an F-1/J-1 (with a valid marriage license) or a child under the age of 21 (birth certificate).

  • The applicant must have a valid passport.

  • The applicant (or the F-1/J-1) must have sufficient funds to cover the F-2/J-2’s expenses in the United States (the F-1 or J-1 must show an extra $3,000 per F-2/J-2 dependent).

The F-2/J-2 must intend to leave the United States upon the termination of the F-1 or J-1’s student status.

 

F-2 Restrictions:

  • May not accept employment or engage in business under any circumstances.
  • May not engage in full-time study (only F-2 children may engage in full-time study at the K-12 level).

 

J-2 Restrictions:

  • There is no regulatory restriction on study for J-2 dependents.

  • J-2 dependents can apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS in order to be employed in the United States; employment may only begin after receiving the EAD from USCIS. Read more on the CGPS Families & Dependents webpage.

F-2/J-2 status can be acquired by leaving the United States and applying for an F-2/J-2 visa stamp at a U.S. embassy or consulate. The dependent can then reenter the U.S. in F-2/J-2 status.

Here are the steps to take if changing status to F-2/J-2 by travel:

  • Complete the Request for Dependent I-20/DS-2019 form.

  • Apply for an F-2/J-2 visa (stamp) at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. CGPS recommends that the individual apply for the visa stamp in his or her country of citizenship or permanent residence.

  • Present the Form I-20/DS-2019, passport and visa stamp to the immigration inspector.

  • After entering the U.S., check the new I-94 entry record to ensure that entry was in F-2/J-2 status.

If the applicant is currently in the U.S., change of status from certain nonimmigrant classifications to F-2/J-2 status can be done without leaving the country. Please note that USCIS officers are instructed to adjudicate all applications for change to F-2/J-2 status with reference to the same standards that consular officers use in determining eligibility for an F-2/J-2 visa.

It is recommended that the student contact CGPS to discuss their eligibility to apply for a change of status and for information regarding the timing of the application.

Here are the steps to take to change status to F-2/J-2 within the U.S:

  1. Contact CGPS to discuss the applicant’s eligibility and the timing of COS application.

  2. Complete the Request for Dependent I-20/DS-2019 form.

  3. Make an appointment with GCPS. Collect the following documents and copies and bring them with you to the appointment:

    • Filing fee: $370 (make personal check payable to “Department of Homeland Security”).

    • Completed Form I-539.

    • A copy of the applicant’s current nonimmigrant visa.

    • A copy of the applicant’s most recent I-94.

    • A copy of the applicant’s passport personal data page(s) (i.e., the page(s) with the photograph and the expiration date).

    • Copies of all immigration documents the applicant has held for current and previous statuses in the U.S.

    • Copies of the F-1/J-1’s I-20/DS-2019 forms (pages 1 and 3 only).

    • A copy of the F-1/J-1’s Form I-94 (front and back).

    • A copy of the F-1/J-1’s personal data page(s) (i.e., the page with photograph and the expiration date).

    • Evidence of financial support (e.g., letter from the F-1/J-1’s department regarding the terms of his/her assistantship and/or a bank statement showing personal or family funds with enough funds to support the F-2/J-2).

    • A copy of the marriage certificate or child's birth certificate.

  4. CGPS will issue the new I-20s/DS-2019s

  5. Mail in the change of status application to USCIS. 

Note: An F-2/J-2 dependent's status is valid only if the F-1/J-1 student is in the United States and continues to maintain F-1/J-1 status. If the F-1/J-1 visa holder travels outside the U.S. for a long period of time, the F-2/J-2 dependents should not remain in the country and must accompany the F-1/J-1 holder.

Updates:

  • Starting May 22nd, 2012, applicants can file the I-539 form online through USCIS ELIS. For more information, please visit the USCIS website.

  • For I-539 applications filed through USCIS ELIS, USCIS will accept a scanned, electronic version of a valid and properly executed Form I-20 or DS-2019. The original Form I-20 or DS-2019 need not be submitted.

  • For I-539 applications filed on paper, USCIS will accept a copy of a valid and properly executed Form I-20 or DS-2019. The original Form I-20 or DS-2019 need not be submitted.

  • For both ELIS and paper filings, USCIS will no longer return a copy of Form I-20 or DS-2019 to the applicant after the application is approved.

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ISSS Disclaimer: The information contained on this web site is provided as a service to international students, faculty, staff, employees, and administrators at the University of Delaware, and does not constitute legal advice on any immigration, tax, or other matter. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of official counsel. For assistance on your immigration status, we encourage you to contact an ISS advisor for specific guidance at oiss@udel.edu.