Change of Visa Status
Visas are issued for a specific purpose and allow the visitor to enter the United States for that purpose only. If your purpose changes while you’re here, you may need a different visa by applying for a Change of Status (COS) to a visa category that matches your primary activity. Each visa category has different rules, regulations and benefits.
Two Options for Change of Status (COS):
When deciding which option is best, it is important to consider: upcoming travel plans, application processing times, the expiration date or special conditions of your current status. Your target status and associated regulations will help determine which option is best.
Depart the U.S., apply for a new visa at a United States Embassy, and reenter the U.S. with the new visa and supporting documents. Your new status becomes active upon reentry to the U.S.
- Faster than changing status in the U.S.
- Obtain the visa stamp in your passport and the status associated with the new visa
- Possibility of visa processing delays
- Expenses of international travel
Remain in the US but submit a Change of Status application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
- Stay in the U.S. during processing.
- Does not require a visa interview or application. (Visas are only issued outside the U.S.)
- Lengthy processing time (8-12 months). May restrict access to enrollment, employment, tuition waivers etc...
- May not depart the U.S. during processing.
- Visa stamp will be required upon next departure and re-entry to U.S. (except for trips under 30 days to Canada or Mexico)
- Requires extensive documentation. If denied, you must depart the U.S. immediately.
Eligibility for Change of Status
- You are maintaining current status.
- You are eligible for the new status.
- Your current status does not prohibit change of status in the U.S. See below.
- You have been admitted to program of study certified to host F-1 students.
Not possible if:
- Your period of authorized stay has already expired.
- You have otherwise violated the conditions of your current status.
Sometimes, ISSS advisors cannot advise you on the process if your situation is complex or unusual. In such cases, ISSS may recommend that you work with an experience immigration attorney instead.
Restrictions to Change of Status
- Individuals in J status, subject to the two-year home-country residence.
- Individuals under the Visa Waiver Program (marked “W/T” or “W/B” on the I-94) cannot change non-immigrant status.
- Individuals under C, D, or K status cannot change non-immigrant status.
- A vocational student in M status cannot change to F status.
ISSS will not process in-country Change of Status I-20s if requested less than two months before the first day of classes for the next term. ISSS will process I-20s for any students pursuing Option 1 (Travel and Reentry) above.
Withdrawing Your Change of Status Application
If you apply for a COS in the U.S., then later decide to travel home for your new visa, you must contact ISSS to confirm your plans and request a new initial I-20.
Which Option Should I Choose?
Following are points to keep in mind as you decide which Change of Status option is best:
If you are currently in B-1 or B-2 status, you must wait for final F-1 approval before you can enroll at GSU.
Generally, you may begin studying before F-1 status is approved. However, many of these categories (including H-4 and H-1B) do not allow you to work or hold a graduate assistantship at the university. If you have questions about what you are allowed to do in your current status, talk with your ISSS advisor.
You are not eligible to change status inside the U.S., so you must travel. If you are out of status in the U.S., you must travel to obtain a visa. If you submit a Change of Status application to USCIS, it will be denied.
Applying for COS
Change of Status (COS) is an individual application. The process depends on which of 2 methods you choose. COS within the US can be complicated and confusing, and each person’s situation is different. ISSS can provide general information and issue your Change of Status form I-20. However, we advise you to work with an immigration attorney if your case is complex, unusual, or if your questions and concerns go beyond our scope of practice.
- Upload required financial documents for the Change of Status I-20 request in iStart. After approval, ISSS will issue the Change of Status form I-20, which you can use to pay your SEVIS fee and make a Visa appointment in your home country.
- Please review Obtaining an F-1 Visa and plan your travel.
- When you reenter the U.S. your F1 status becomes active.
- Complete form I-539 (Application to Extend / Change Status) Instructions are below.
- Review the Change of Status Checklist and gather the following:
- Upload required documents to iStart. Your ISSS advisor will review them and issue the appropriate form I-20.
- Prepare your application packet and mail it to USCIS. ISSS does not prepare the application or mail it for you.
- Notify ISSS when you receive the receipt notice and eventually the approval notice.
Change of Status: FAQ
- Your current status
- Your immigration history in the U.S.
- Quality and appropriateness of your application materials
- Your ability to prove non-immigrant intent
- Your ability to document liquid financial support for your stay in the U.S.
- The academic level and focus of your studies in the U.S.
Current trends provide no guarantee that an application will be approved or denied, and you should prepare for both outcomes. Have a plan ready in case your request is denied.