Students who are currently inside the U.S. and who wish to gain a different immigration status in the United States have two choices:
- Depart the U.S. and apply for the appropriate visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad, and then apply for entry to the U.S. using that visa
- If currently inside the U.S., apply for a "Change of Status" from the U.S. government, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) without departing the U.S.
There are costs and benefits associated with each choice listed above.
If you choose to change status by departing the U.S., applying for a visa from the US consulate or embassy generally takes anywhere from a few days to a month or two.
Applying for a change of status from within the U.S., by applying to USCIS, can take several months and it's very difficult to predict the time needed. Additionally, when applying for a change of status within the U.S., the individual must be able to show that he or she was maintaining their previous status at the time the application was filed with the government. Note that F-1 and J-1 students are required to show that they were maintaining their previous status until at least 30 days prior to the start date listed for their academic program.
There are two options for filing a change of status:
- Filing a paper "I-539" application
- Filing an online electronic application in the Government's "ELIS" System.
Please click on the links below for more information regarding how to apply for a change of status from within the United States.