Changing Student Visa Status

In a number of circumstances, you may wish to change to F-1/J-1 from your current immigration status (B-1/2, F-2, H-1B, H-4, J-1).

It is possible to change visa status while remaining in the United States, although in some circumstances one may be ineligible for a desired F-1 or J-1 status change due to the visa's funding or other requirements.

Review our Change of Status Guide for information about eligibility, timeline issues for various transfers, and more. Our webpage on Changing Status FAQs may also be helpful.

How to change your visa status

1. Complete the I-20 (for F-1 Visas) or DS-2019 (for J-1 Visas) Request Form.

The form is available from the International Office, or it can be downloaded here:

2. Receive the 1-20/DS/DS-2019 and pay the SEVIS fee.

3. Submit an application for the Change of Status (COS) to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).

You must provide the following documents to the appropriate USCIS office. Check the Form I-539 instructions to determine to which address you should mail your application. (Note: Photocopy your entire COS application before sending it to USCIS.)

  • A completed and signed Form I-539
    The I-539 is available in the Forms section on the USCIS web site.
  • Processing fee
    A check or money order must be made out to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Check USCIS for current fee.
  • An original I-20 or DS-2019 issued by Northwestern University
    Make sure that you provide all pages of the forms and check to see that the form is signed by both you and the appropriate school official in the appropriate place.
  • Proof of SEVIS fee payment
    You can pay the SEVIS fee online at www.fmjfee.com. (Note that you must have the I-20/DS-2019 to pay the SEVIS fee.)
  • Proof of adequate financial support
    This documentation includes original bank documents, student loan information, scholarships, fellowships, teaching or research assistantships indicating that you or your sponsor has the financial ability to cover your educational and living expenses for one full academic year. The amount you must prove will be indicated on your I-20 or DS-2019.
  • Photocopies of passport
    Include both biographical and current visa pages.
  • Original I-94 card or printout of electronic I-94, accessible online at www.cbp.gov/I94
    This is the small white card often stapled inside your passport.
  • Dependent(s) documentation: photocopies of passport biographical page(s), current visa stamp(s), I-94 cards, their original I-20 or DS-2019 issued by Northwestern University
    Include these if you have dependent(s) that are applying for a change of status to F-2 or J-2 with you. Additionally, you must provide financial support for your dependent(s). The amount is indicated on your I-20 or DS-2019.
  • Additional documents
    Additional documents may be needed. Contact your IO advisor for document review and consultation.

This process can take between four and six months to approve.

4. Check-in at the International Office after approval.

Bring your passport, I-20/DS-2019, I-94 card, and COS Approval Notice to the International Office during business hours.