It is possible to change visa status while remaining in the U.S. First, you must obtain the Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 from your program sponsor (the IO). After receiving the I-20/DS-2019 and paying the SEVIS fee, you must submit an application for the Change of Status (COS) to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). This process can take between four and six months to approve.
See Change of Status Guide for more information about changing to F-1/J-1 from your current visa status (B-1/2, F-2, H-1B, H-4, J-1).
Photocopy your entire COS application before sending it to USCIS:
For a handout regarding your Change of Status application please review the Change of Status Instructions.
HOW LONG MUST I MAINTAIN MY CURRENT IMMIGRATION STATUS?
Individuals must maintain their current non-immigrant status until at least 30 days prior to the report date listed on the I-20/DS-2019 AND until a Receipt Notice issued by USCIS has been received.
HOW LONG WILL MY COS APPLICATION TAKE?
Check the "Case Status Online and Processing Times" page of the USCIS website ("http://www.uscis.gov") to determine current processing times. Applications usually take three to four months to process from the date of the Receipt Notice.
CAN I LEAVE THE U.S. WITH A PENDING COS APPLICATION?
If an individual departs the U.S. while the COS application is pending, he or she is considered to have abandoned the COS application. Departure from the U.S. without the COS approval will result in a cancellation of the application. Exit and re-entry to the U.S. after obtaining a U.S. visa stamp at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad will be necessary.
CAN I LEAVE THE U.S. AFTER RECEIVING THE APPROVAL NOTICE FOR THE COS?
Individuals may remain in the U.S. after the COS has been approved. If you leave the U.S., you must apply for and receive a visa stamp in your passport to be able to re-enter the U.S. in the new status.
WHAT IF I HAVEN'T RECEIVED THE COS APPROVAL BY THE START OF CLASSES?
Individuals currently in the U.S. in a status that permits full-time study (including, but not limited to H-1B, H-4,and J-2) may begin attending classes on the scheduled I-20/DS-2019 start date, even if the COS has not yet been granted, provided that the individual has received the COS Receipt Notice from USCIS. Individuals currently in the U.S. in a status that does not permit full-time study (including, but not limited to, B-1/B-2 and F-2) may not attend classes until the COS has been approved and the Approval Notice has been received. Contact the International Office if you have not received your approval notice two weeks prior to the I-20/DS-2019 start date.
WHAT SHOULD I DO AFTER I RECEIVE THE COS APPROVAL NOTICE?
Once the COS application has been approved you must again check-in at the International Office. Bring your passport, I-20/DS-2019, I-94 card, and COS Approval Notice to the International Office during business hours.