How to Change to Student Status

Many individuals who are currently in the U.S. in a valid immigration status other than F-1 or J-1 may change to student status when he or she is admitted to a program or if he or she is currently pursuing study at UM in another immigration status. Please note this is general information and is not intended to replace the advice of an OIS advisor or a qualified immigration attorney. Students are encouraged to schedule an appointment with an OIS advisor to receive more tailored, case-specific advice.

There are two ways to change to student status:

1.  Change by Travel

You may change your status by leaving the United States and re-entering in F-1 or J-1 status.

This requires that you apply for an F-1 or J-1 visa at a U.S. consulate. Once you have obtained the appropriate visa, you would then enter the United States in student status.

When you are at a port of entry, the immigration inspector will admit you in F-1 or J-1 status by issuing you an I-94 card marked "F-1 D/S" and stamping your I-20 in the top right corner. For student’s in J-1 status, you will be issued an I-94 card marked “J-1 D/S” and your DS-2019 will also be stamped.

See How To Obtain a Visa for more information.

2.  Change by Application

You may also attempt to change your status by submitting a change of status application to a USCIS service center while remaining within the United States. Your current immigration status cannot expire more than 30 days prior to the start date on your I-20 or DS-2019.

  • If you change your status this way, the next time you travel out of the United States, you will still need to go to a U.S. consulate, apply for and obtain the visa stamp appropriate to your new immigration status.
  • Additionally, you can NOT apply while remaining in the U.S. if :
    1. You are a J-1 visa holder who is subject to the two year home residence requirement
      OR
    2. You entered the United States using the visa waiver program.

The application process is a two step process

First: Obtain an I-20 or DS-2019 from the OIS

  • If you are a newly admitted student to the university, the admissions office will forward a request to the OIS for I-20 or DS-2019 issuance.
  • If you are a continuing student at the university, please schedule an appointment with an OIS advisor and bring the following with you to the appointment:
    • Your immigration documents (passport, visa, I-94, and any other pertinent immigration documents, i.e., DS-2019, F-2 dependent I-20, I-797 approval notice, etc.)
    • Original financial documents, no more than 6 months old, in English, showing sufficient funds for your program. Cost of attendance information is available here.   
    • Copy of your application for admission to the university.

Second: Submit the application package to USCIS.

This requires that you assemble the following materials:

  1. A completed Form I-539.
  2. A bank check, money order, or personal check made payable to Department of Homeland Security, USCIS for the required $290 fee.
  3. Copies of the biographical and expiration pages of your passport.
  4. Copies of your current U.S. visa.
  5. Copies of both sides of your current I-94 card, with the red stamp clearly legible.
     * This includes photocopies of the I-94 cards of any dependents that are changing with you.
  6. Your new original Form I-20 or DS-2019 from UM, signed on the bottom of page 1 by you.
  7. Original financial documents.
     * If your financial sponsor is an individual other than yourself and in the U.S.,
    Form I-134 (affidavit of support) is also recommended.
  8. The receipt from the payment of the SEVIS fee
  9. Copies of other pertinent immigration documents (i.e., I-20 for F-2 dependents, DS-2019 for J-1/J-2s, I-797 approval notice for H-1Bs, etc.);
  10. A letter explaining why you are requesting the change of status.
    This is 
    extremely important: your letter should clearly explain your current status, your plans for study at UM, and your longer-term plans. Keep in mind that F-1 and J-1 status are NON-IMMIGRANT classifications. This means that you must indicate, and in certain cases may be required to document, that you continue to maintain ties to your home country--whether in the form of a residence, an expected job offer, or continuing family ties. It is not unusual for the USCIS to request documentation regarding your ties to your home country, and you should be prepared to provide such documentation. 
  11. Also include these documents if you are:

A newly admitted student:

•  A copy of the admission letter.

A continuing UM student:

•  Copies of your transcript
•  An enrollment letter

Changing from a dependent status

For those changing status from a dependent status, also include the following:

  • Copies of the principal’s immigration documents (passport, visa, I-94, and other relevant immigration documents).
  • Evidence that the principal is maintaining his/her immigration status (i.e., paycheck stubs for employment-based immigration statuses, transcripts for F-1 or J-1 students, etc.)

For those changing from A, G, or NATO statuses, also include:

  • Form I-566 endorsed by the U.S. Department of State (DOS). For those changing from A, G or NATO derivative statuses (i.e., your spouse or parent is the individual employed by the embassy or international organization), please note that DOS will not endorse the I-566 until the A, G or NATO principal has ended his/her tour in the U.S. This form is forwarded to DOS from the visa office in the embassy or international organization where the A, G or NATO principal is working.

After the application is filed ...

Once your change of status (COS) application is filed and you have received your receipt notice, please send a copy to the OIS. This is so that your OIS advisor can perform the necessary maintenance on your SEVIS record to prevent your SEVIS record from going into “canceled” status, which may cause your COS application to be delayed. Upon approval, bring your I-20 or DS-2019 and I-797 approval notice to the OIS so that we may update your records and activate your SEVIS record.