All prospective students and scholars should obtain the appropriate entry visa from the U.S. consulate located in their home country. If you are already present in the U.S. on a different visa type and need to change to F-1 or J-1, we strongly recommend that you do this through travel and re-entry. For those who happen to be in the U.S. when their document is issued, traveling back to the home country may appear to be an expensive and time-consuming way, but it may be the fastest way to get the required visa status.
It is possible, though not advisable, to change a nonimmigrant classification from the one originally granted by the Immigration Service at the airport or port of entry, without departure and re-entry. For example, if an individual comes to the U.S. as an F-1 and wants to change to J-1, an application to the USCIS can be filed requesting that change. This is discouraged due to the lengthy processing times (approximately 5–6 months). Also, be aware that individuals who have been admitted under the visa waiver program (WB or WT status) may not change their status in the U.S. These individuals must leave the U.S. and apply for the appropriate visa in their home country before re-entering.
If you are a non-immigrant currently residing in the U.S. on a visa type other than F-1 or J-1, and you will be attending Stanford full time, you should change your visa status to F-1 or J-1 before school starts. If you are in the U.S. on a tourist visa (B-1, B-2) you may not enroll in the course of study until your visa status has changed to F-1 or J-1. Although immigration regulations allow a student in certain cases to enroll pending approval of their change of status, all employment on- and off-campus is strictly prohibited, and you forfeit your ability to receive any other university-based funds such as a Stanford-based graduate fellowship, or research and teaching assistantship.
If you are a prospective J-1 Scholar at Stanford and decide to file a change of status application within the U.S., let the department administrator know so it can be noted in the DS-2019 Request Form. For scholars on F-1 visas (on post completion OPT), the program start date on the DS-2019 should be the day after the end date of the OPT.
If a change of status is filed within the U.S., you should not depart the U.S. until the change of status has been approved. If you depart prior to the approval, the petition is considered to be abandoned.