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Changing Your Immigration Status

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Two Ways to Change Visa Status

There are two different ways to change your visa status. The first is through travel and the second is by submitting an application through Premium Processing to the USCIS and remain in the U.S. Both involve costs to the applicant as well as time needed to effect the change in status, so it is up to the applicant to determine which method is preferable.

Changing Status Through Travel and Re-entry

If you are already present in the U.S. on a different visa type and need to change to F-1 or J-1, for example, you have the option of returning to your home country, obtaining a new visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate, and re-entering the U.S. the new visa status. Traveling back to the home country may be an expensive and time-consuming method, but it may be the fastest way to get the required visa status . 

Changing Status in the U.S.

It is possible to change a nonimmigrant classification from the one originally granted, without departing the U.S. 

For example, if you came to the U.S. as an F-1 and want to change to J-1, you can file an application with the USCIS requesting that change. This has become a more practical option due to the introduction of Premium Processing for this type of request on June 28th, 2023, which accelerates the processing time of the application considerably (change of status application previously required 6-8 months). Now, Premium Processing for a change of status will take only 30 days. During those 30 days, the applicant should not travel outside the U.S.

Below please find the Guidelines for Completing Form I-539 which will provide the guidance needed to submit the application to change status within the U.S. The application to apply for Premium Processing is Form I-907. This Form I-907 must be submitted together with the Form I-539. Bechtel cannot review your application or provide legal advice. If you have additional questions regarding this process, please seek the advice of an immigration attorney.

Please note that if you were admitted under the visa waiver program (WB or WT status), you may not change your status in the U.S. You must leave the U.S. and apply for the appropriate visa in your home country before re-entering.

F-1/J-1 Students

If you are a nonimmigrant currently residing in the U.S. on a visa type other than F-1 or J-1, and you will attend 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 your 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.

J-1 Scholars

If you are a prospective J-1 Scholar at Stanford and decide to file a change of status application within the U.S., let your department administrator know so they can note it in the DS-2019 Request Form. 

If you are a scholar on a J-1 visa (on post-completion OPT), the program start date on the DS-2019 should be the day after the end date of the OPT.

Change of Status Process within the U.S. for both F-1/J-1 Students and J-1 Scholars

  1. Request your I-20 or DS-2019 from Stanford University.
  2. Pay your SEVIS Fee.
  3. Download the I-539 form from the USCIS website.
  4. Submit the completed form to USCIS with supporting documents. USCIS will send you a receipt notice. After the application has been submitted it will take USCIS five to eight months to approve your petition. Once approved, USCIS will send you  an approval notice.

Notify a student advisor or scholar advisor at Bechtel International Center when the change of status is approved.

Guidelines for Completing Form I-539 

Guidelines for Completing Form I-907