1. What is Change of Status?
Providing permission to foreign nationals holding a nonimmigrant visa in the U.S. to change status to another nonimmigrant category while in the U.S. is called Change of Status.
2. Who is eligible for Change of Status?
You may be eligible to change your status to another nonimmigrant status if:
- You have lawfully entered into the U.S. with a nonimmigrant visa
- Your nonimmigrant visa status remains valid
- You have not committed any crime that would make you ineligible
3. Who may apply for Change of Status?
Certain nonimmigrants who are maintaining status and wish to change to another status including:
- Diplomatic and other government officials, and their dependants and employees on an A visa
- Temporary visitors for business or pleasure on B visa category
- Academic students on F-1 visa and their dependants on F-2 visa
- Representatives to international organizations and their dependants and employees on G visa
- Representatives of foreign media on I visa and their dependants
- Exchange visitors on J-1 visa and their dependants on J-2 visa that are not sublected to the 2 year home residency requirmen in § 212(e)
- Vocational students on M-1 visa and their dependants on M-2 visa
- Parents and children of the people who have been granted special immigrant status because their parents were employed by an international organization in the United States
- Temporary workers on H, L, O, P, Q or R visa and their dependants
4. Who may not apply for Change of Status?
You may not change your nonimmigrant status if you have entered into the U.S. under the following visa categories:
VWPP-Visa Waiver Pilot Program (or the Guam Visa Waiver Program)
D – As a crewman
C – As an alien in transit or in transit without a visa
K – As a fiance or spouse of a U.S. citizen or dependent of a fiance or spouse
S – As an informant (and accompanying family) on terrorism or organized crime
5. Why do I need to change status to a new nonimmigrant category?
As a nonimmigrant you temporarily enter into the U.S. for a specific purpose such as business, study, temporary employment or pleasure. When you enter into the U.S., a U.S. official assigns you a nonimmigrant category according to the purpose of your visit. If you want to change the purpose of your visit while you are in the U.S. then you or, in some cases, your employer must ask the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to change your nonimmigrant status.
Note: For instance, if you arrived in the U.S. as a tourist, but want to become a student, you must submit an application to change your status with the USCIS. If you do not apply to change your nonimmigrant status, you will be violating U.S. immigration laws.
6. How do I apply for Change of Status?
If you wish to change your status to any of the following nonimmigrant categories, your employer should file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, and any required supporting documents:
E – International Traders and Investors
E – International Traders and Investors
H – Temporary workers
L – Intra company transferees
O – Aliens of Extraordinary Ability
P – IEntertainers and Athletes
Q – Participants in International Exchange Programs
R – Religious workers
TN – Canadians and Mexicans under NAFTA
If you wish to change status to any of the following nonimmigrant categories, you should carefully read and complete Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, and submit any supporting documents:
A – Diplomatic and other government officials, and their dependants and employees
B -Temporary visitors for business or pleasure
F – Academic students and their dependants
G – Representatives to international organizations and their dependants and employees
I – Representatives of foreign media and their dependants
J – Exchange visitors and their dependants
M – Vocational students and their dependants
N- Parents and children of people who have been granted special immigrant status because their parents were employed by an international organization in the U.S.
Note: Your application and correct fee should be mailed to the United Sates Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Service Center that serves the area where you are temporarily staying. If your nonimmigrant category is work-related, then the application and correct fee should be mailed to the USCIS Service Center that serves the area where you will work.
7. How do my dependants apply for Change of Status?
If your employer files Form I-129, Petition for Alien Worker, for you, then your dependants must file Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, and submit any required supporting documents to change to a new nonimmigrant category.
You may include your dependants (spouse and any unmarried children under the age of 21) in your Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, if you are all in the same nonimmigrant category, or if your spouse or children were given derivative nonimmigrant status.
8. When should I apply for Change of Status?
It is recommended that you apply as soon as you determine that you need to change to a different nonimmigrant category.
Note: You must apply to change your nonimmigrant category before your current nonimmigrant status expires. Also, do not start new employment before getting approval for your change of status application.
9. What happens if I apply for Change of Status after my authorized stay has expired?
If you are late in filing for a change of nonimmigrant status and your current status has already expired, you must prove that:
- The delay was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond your control
- The length of the delay was reasonable
- You have not done anything else to violate your nonimmigrant status (such as work without United States Citizenship and Immigration Services approval)
- You are still a nonimmigrant. (This means that you are not trying to become a permanent resident of the U.S. There are some exceptions.)
- You are not in formal proceedings to remove or deport you from the country
10. How can I check the status of my Change of Status application?
You may check visa status by using VisaPro’s free visa status service.
11. How can I appeal a USCIS decision regarding my Change of Status?
If your application to change your nonimmigrant status is denied, you will receive a letter that will tell you why the application was denied. You will not be allowed to appeal a negative decision to a higher authority. However, you may submit a motion to reopen or a motion to reconsider with the same office that made the unfavorable decision. By filing these motions, you are asking the office to either reexamine or reconsider their decision.
A motion to:
- Reopen must state the new facts that are to be provided in the reopened proceeding and must be accompanied by affidavits or other documentary evidence
- Reconsider must establish that the decision was based on an incorrect application of law or United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) policy, and further establish that the decision was incorrect based on the evidence in the file at the time the decision was made
12. Who must comply with change of address rules while applying for Change of Status?
All foreign nationals in the U.S. who are required to be registered under the law must keep the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) informed of their changes of address. The only foreign nationals exempt from this requirement are:
- Diplomats (A visa status)
- Official government representatives to an international organization (G visa status)
- Certain nonimmigrants who do not possess a visa and who are in the U.S. for fewer than 30 days
13. Where can I find the law on Change of Status?
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) governs the admission of all people to the U.S. For the part of the law concerning changing nonimmigrant status, please see INA § 248. The applicable regulations are found in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at 8 CFR § 248.