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Change of Non-immigrant status

There are times when you may need or want to change your status due to circumstances. USCIS allows you to do this in certain cases. If you need to change your status and do not, you will be violating U.S. immigration law and may be subject to deportation.

You Must qualify to Change Your Nonimmigrant Status. To see a list of visas go to our visa page .

You may not change your status if you were admitted on the following visas categories:

  • Visa Waiver Pilot Program
  • C - Alien in Transit or without a visa
  • D - A crewman
  • K - Fiancé of U.S. citizen
  • S - An informant

If you were admitted on a J visa for graduate medical training you cannot apply for a change of status unless you receive a special waiver.

If you are on an M visa, you may not change to an F or H.

If you are the spouse or child of someone in the following visa categories, you do not have to apply to change of status to attend school in the USA:

  • A - Diplomatic
  • E - International Trade or Investors
  • F - Academic Students and their families
  • G - Representatives of International Organizations
  • H - Temporary Workers
  • I - Representatives of foreign media and their families
  • J - Exchange Visitors
  • L - Intracompany Transfers
  • M - Vocational Students and their families

Have your employer file Form I-129 (Change of Status) at the USCIS Regional Service Center with jurisdiction over your case if you are trying to change to one of the following categories: (If your employer files the petition, make sure your spouse and children file Form I-539):

  • E - International Trade and Investors
  • H - Temporary Workers
  • L - Intracompany Transferees
  • O - Aliens of Extraordinary Ability
  • P - Entertainers and Athletes
  • Q - Participants in International Exchange Programs (Disney Visa)
  • R - Religious Workers
  • TN - Canadians and Mexicans Under NAFTA

If you are in the following nonimmigrant categories, you should carefully read and complete USCIS Form I-539 (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status) and submit any required supporting documents:

  • A - Diplomatic and government officials
  • B - Temporary visitors and business or pleasure
  • F - Academic students and their families
  • G - Representatives to international organizations and their families
  • I - Representatives of Foreign Media
  • J - Exchange Visitors and their families
  • M - Vocational Students and their families
  • N - Parents and children of people granted special immigrant status because of working for an international organization

The application and correct fee should be mailed to the 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.

How Does My Spouse and Child Apply to Change Their Nonimmigrant Status?

If your employer files USCIS Form I-129 (Petition for Alien Worker) for you, then your spouse and child must carefully read and complete USCIS Form I-539 (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status) and submit any required supporting documents to change to a new nonimmigrant category. It is best to submit both forms at the same time.

You may include your spouse and any unmarried children under the age of 21 in your USCIS Form I-539 application if you are all in the same nonimmigrant category, or if your spouse or children were given derivative nonimmigrant status. Derivative nonimmigrant status means that your spouse and children were given nonimmigrant visas based on your nonimmigrant status. For instance, if a student is given an F-1 "Academic Student" visa, then the spouse and child are given F-2 "Spouse and Child of an Academic Student" visas.

When Should I Apply?

We recommend that you apply as soon as you determine that you need to change to a different nonimmigrant category. Please note, you must apply to change your nonimmigrant category before you current nonimmigrant status expires. Also, do not start new employment without first being approved for your change of status. The date your status expires can be found in the lower right-hand corner of your Form I-94 (Arrival-Departure Record). You should have received a Form I-94 when you legally entered the United States.

The USCIS is more likely to change your status if you are in status with your current visa. If you are late filing, then you must prove that:

  • The delay was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond your control;
  • The delay was of reasonable length;
  • You have not done anything to violate your nonimmigrant status;
  • You are still a nonimmigrant; and,
  • You are not in deportation proceedings.


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The information provided on this site is intended to teach individuals and corporations their rights and protect them from fraud. It is not a substitute for professional advice from an experienced immigration attorney and should not be taken as legal advice. Please consult a lawyer for advice regarding your specific situation.

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