A Division of the International Studies Office

Changing to F-1/J-1 Status

Changing to F-1/J-1 Status

Change of Status

**Students seeking to change status within the U.S. should speak to the ISO first.  Change of status applications can take 6-12 months and the applicant must maintain an appropriate legal status that would permit university studies throughout the application process.  For this reason changing status within the U.S. is strongly discouraged.  You should plan to obtain F or J status through travel.

Applications to change to F-1 or J-1status may be filed by matriculating international students who are residing in the U.S. in a qualifying nonimmigrant status. All other students must apply for a visa stamp abroad.

Applicants for change of status should not travel abroad after their application is filed without first consulting the ISO.  Travel while any change of status is pending is considered an abandonment of the application, and may lead to termination of status gained through travel.

Matriculating students in B status may not begin studies at the University of Virginia until their application to change status is approved. F-2 visa holders may only begin as part-time students. The ISO recommends that students attempt to change from B to F-1 status only as a last resort. Students visiting the U.S. as Canadian visitors or on the visa waiver program are not eligible to change status in the U.S. Students in other nonimmigrant classifications who plan to change to F-1 status to attend UVA should apply to do so before beginning their studies.  Students for whom the change of status has not nor will not be approved prior to the commencement of studies should consult the ISO about changing status through travel.  This should be considered as a "back-up" plan well in advance of studies, or as the primary method to effect the status change.  Be aware that a change of status application in the U.S. can take as long as 6 months or more.

F-1/J-1 status may not commence until 30 days before the start date on Form I-20 or Form DS-2019. Matriculating students must ensure that they maintain their current nonimmigrant status at the time the application for the change of status is filed and until within 30 days of the start date on Form I-20/DS-2019. Note that any student wishing to work at the University pursuant to F-1/J-1 status must have an approved application to change to F-1/J-1 status before beginning employment.

Applications to change to F-1/J-1 status may be submitted to the USCIS up to six months in advance of the start date on Form I-20/DS-2019, but may not be approved by the USCIS until 120 days or less before the start date. Any dependent family members who wish to remain in the U.S. in a dependent status must submit applications to change to F-2 status or J-2 Status.

To apply to change to F-1/J-1 status, you must prepare the following:

Note that the intent of your most recent entry into the U.S. must be consistent with the type of entry (e.g. if you entered in H-1B status, you must have returned to H-1B employment or if you entered in B status, you must demonstrate that you intended to visit the U.S. on a temporary basis).

  1. A cover letter that should:
    1. provide details about your current maintenance of status and the intent of your most recent entry into the U.S.;
    2. request a change to F-1 or J-1 status; and
    3. summarize all materials that you are submitting.
  2. Form I-539, found on the USCIS website.
  3. Original Form I-20 or DS-2019 provided to you by UVA. Make an appointment with an advisor to proceed with creating your I-20.
  4. Receipt confirming payment of the SEVIS fee.
  5. Copies of financial documents demonstrating that you can cover the cost of attending UVA.
  6. Your current I-94, or admission number receipt. 
  7. Photocopies of the identification page from your passport (and any validity amendments) and all documentation of your previous immigration history in the U.S. (e.g. Forms I-797, I-20, DS-2019).
  8. If your current or previous status is a dependent status, you must provide documentation of your relationship to the principal (e.g. birth certificate or marriage certificate), and documentation that the principal is maintaining status.
  9. Documentation that you continue to maintain your current immigration status (e.g. photocopies of pay statements for H-1B or L-1 nonimmigrants).
  10. Check made out to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (visit the USCIS website to confirm the filing fee), **

Once all materials are assembled, you should make a complete photocopy of the package for your records before you send it by courier to the appropriate USCIS service center. Visit the USCIS website to confirm that you should file with the service center having jurisdiction over your current place of residence.

The U.S. postal service will not forward USCIS correspondence to a new address. If you change your residential address, you must change your address online with USCIS and provide your application receipt number (see the Form AR-11 page on the USCIS website), .

Students in A or G status should contact the ISO to confirm eligibility to change to F-1 status. Individuals who have held J-1 status may not be eligible to change to F-1 status, nor change from J-2 to J-1 and should contact the ISO.


Please also reference the SEVP webpage on changing status to/from F-1.