UMD: A Globally Connected University

Change of Status

A visa is different from nonimmigrant status.  A visa is physically stamped inside your passport.  Nonimmigrant status is a concept and defines your rights and responsibilities while in the U.S.  Students admitted to the University of Maryland and already inside the U.S. may need to obtain student visa status such as F-1 or J-1 to legally pursue their studies.  A change of status is obtained in one of two ways:

Obtain a student visa in your home country
In general, it is possible to change visa status by leaving the U.S., applying for a student visa at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country.  Once you enter the U.S. with your student visa you will have that status (as indicated on your I-94 card).

Advantage

  • In some cases it may be much quicker to change your status this way.
  • You will receive a visa stamp in your passport.

Disadvantage

  • Your application may be delayed or denied, in which case you would be forced to remain outside the U.S.
  • The flight home will be an added expense.

Change status within the United States

In general, non-immigrants who are maintaining lawful status may apply for a change of status within the U.S. by applying to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 

Advantage

  • You may remain in the U.S. while your application is pending.
  • Depending on your current visa status you may be eligible to begin studies while your application is pending.

Disadvantage

  • The application process can be lengthy and there is no guarantee your application will be approved.
  • Some visitors (i.e., in B or F-2 status) must wait until their application is approved before they can begin studies.
  • J-1 or J-2 cannot change status to F-1 if subject to Section 212(e), also known as the "two-year home residency requirement".
  • You will not receive a visa stamp in your passport.

Procedures

Once you are admitted to the University of Maryland, make an initial appointment with an International Student Advisor (301-314-7740).  During your appointment you will discuss the best option for your situation and learn what documentation is necessary in your circumstance.

Procedure to Obtain a student visa in your home country

Procedure to Change status within the United States

Step 1

Submit the following documents to ISSS for review.  After reviewing the complete set of documents the advisor will create an I-20/DS-2019. 

  • If you are a current student, Letter from advisor, indicating when you are expected to complete all degree requirements.
  • Cover letter explaining why you wish to change status
  • Completed Form I-539: Application to extend or change non-immigrant status
  • Original copies of your financial support information
    • An assistantship/fellowship offer letter valid for one year.
    • Proof of liquid finances to cover all estimated expenses (tuition, fees, books, insurance, and living expenses) for one year.
      • Official bank statements for the prior two months. The statement should clearly indicate the name(s) of the account holder(s) and the actual amount of money in the account(s).
        • The account type should be checking, savings, or CD.
        • If you have a sponsor, the following information from your sponsor is required:
          • A letter of support completed and signed by your sponsor.
          • If your sponsor is a citizen or permanent resident of the United States, an official, notarized Affidavit of Support (I-134 form signed by all sponsors) is required.
    • If you have dependent(s), please show additional financial support of $4,500 for each dependent.
  • Photocopy of current immigration status documents, visa stamp, I-94 card and passport ID pages
  • Completed Change of Status Acknowledgment Form
  • If you are in a dependent visa status: Photocopy of the primary's current immigration status documents, visa stamp, I-94 card and passport ID pages
  • If applicable: Dependent family member documentation
  • If changing status to J-1: Proof of health insurance
  • Anyone in A or G status: Form I-566 for clearance from their organization to either the Department of State or the Office of Host Country Affairs at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations within 10 days of the completion of A or G employment. After the I-566 has been approved, you will be eligible to apply for change of status.

Step 2

Make a follow up appointment to receive your new I-20/DS-2019 and for the advisor to review your entire application packet.

The completed change of status application should include:

  • Cover letter explaining why you wish to change status
  • Photocopy of the form I-20/DS-2019 indicating your change of status (generated by ISSS)
  • I-797 form: Proof of payment of SEVIS I-901 fee (F-1 $200, J-1 $180) 
  • Form I-539: Application to extend or change non-immigrant status
  • $290* check made payable to "Department of Homeland Security"  *If filing on December 23, 2016 or later, the fee will change to $370. 
  • Original copies of your financial support information
  • Photocopy of current immigration status documents, visa stamp, I-94 card and passport ID pages
  • If you are in a dependent visa status: Photocopy of the primary current immigration status documents, visa stamp, I-94 card and passport ID pages
  • If applicable: Dependent family member documentation
  • For anyone in A or G status: Completed I-566

Retain photocopies of your application for your records.  Mail application materials to the appropriate USCIS Service Center.  Please indicate clearly "I-539: Change of status form" on the outside of the envelope. Use a traceable mailing system.  If the address on your I-539 is in Maryland, DC or Virginia, mail the complete package to:

For U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Deliveries:
USCIS
P.O. Box 660166
Dallas, TX 75266

For Express mail and courier deliveries:
USCIS
ATTN:  I-539
2501 S. State Highway 121 Business
Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067

*If you use an address in another state please visit www.uscis.gov and click on Services Field Office Addresses and Information to find the correct service center.

Step 3

You will receive a notice from USCIS within two to three weeks indicating they have received your application. USCIS usually takes about two to four months to make a final decision.

Step 4

Once your application is approved, please bring all of your documents back to ISSS, within two weeks of approval so that we may update your status in the University of Maryland and SEVIS systems. Remember that if you wish to work on-campus, you must wait until the change of status has been approved.