Immigration FAQs for F-1 and J-1 Students
Change of Status (F-1 and J-1)
What is the difference between a status and a visa?
A visa is a physical stamp issued by the U.S. embassy abroad and placed in your passport. This stamp allows you to ask for admission to the United States at a port-of-entry. Visas can only be obtained by visiting a U.S. consulate abroad; it is not possible to get a visa from within the U.S. Visas are required for entry to the U.S. and can expire while you are in the U.S. as long as you have a valid, unexpired passport and valid, unexpired I-20 or DS-2019.
A status refers to the legal classification under which you were admitted to the United States. A status can be changed within the U.S. through an application to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Note: changing your status within the United States will not provide you a new visa stamp in your passport. If you travel out of the United States after successfully changing status, you will be required to apply for the corresponding visa prior to returning to the U.S.
It is possible change both status and visa by traveling outside the U.S. and applying for a new visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. Once you enter the U.S. using the new visa and status, you are automatically considered to be in that new status.
Prior to changing status, it is encouraged that you meet with an ISSS advisor to discuss your specific visa options. Changes to status can have impacts on visa benefits, eligibility to study and eligibility for practical training authorization.
How can I change status?
There are two ways to change non-immigrant status:
- Travel outside the U.S. for a visa application at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad, or
- Stay in the U.S. and request a change of status by application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
|CHANGE OF STATUS THROUGH TRAVEL||CHANGE OF STATUS THROUGH USCIS|
Traveling requires visiting a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad to obtain the new visa stamp. The amount of time needed to change status by travel varies by country, but this option is generally quicker than changing status in the U.S. However, visa applications may be subject to additional administrative processing which can significantly delay the process.
If approved for the new visa, the earliest you can enter the US is 30 days before the program start date listed on your DS-2019 or I-20.
The amount of time needed for processing a change of status through USCIS can vary between three to five months, if not longer. If considering this option, read through all information on the USCIS website in order to successfully compile an application to change to another non-immigrant status. If planning to change to an immigrant/resident status, please consult with an ISSS advisor.
This process does not give you a new visa stamp. The next time you travel outside the U.S. you will need to visit a U.S. consulate or embassy to request a new visa stamp that reflects your changed status.
|Other Concerns||It is recommended that you apply for your new visa in your home country as opposed to a “third country” (e.g. Canada or Mexico) unless you are a legal resident of the third countries. If you apply for a visa in a third country and are denied, you must return to your home country to apply for a visa there. You will not be able return to the U.S. in your previous status.||
Individuals who are subject to the J-1 Two Year Home Country Physical Presence Requirement 212(e) are not eligible for change of status within the U.S. unless they have obtained a waiver of the requirement.
Individuals in B-1/B-2 status may find it extremely difficult to change status within the U.S. due to having indicated touristic or business purposes when applying to enter as a B-1/B-2 visitor. Individuals who entered using the Visa Waver Program [WB/WT] are not eligible to change status within the U.S.
If you are changing from H-1B or another employment-based status to F-1, your H-1B employment must be active as of the date USCIS receives your F-1 application. You must maintain your prior status until 30 days prior to your F-1 or J-1 program start date. If classes start and your change of status is still pending, you may attend coursework full-time. If the change of status is denied, you must depart immediately; you will have no grace period.
You should not travel outside of the U.S. while a change of status application is pending. If you depart the United States, this is viewed as abandoning the petition and processing will stop.
Can I begin a new degree program while my change of status is pending with USCIS? Can I apply for work authorization?
|If my status is changing from…||Can I begin a degree program?||Can I get work authorization?|
|F-2 dependent to F-1 student||No||No|
|J-1 scholar to F-1 student||Possibly, please consult with ISSS.||Only for your J-1 sponsor as stated on the DS-2019|
|J-1 student to F-1 student||Yes||Only with authorization from J-1 sponsor|
|J-2 student to F-1 student||Yes||Only with EAD J-2 work authorization|
|H-1B to F-1 student||Yes, if otherwise maintaining both statuses while the application is pending.||No, only after the F-1 is approved.|
|H-4 to F-1 student||Yes||No|
|B-1/B-2 to F-1 student||No||No|
|WB/WT (Visa Waiver Program)||No, you are not eligible for a change of status within the United States through USCIS.||No|
|Out of Status/Status Pending/Other||Please consult with ISSS||Please consult with ISSS|
Change of status petitioners cannot work if work authorization connected to the original/prior status expires prior to USCIS approval of the change of status OR if their new status has not been approved by USCIS yet.
When do I need to apply to the USCIS to change to status?
- You are eligible to change status as long as your current status is valid at the time of application. If possible, ISSS recommends submitting your application at least 90 days before the expiration of your current status.
- Petitions to change status have been denied in the past because the prior immigration status ended before the approval of the new status, even when the application was filed in a timely manner.
- If you believe you are already out of status, please see an ISSS advisor before submitting your application to USCIS.
How do I get my I-20 or DS-2019 if I am a current student who wants to change to F-1 or J-1 status?
- Make an appointment with an ISSS advisor
- Bring in Evidence of Financial Support indicating you have sufficient funding for at least the first year of your academic program (F-1 visa only) or the entire program (J-1 visa only) (i.e., bank statement, assistantship offer letter, etc.)
What documentation do I need to show to ISSS and submit to USCIS in order to change status?
|Everyone must submit:||
|If applying to change status to F-1 student or J-1 student/scholar, please ALSO submit:||
|If applying to become an F-2 or J-2 dependent of a spouse or parent, please ALSO submit:||
Sample letter for those on an H-1B or other employment-based non-immigrant visa:
The employer may use the template below if needed. This information should be on company letterhead and include the full address, telephone number, and email as well as name, title and direct contact information of the person writing and signing the letter.
To Whom It May Concern:
This letter is to certify (employee’s name) is currently employed by (name of business) as (job title). (Employee’s name) has informed us that she/he will be terminating her/his employment with us in (month/year) to pursue classes at (name of institution) as a full-time student.(Employee’s name) is currently holding the H-1B visa. Once (employee’s name) receives her/his F-1 approval, we will terminate the employment as of the date F-1 status becomes effective or within 30 days before the start date on the I-20, whichever comes first.
Where do I send my application?
Please review the “Where to File” section of the USCIS website. It is recommended to send your application via traceable mail (i.e. FedEx, UPS, etc.) so you know when it is delivered.
What happens when USCIS receives my application?
If your application is complete, you will receive a Form I-797, Notice of Receipt within seven to ten business days. Your I-797, Notice of Receipt is very important as evidence that you filed your application. This document will provide your “receipt number” which you may use to track your application’s progress. If you do not receive an I-797, Notice of Receipt within four weeks, please notify ISSS.
If your application is incomplete, USCIS may either reject it and return it to you, or send you an “Request for Evidence.” Either of these letters will be detailed with the additional information required for submission to complete your application.
What happens if USCIS approves my application?
USCIS will send you an I-797, Notice of Approval indicating approval of your change of status application. This document is your new legal status evidence and should have a new I-94 printed in the lower right-hand corner. It is encouraged to make copies of this document for your records and maintain it with your passport and other immigration documents in a safe place.
What if I apply to USCIS for a change of status, but later decide to depart the country and apply abroad?
Please contact the USCIS Service Center to withdraw your application. Please keep your I-797, Notice of Receipt as documentation of the original application, and be prepared to show it to the consular officer if you apply for another U.S. visa in the future.
You should keep documentation and copies of all things related to your immigration status throughout your time in the United States and beyond. These will be necessary for future U.S. visa applications, to include H-1B and permanent residency.
Withdrawal from the University
In the event you determine you need to fully withdraw from Mines for a short or long duration, you will need to go through the formal Withdrawal Process with the Office of Student Life. Please review their website for information pertaining to your specific situation, as well as resource for initiating the Withdrawal Process.
F-1 Student Status Reinstatement
If you have fallen out of legal F-1 immigration status, Reinstatement is an optional application through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to request your immigration status be rectified. Violations to F-1 status which may cause you to fall out of status can include the following:
- Failure to report to ISSS for initial registration in SEVIS upon arrival to Mines campus
- Failure to report or update your local address properly in Trailhead and the ISSS portal within 10 days of moving
- Failure to maintain full-time enrollment without ISSS authorization
- Failure to extend your I-20 or DS-2019 prior to the end date on the document
- Failure to apply for a change in education degree level prior to the end date on your I-20
- Failure to request a school transfer procedure prior to the end date on your I-20
- Engaging in unauthorized employment
When would I need to file for Reinstatement?
If you have fallen out of status, you should apply for Reinstatement as soon as possible. If you do not apply for reinstatement before five (5) months have passed from the end date of your immigration document or the date of program termination, you will not be eligible to apply and will need to depart the United States immediately. You should meet with an ISSS advisor as soon as possible to request a Reinstatement I-20 and ask questions about the process.
Am I eligible to apply for Reinstatement?
To be eligible to apply for Reinstatement:
- You cannot have been out of status for more than 5 months, unless you can demonstrate there were “exceptional circumstances” that prevented you from filing during the 5-month period following the end date of your immigration document or termination.
- You must be pursuing a full course of study or have ISSS authorization to be part-time
- You should not engage in unauthorized employment.
- The violation of status must have resulted from circumstances beyond the student’s control or a failure to apply for a benefit or extension in a timely fashion
How do I apply for Reinstatement?
To apply for Reinstatement, you will need to compile the following:
- For ISSS to issue your Reinstatement I-20
- Updated financial documentation covering the requested Reinstatement period (up to 1 year of academic costs)
- Copy of your Passport biographic page
- A detailed letter explaining:
- How and why you fell out of status, as well as how it was outside of your control
- Explanation of the duration of time you have been out of status. If longer than 5 months, an explanation of the extenuating circumstances which prevented you from filing within 5 months.
- How an approved reinstatement will prevent you from suffering undue and/or extreme hardship
- Details on the course of study you are pursuing and how many semesters are remaining to complete
- For the USCIS Application
- Complete Form I-539 with supporting documentation
- Application filing fee of $370, payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
- Copies of your passport biographic page, visa, and all I-20 or DS-2019s issued to you (and for any dependents)
- Copy of your original form I-94 (and for any dependents)
- Copy of your new I-20 indicating you have been recommended for Reinstatement (your I-20 should be signed by you and ISSS)
- Copies of your financial documentation matching what was provided to ISSS
- Official Colorado School of Mines transcript
- Copy of your next semester course registration (from Trailhead)
- Your letter originally submitted to ISSS (see above)
- A letter from ISSS recommending reinstatement
If you have been out of status for more then 5 months, you are also required to submit the SEVIS I-901 Fee payment receipt. Your reinstatement application cannot be mailed until the SEVIS fee is paid and you have a receipt proving payment. Should your reinstatement application be denied, the SEVIS fee is not refundable.
Your complete application must be received by USCIS within 30 days of the reinstatement request being made in SEVIS and your new I-20 being issued.
Can I work while Reinstatement is Pending?
No, you may not work on or off-campus while your USCIS Reinstatement application is pending. If you had work authorization prior to falling out of status, you must stop work as soon as you recognize you are out of status.
Can I travel outside of the U.S. while Reinstatement is Pending?
No, until your reinstatement request is approved, you should not travel outside of the U.S. Doing so will be considered an abandonment of your reinstatement petition. You will then need to obtain a new Initial I-20 from the Colorado School of Mines, pay the SEVIS I-901 fee again, and re-enter using the new Initial I-20.
How will I be notified if my Reinstatement is approved?
USCIS can take several months to process reinstatement applications. USCIS will send you an I-797 Notice of Approval if you are approved for Reinstatement.
Will I be eligible for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and/or Optional Practical Training (OPT) if I apply for Reinstatement and am approved?
You will be eligible for F-1 benefits as long as you had maintained your F-1 status for at least one academic year before falling out of status. You may not apply for CPT or OPT (or any other immigration benefits) until the reinstatement is approved.
What happens if my application is denied?
If your application cannot be approved, you are required to depart the United States as soon as possible. USCIS does not permit for appeals of denials, although you may file for a motion to reopen if your I-797 Notice of Denial indicates this is possible.
Is there an alternative to Reinstatement?
You do have the option to depart the U.S. and re-enter with a new, initial I-20 rather than applying for reinstatement. In order to do this, the ISSS must issue you a new, Initial I-20 with a new SEVIS ID. You will have to pay the SEVIS fee again for the new SEVIS ID. If your F-1 visa has expired, you may also need to apply for a new visa.
If you choose this option, you will not eligible for certain F-1 benefits such as Curricular Practical Training or Optional Practical Training until you have been back in status for at least one academic year. You also may not reenter the U.S. more than 30 days prior to your new program start date. Please speak with an ISSS advisor to evaluate your best course of action.
B-1/B-2 Visitor Status & the Visa Waiver Program
If you intend to study at Colorado School of Mines, you must be in F-1 or J-1 status. If you enter the United States using a temporary visitor status, you will not be able to enroll in coursework at Mines. U.S. law forbids individuals who enter as tourists or business visitors from enrolling in a course of study until a change in immigration status (making it possible for them to study here) has been approved.
Students who plan to enter the United States as a visitor and then begin study must inform the U.S. consulate and request that their visitor visa be marked with the notation “Prospective Student.”
Other Concerns of Students Who are Not in F-1 or J-1 Status
Even if full-time study is allowed on your current visa type or status, individuals who are not in F-1 and J-1 status do not receive any benefits that are granted to F-1 and J-1 students, such as on-campus work authorization. Individuals on visa statuses other than F-1 or J-1 should consult their preferred immigration attorney or sponsoring organization for guidance as to whether or not they may study at Mines.
F-2 and J-2 Dependents
If you have indicated that you have a spouse or children under age 21 who will accompany you to the United States, you will get an I-20 or a DS-2019 form for each dependent so they can obtain an F-2 or J-2 visa. No other dependents qualify for F-2 or J-2 status. If you have an unmarried partner, adult children, parents, or other family members who will come to the United States with you, they must obtain a different visa to enter the United States.
If you did not include information on your dependents when you applied to Mines (and therefore did not receive dependent visa documents), please apply for a dependent immigration document. You will need to provide each dependent’s passport biographic page, your relationship to them, and evidence indicating you have the funds to support them.
Restrictions on Study for Dependents
F-2 dependents may enroll at a university-level institution only as part-time students and only in courses that are “avocational or recreational,” (i.e., courses taken for enrichment purposes only—those which will not be used at any time toward a degree). F-2 dependents who wish to study full time need to apply for a change of status to F-1 student. Note that F-2 children may (and often are required to) attend elementary or secondary school without a change of status.
There are no restrictions on study for J-2 dependents; they may study full or part-time.
Restrictions on Work for Dependents
F-2 dependents cannot work at any time while on F-2 status. F-2 dependents may be able to volunteer as long as the volunteer activities are bona fide volunteer activities. For additional information on this, please review our online information about volunteering.
There are no restrictions on work for J-2 dependents, however formal work authorization must be obtained prior to engaging in work. For additional information, review our online information about J-2 Employment.
The information contained in this web site is provided as a service to the international students, faculty, staff, employees and administrators of the Colorado School of Mines, and does not constitute legal advice on any immigration, tax or any other matter. We aim to provide substantial and useful information, but we make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or sufficiency of the information contained in or linked from this web site or any external/associated site. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel. Neither the Colorado School of Mines nor the Office of Global Education is responsible for any errors or omissions contained in this website, or for the results obtained from the use of this information.
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