Changes of Status

Individuals may change their immigration status by:

  • Departing the United States and receiving permission from relevant government agencies (such as DHS, DOS, and CBP) to re-enter in the United States in a new status.
  • Filing for a change of status within the United States through USCIS.  This includes filing an I-539 form, filing fee, and other documents to USCIS.

If you are a F-1 or J-1 student who has changed status or are considering changing status, please consult ISSS.  If you wish to change status to F-1 or J-1 you must also first seek permission from ISSS.  If appropriate, ISSS will refer you to an immigration attorney as well.

An individual must currently be in an immigration status that allows for study in the United States in order to be in compliance with regulations and not violate status.  Categories allowing for study include, but are not limited to, F-1, J-1, H-4, and others.  Categories which do not allow for study include, but are not limited to, B-1 and B-2.

Please note that if you choose to file for a Change of Status in the United States through USCIS, you are advised to:

  • Always take copies of the documents you send to USCIS before mailing the application for your records.  Provide ISSS with a copy of your Receipt of Approval (I-797) when you receive it from USCIS.
  • Do not leave the USA while your change of status request is pending because your application will then be considered abandoned and your change of status will be terminated/rejected.
  • Stay in close contact with the ISSS office during the process and seek advice from us on what to do if the approval is delayed.

The change of status process in the United States may take 6-12 months (or longer) depending on the case.

Update 7/21/21:

On July 20, 2021, USCIS announced the following:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services today announced new policy guidance that eliminates the need for individuals who have applied for a change of status (COS) to F-1 student to apply to change or extend their nonimmigrant status while their initial F-1 COS application is pending.

Under the previous policy, applicants needed to maintain status up to 30 days before the program start date listed on their Form I-20, Certificate for Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, which required them to file extensions, or an initial COS and subsequent extensions ensuring that they would not have a “gap” in status. 

Updates to the Form I-539 instructions are expected soon.  Students with a currently pending change of status application are recommended to consult their/an immigration attorney if they have questions about how this change can impact their case.


The information contained in this web site/form is provided as a service to international students, faculty and staff at the University at Albany. It does not constitute legal advice. We try to provide useful information, but we make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to this web site or any associated site or form. Neither the University at Albany nor ISSS is responsible for any errors or omissions contained in this website, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. Nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel; students may wish to consult an immigration attorney on the specifics of their case as needed.