Change of Visa Status to J-1

Non-immigrants in the United States who have maintained lawful status may request a change to an J-1 status if their primary purpose for being in the United States changes. Students who are interested in changing their status should read the information below and then make an appointment to meet with an J-1 International Student Advisor (ISA) in the University of Florida International Center (UFIC).

Generally, non-immigrants who have filed a timely application for change of status to a different non-immigrant status, or have filed an application for extension of stay, can remain in the United States while their application is being adjudicated by the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS). This assumes that the person was in valid non-immigrant status when he or she filed the application, and that the current non-immigrant status of the applicant will continue to be valid up until the date that the new status is requested to begin.

A person who has been approved for a change of visa status while in the United States, and intends to travel outside the United States, must obtain a new entry visa from a United States Consulate or Embassy before returning to the United States.

Restrictions on Changing to J-1 Visa Status

Certain non-immigrants are not permitted to change status to J-1 while in the United States. Such non-immigrants may still be eligible for J-1 status, but the only way they can get J-1 status is through obtaining an J-1 visa and re-entering the United States. The following non-immigrants are not permitted to change status to J-1 in the United States:

  • M-1 students
  • C, D, and K non-immigrants
  • J-1 physicians admitted to receive graduate medical education or training
  • J non-immigrants subject to the 212(e) 2-year foreign residence requirement
  • Aliens admitted as visitors under 8 C.F.R. § 212.1(e)
  • WT and WB visitors admitted under the Visa Waiver Program.

Note:  A visitor that has a "prospective student" notation on his or her B-2 visa is able to request a change to J-1 status. A denial of the change would result in a notice from USCIS requesting the student to voluntarily depart the United States.


If you are in a visa status that is not authorized for work/study (i.e., F-2), you may not be employed or enrolled for classes as a J-1 student until you receive notification from USCIS that your status has been officially changed. This process can be lengthy, so it is essential to apply for the change of status as soon as possible.

Change of Status OUTSIDE of the United States

For this option, once you are admitted to the University of Florida, an DS-2019 can be issued to allow you to travel home and request an J-1 visa. Once you are issued the J-1 visa and re-enter the United States with your DS-2019, you have effectively changed your non-immigrant status to J-1. The “travel option” allows you to control when the change of status will be processed and will help you to ensure that you will have the legal ability to begin classes in the semester you are admitted. If you  already intend to travel at some point before you begin your studies, you should talk to an ISA about being issued an DS-2019 to change your status using this process. Please make an appointment to see an ISA.

When you re-enter the United States as an J-1 student, you must come to UFIC and bring the stamped DS-2019, passport, visa, and I-94 card.

Change of Status INSIDE the United States

For this option, you must submit a Change of Status (COS) application to USCIS, and may remain in the United States while the application is pending. You must make an appointment to see an ISA in order to assemble an application packet. Bring all of the requested materials to the office at the scheduled appointment time. 

The following documents should be brought to the appointment, and must be included in the COS application packet:

  • Completed I-539 form
  • $290.00 fee paid by cashier’s check or money order and made payable to Department of Homeland Security.
  • ORIGINAL I-94 document
  • Proof of financial support for the first year of studies, and for any dependents
  • Copies from your passport: expiration date, identity pages, United States visa, and entry date to the United States (bring the originals; copies will be made during the appointment)
  • Proof of current lawful status. If currently on a dependent visa, provide photocopies of primary visa-holder’s legal status including I-20 or DS-2019, his/her I-94 (front and back) and his/her passport information as in previous item
  • Photocopies of I-94s for any dependents who will be changing status, if any
  • New form DS-2019 if changing to J-1 or J-2 (this form will be issued during the appointment). You must also complete the Student Form.
  • Receipt of proof of payment for I-901 SEVIS fee (you will be able to pay the SEVIS fee once issued the DS-2019). For online payment of the SEVIS fee click here.
    • Obtain form I-901
    • Complete form I-901 online (be sure to insert your name exactly as it appears on your passport) and supply the necessary Visa, MasterCard, or American Express information
    • Print two copies of the online receipt; keep a copy for your records and send the other copy with your application
  • Letter explaining why you would like to change status to J-1 or J-2. The letter is optional; however, a supportive letter can help USCIS in the adjudication of the application.
  • The application must be sent by certified mail with return receipt requested to the USCIS Service Center indicated on the Change of Status Mailing Checklist.

We advise that you make copies of all papers submitted before mailing the application. We recommend that you mail it via Certified Mail and keep the receipt. This procedure takes approximately 3 to 6 months. You may stay in the United States to await the results. In approximately 2-3 weeks you can expect to receive a “Notice of Action” document (acknowledgement of receipt).

Once the Change of Status has been APPROVED, you must bring the stamped DS-2019 and I-94 card to UFIC within 15 days of receipt.

Forms (for Change of Status applications Inside the United States)