How to change your nonimmigrant status

You may have come to the U.S. with a Temporary Nonimmigrant status and want to change the purpose of your stay. For example, you may be visiting on a tourist visa and now wish to study in the states full-time. You can change your nonimmigrant status by filling out the proper forms before your visa expires.

Submit an application
As with any other petition for a visa, you have to fill out an application to change your status. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recommends that you file the application as soon as you determine you need to change your nonimmigrant status, and definitely before your current visa expires. The form you must file is the I-539, Application To Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. You can find this application online. You cannot change your activity until USCIS approves the application.

You are eligible to change your nonimmigrant status if you were lawfully admitted into the U.S. on a nonimmigrant visa that is still valid. You must also have met and maintained the conditions of the visa, and have not committed any crimes while in the country. If you do not meet these requirements, you are not eligible for a visa change.

When not to apply
​If you came on a nonimmigrant visa for business reasons, and you want to stay for pleasure before your current visa expires, you do not need to apply.  Also, you don’t need to apply if you want to attend school and you are the spouse or child of a person in the U.S. who has a nonimmigrant visa.

You cannot apply for a status change if you were admitted into the U.S. in one of these categories:

  • Visa Waiver Program· Crew member (D nonimmigrant visa)
  • In transit through the United States on a C nonimmigrant visa
  • In the U.S. without a visa
  • You are engaged to a U.S. citizen or a dependent of him or her (K nonimmigrant visa)
  • You are an informant (or accompanying family) on terrorism or organized crime (S nonimmigrant visa)