How Do I Get Permission to Change to a
New Nonimmigrant Status?
Why Do You Need to Ask to Change to a New Nonimmigrant
A nonimmigrant temporarily enters the United States
for a specific purpose such as
business, study, temporary employment or pleasure. When you are admitted into
the United States, a U.S. official
will assign you a nonimmigrant category according to the purpose of your visit.
If you want to change the purpose of your visit while you are in the United States,
then you or, in some cases, your employer must ask the U.S. Citizenship and
Immigration Services to change your nonimmigrant status. For instance, if you
arrived here as a tourist, but want to become a student, you must submit an
application to change your status with the USCIS. If you do not apply to change
your nonimmigrant status, you will be breaking U.S. immigration laws. Proof that
you are willing to obey U.S.
laws may be important if you want to travel to the United States as an immigrant or
nonimmigrant in the future. You may also become subject to removal
(deportation) if you break U.S.
Where Can I Find the Law?
The Immigration and
Nationality Act (INA) governs the admission of all people to the United States.
For the part of the law concerning changing nonimmigrant status, please see INA
§ 248. The applicable regulations are found in the Code of Federal Regulations
(CFR) at 8 CFR § 248.
Who is Eligible?
To find out who may apply to change
nonimmigrant status, please see eligibility information: Who May Apply to
Change to a New Nonimmigrant Status?
How Do I Apply?
For the following categories
of nonimmigrants, your employer should carefully read and file a USCIS Form
I-129 (Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker) and any required supporting
International Traders and Investors
H - Temporary Workers
L - Intracompany
O - Aliens of
P - Entertainers and
Q - Participants in
International Exchange Programs
R - Religious Workers
TN - Canadians and
Mexicans Under NAFTA
If you are in the following
nonimmigrant categories, you
should carefully read and complete USCIS Form I-539 (Application to
Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status) and submit any required supporting
Diplomatic and other government officials, and their families and employees.
B - Temporary visitors
for business or pleasure.
F - Academic Students
and their families
G - Representatives to
international organizations and their families and employees.
I - Representatives of
foreign media and their families
J - Exchange Visitors
and their families
M - Vocational Students
and their families
N - Parents and
children of the people who have been granted special immigrant status because their parents were employed by an
international organization in the United States.
The application and correct
fee should be mailed to the USCIS
that serves the area where you are temporarily staying. If your nonimmigrant
category is work-related, then the application and correct fee should be mailed
to the USCIS Service Center
that serves the area where you will work. Forms are available by calling
1-800-870-3676, or by submitting a request through our forms by mail system.
For information on fees, please see USCIS filing fees, fee waiver request
procedures, and the USCIS fee waiver policy memo.
How Do My Spouse and Child Apply to Change Their
If your employer files USCIS
Form I-129 (Petition for Alien Worker) for you, then your spouse and child must
carefully read and complete USCIS Form I-539 (Application to Extend/Change
Nonimmigrant Status) and submit any required supporting documents to change to
a new nonimmigrant category. It is best to submit both forms at the same time.
You may include your spouse
and any unmarried children under the age of 21 in your USCIS Form I-539
application if you are all in the same nonimmigrant category, or if your spouse
or children were given derivative nonimmigrant status. Derivative nonimmigrant
status means that your spouse and children were given nonimmigrant visas based
on your nonimmigrant status.
For instance, if a student is given an F-1 "Academic Student" visa,
then the spouse and child are given F-2 "Spouse and Child of an Academic
When Should I Apply?
We recommend that you apply
as soon as you determine that you need to change to a different nonimmigrant
category. Please note, you must apply to change your nonimmigrant category
before you current nonimmigrant status expires. Also, do not start new
employment without first being approved for your change of status. The date
your status expires can be found in the lower right-hand corner of your Form
I-94 (Arrival-Departure Record). You should have received a Form I-94 when you
legally entered the United
States. (For more information, please see
the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, How Do I Get an Arrival-Departure
What If I Am Late Filing for a Change of Nonimmigrant
If you are late filing for a
change of nonimmigrant status and your current status has already expired, you
must prove that:
delay was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond your control;
length of the delay was reasonable;
have not done anything else to violate your nonimmigrant status (such as work
without USCIS approval);
are still a nonimmigrant (This means that you are not trying to become a
permanent resident of the United
States. There are some exceptions.); and
are not in formal proceedings to remove (deport) you from the country.
How Can I Find Out About the Status of My Application?
Please contact the USCIS
office that received your application. You should be prepared to provide the
USCIS staff with specific information about your application. Please see,
finding the status of your application for complete instructions on how to
check the status of your application.
How Can I Appeal a USCIS Decision Regarding My Change of
If your application to change you nonimmigrant status is denied, you will
receive a letter that will tell you why the application was denied. You will
not be allowed to appeal a negative decision to a higher authority. However,
you may submit a motion to reopen or a motion to reconsider with the same
office that made the unfavorable decision. By filing these motions, you are
asking the office to either reexamine or reconsider their decision. A motion to
reopen must state the new facts that are to be provided in the reopened
proceeding and must be accompanied by affidavits or other documentary evidence.
A motion to reconsider must establish that the decision was based on an
incorrect application of law or USCIS policy, and further establish that the
decision was incorrect based on the evidence in the file at the time the
decision was made. For more information, please see How Do I Appeal the Denial
of Petition or Application?.
Can Anyone Help Me?
If advice is needed, you may
contact the USCIS District Office near your home for a list of community-based,
non-profit organizations that may be able to assist you in applying for an
immigration benefit. Please see our USCIS field offices home page for more
information on contacting USCIS offices. In addition, please see our
webpage that provides information on free legal advice.