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How to Change from one Nonimmigrant  visa to another

Change you visa to another

If you want to change the purpose of your visit while in the United States, you (or in some cases your employer) must file a request with USCIS on the appropriate form before your authorized stay expires.  For instance, if you arrived here as a tourist but want to become a student, you must submit an application to change your status. We recommend that you apply as soon as you determine that you need to change to a different nonimmigrant category.

Until you receive approval from USCIS, do not assume the status has been approved, and do not change your activity in the United States.  For example, if you are currently a nonimmigrant tourist, do not begin attending school as a student until you have received authorization from USCIS to change your status. If you fail to maintain your nonimmigrant status, you may be barred from returning to and/or removed (deported) from the United States. Your authorized status and the date your status expires can be found in the lower right-hand corner of your Form I-94, Arrival-Departure Record.

In general, you may apply to change your nonimmigrant status if you were lawfully admitted to the United States with a nonimmigrant visa, your nonimmigrant status remains valid, you have not violated the conditions of your status, and you have not committed any crimes that would make you ineligible.

You do not need to apply to change your nonimmigrant status if you were admitted into the United States for business reasons (B-1 visa category ) and you wish to remain in the United States for pleasure before your authorized stay expires.

You do not need to apply to change your nonimmigrant status if you wish to attend school in the United States, and you are the spouse or child of someone who is currently in the United States in any of the following nonimmigrant visa categories:

  • Diplomatic and other government officials, and employees (A visa category)
  • International trade and investors (E visa )
  • Representatives to international organizations and their employees (G visa )
  • Temporary workers (H visa)
  • Representatives of foreign media (I visa)
  • Exchange visitors (J visa)
  • Intracompany transferees (L visa)
  • Academic (F visa) or vocational (M visa) students (you may attend elementary, middle or high school only: if you want to attend post-secondary school full-time you must apply for a change of status).

You may not apply to change your nonimmigrant status if you were admitted to the United States in the following categories:

  • Visa Waiver Program· Crew member (D nonimmigrant visa)
  • In transit through the United States (C nonimmigrant visa)
  • In transit through the United States without a visa (TWOV)
  • Fiancé of a U.S. citizen or dependent of a fiancé (K nonimmigrant visa)
  • Informant (and accompanying family) on terrorism or organized crime (S nonimmigrant visa)

If you are a vocational student (M-1), you may not apply to change your status to a(n):

  • Academic student (F-1) 
  • Any H status (Temporary worker), if the training you received as a vocational student in the United States provided the qualifications for the temporary worker position you seek.

If you are an international exchange visitor (J-1), you may not change your nonimmigrant status if:

  • You were admitted to the United States to receive graduate medical training, unless you receive a special waiver.
  • You are an exchange visitor and are required to meet the foreign residence requirement, unless you receive a waiver. 
    • If you do not receive a waiver, you may only apply to change to a diplomatic and other government officials (A visa) or representatives to international organizations (G visa)

For information on how to apply, download the “How Do I Apply to change my non immigratn status”  brochure.

What If You Marry an American Citizen

Note:  Different rules apply if you marry  U.S. citizen, or you are a child under 21 of a U.S. citizen or a parent of a U.S> citizen who is over 21 years of age. See articles listed below.


What happens  after I file for extension or change of visa  I donot get a response until AFTER  the 120 day tolling period?


 The Immigration and Naturalization Service issued two memorandums on March 3, 2000 : the first discusses the period of stay authorized by the Attorney General with Respect to Pending Change of Status and Extension Applications after the 120-day tolling period for purposes of section 212(a)(9)(B) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The other one discusses Section 222(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (automatic voidance of nonimmigrant visas (and combination nonimmigrant visa/border crossing cards).

  • 3-3-00 Pearson Memo: TOLLING FOR GOOD CAUSE;
  • 9 FAM 40.92 N1 Interpretation of "Unlawful Presence" 09-11-2002;
  • Interpretation of “Period of Stay Authorized by the Attorney General” in determining “unlawful presence” under INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(ii). Janice Podolny /s/ Chief, Inspections Law Division, Office of General Counsel, March 27, 2003;
  • Guidance on Interpretation of “Period of Stay Authorized by the Attorney General” in Determining “Unlawful Presence” under section 212(a)(9)(B)(ii) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (Act) April 2, 2003 Thomas E. Cook /s/ Acting Assistant Commissioner Office of Adjudications.

Under current Service policy, if a decision is not rendered with Respect to Pending Change of Status or Extension Applications within the tolling period aliens admitted to the United States until a specific date begin accruing unlawful presence on the 121th day after the expiration of their Form I-94.

Due to the current backlogs, which can extend beyond six months, aliens who remain in the United States while the E/S (extension of stay) or C/S (change of status) is pending may incur a 3-year or even a 10-year bar to admission if the application is ultimately denied.

In order to avoid problems, through no fault of their own,  reagarding  "unlawful presence" , the Service has decided that Nonimmigrants who were admitted until a specific date and who apply for E/S or C/S and whose applications have been pending beyond the 120 day tolling period should be considered to be in a period of stay authorized by the Attorney General, sol ong as certain requirements are met.

The Service has further decided that the period of stay authorized by the Attorney General includes the E/S or C/S applications for the entire period that it is pending. As a practical matter, this policy applies only to those Nonimmigrants who were admitted until a specific date and also whose I-94 has expired while the E/S or C/S application is pending. If the Service approves the E/S or C/S application, the nonimmigrant will be granted a new period of stay authorized by the Attorney General, which will be retroactive to the date the previously authorized stay expired. In these cases the is no unlawful presence.


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Articles related to this topic

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  • Adjustment of Status
  • Bringing your Spouse to Live in the United States as a Permanent Resident with a Green Card

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