The OIA strongly advises that students and scholars who wish to change visa status do so by obtaining the correct immigration documents and applying at the U.S. embassy in their home country. Because the process to change immigration status while remaining in the U.S. is time-consuming, expensive, restricts employment and enrollment, and has a high risk of denials, we encourage students to review all the regulations before pursuing this option.
Additionally, exchange visitors with J-1 visas can be subject to a two-year home country physical presence requirement. This requirement is part of U.S. law, in the Immigration and National Act, Section 212(e). Exchange visitors who are subject to 212(e) will have this designation listed on their J-1 visas and will be required to return home for two years. Students who cannot return home, must meet the criteria to apply for a waiver.
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 (B1/B2) but want to become a student, you must submit an application to change your status. B1/B2 visa holders are not eligible to enroll in post-secondary institutions (universities, colleges, community colleges). 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. 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. All students who wish to change their status in the U.S., should review this document and read through USCIS regulations on change of status. Once you determine that you will change your status in the U.S., please email firstname.lastname@example.org or schedule an immigration advising session so that we can provide you with the appropriate filing process to follow. Please remember that your status is not changed until you receive an official I-797 Approval Notice from USCIS.