Changing to F1/J1 Status

When you are admitted to Cornell, you may already be in the United States in another visa status, such as H1B. To attend a degree program, you will need to change to F1 or J1 student status. There are two ways to change your visa status.

1. Travel out of the U.S.: This is the Recommended Method!

One way to change your visa status is to travel out of the U.S., apply at a U.S. consulate for the new type of visa stamp, and then re-enter the U.S. in the new visa classification. Read more information on applying for a U.S. visa stamp. NOTE: Since Canadians do not need visa stamps, a Canadian would simply have to make a new entry into the U.S. with the new immigration documents.

2. Apply for a change of status within the U.S.

The second way to change status is to send an application to U.S.C.I.S. (U.S. citizenship and immigration services) while remaining within the U.S. Unfortunately this method is currently not viable for the following reasons:

  • Change of status applications are taking between 9 and 18 months to be adjudicated at the USCIS service centers.
  • The requirements for change of status have changed such that you must maintain a valid interim visa status while your application is pending. If you are changing status from H1B to F1, you will not be able to maintain status while the application is pending. The result could be that USCIS can deny your application, and you could be accruing unlawful presence while the application is pending. The consequences for unlawful presence are very serious. There are only rare cases where someone would have another status available to them to allow valid status while a change of status is pending (a dependent visa status which allows you to enroll full time such as J2 or H4--NOT F2).
  • Read more details here:

    Currently, USCIS requires that you have a valid interim status for the entire time that the change of status application is pending. At the same time, schools are required to continue to defer the start date of your initial I-20 until your change of status application is approved (which is currently taking between 9 and 18 months). As soon as we defer your start date, if your previous status is no longer valid (e.g. H1B), the deferral creates a gap between the future F1 status and your previous status. H1B status requires you to continue to work in the job for which you received the H1B in order to maintain valid status. Once you stop working, you are no longer in valid H1B status.

    If you end up having a gap in status (not having a valid interim status), USCIS can deny your application on that basis, and you could be accruing unlawful presence while the application is pending. The consequences for unlawful presence are very serious.The only valid interim status would most likely be certain dependent visa statuses such as J2 or H4 which allow you to enroll full time while remaining in those statuses. U.S. immigration regulations do NOT allow you to enroll full time in F2 or B1/B2 status.

    Read the USCIS policy on change of status. See especially the explanation under “What if I Have a Gap in Status?”

    Please contact the Office of Global Learning to discuss this further with an advisor if you have any questions.

Effectively, the only way to change your status if you want to change to F1 to attend school, is to travel out of the U.S. as described above under #1. If you think you will need to change within the U.S. and you believe you are eligible for a valid interim status, please contact the Office of Global Learning to discuss your specific situation with an advisor.