Changing from One Nonimmigrant Status to Another

There are more than 40 nonimmigrant visas available for visitors to the US who wish to enter the country for a short, specific period of time. Nonimmigrant visas do not allow visitors to work and live in the US, but do allow visitors to remain in the US for varying amounts of time. If you have entered the US on a nonimmigrant visa, you may find that your reasons for staying in the US change. For example, after being in the US you may decide that you want to live and work in the United States. You may decide to extend your stay or you may decide to change the reason for your stay. In most cases, you will need to change your status to stay in the US once your plans change.

There are a few requirements you must meet before changing your status. First, you must make sure that you have entered the US legally and have not done anything illegal or anything that violates the terms of your visa while in the US. Next, you must determine whether you have enough time to change over your status before the departure date on your Form I- 94 (Arrival-Departure Record). You must also determine what status you wish to change to and whether you need to leave the US to apply for a new visa. All of this will depend on your specific circumstances.

If you have a D, C, K-1, K-2, S, TWOV, WB, or WT visa or status you will need to leave the US and attempt to get into the US on a different status. In these cases, you will not be able to adjust your status while in the US. If you qualify to change your status based on an employment-based application, you will generally need to get your employer to file USCIS Form I- 129 on your behalf. To change status from many other categories, you will need to file USCIS Form I-539. However, what form you will need to file will depend on your current status and the type of status you are seeking.