Changing Status to J-1

If you are already in the United States in another nonimmigrant status, you may be allowed to apply for a change of status to J-1. However, because of the processing time involved with the change of status application process, this option is generally not recommended. It is typically much faster and more beneficial for new J-1 exchange visitor applicants to return to their home country and apply for a J-1 visa to enter the US, rather than applying for a change of status to J-1 while remaining in the US.

In general, the steps involved in the change of status process are:

  1. Exchange visitor applicant and sponsoring MUSC department complete the J-1 sponsorship application process with CGH
  2. If approved, CGH issues Form DS-2019 and sends form to exchange visitor applicant
  3. Exchange visitor applicant pays SEVIS I-901 fee
  4. Exchange visitor applicant completes and submits USCIS Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status (including the USCIS I-539 filing fee)  
  5. If approved, USCIS sends exchange visitor Form I-797 Approval Notice indicating change of status to J-1

It is important to understand that you cannot begin the J-1 program at MUSC until you receive the official approval notice (Form I-797) from USCIS, indicating that USCIS has approved the I-539 application and granted you a change of status to J-1. USCIS processing times for I-539 change of status applications (requesting change of status to J-1) are highly variable and are subject to change at any time. In general, applications requesting a change of status to J-1 can take anywhere from 9-15 months to be processed by USCIS. USCIS currently does not offer the premium processing (e.g., expediting) option for the I-539 change of status application requesting J-1 status.

Again, the change of status to J-1 option is rarely used and is typically not recommended. If you have been offered an Exchange Visitor Program at MUSC and you are considering pursuing a change of status to J-1, please contact the Center for Global Health to discuss your individual circumstances.