Change of Status

Change to F-1 or J-1 Status

If you have gained admission to University of Wisconsin-Madison as a full-time student, you may request support from ISS for a Change of Status to F1 or J1.

If you are in the U.S. with another visa type, you may review your eligibility to study through Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

How to Change Your Status 

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Step 1: Decide on an F-1 or J-1 Student Status.

When deciding whether the F-1 or J-1 student status is best for you, we recommend you compare the two visa types to see which suits your needs.

Step 2: Determine how you change status.

There are two ways to change status:

  • Travel and re-enter the United States with the new visa. 
    • You will obtain a new initial I-20/DS-2019 from ISS to do this option. You will need to apply for a new F-1 or J-1 visa at a U.S. consulate outside of the U.S. You will automatically gain F-1 or J-1 status when you re-enter the United States.
  • Submit Change of Status paperwork to USCIS while staying in the United States. 
    • You will obtain a change of status I-20/DS-2019 from ISS to do this option.
    • You will complete the I-539 form and submit it to USCIS.

We advise you to review the Change of Status Handout to learn more about the process. Please note that there have been updates to the change of status process with USCIS since we first created the handout (including a Biometrics fee and the Public Grounds Charge rule). As the applicant, you are responsible for following all the rules of your visa status in the U.S. as indicated by USCIS.

Step 3: Maintain your current status while you wait for your change of status.

Maintaining status requires you to follow the rules of your current status until USCIS has approved your new status.

In some cases, your F-1 or J-1 status will not be approved in time to begin the studies when you initially planned to do so. Thus, we would need to defer the start date of your I-20 to a later semester at UW-Madison.

Step 4: Obtain your Change of Status Document from ISS

You may request your Change of Status document from ISS by completing the PDF for a Change of Status Request and sending it to

Step 5: Stay in touch with ISS.

You need to stay in touch with ISS to ensure immigration compliance.

  • When you receive the approval or denial notice from USCIS, ISS will need to follow up with you to create a new immigration document and/or advise you on your option.
  • As the start date on your I-20/DS-2019 approaches, ISS needs to know the status of your application with USCIS. If the application is still pending within two weeks into the semester, we will need to defer the start date of your I-20/DS-2019.

Frequently Asked Questions about Changing Status

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How long will it take to process the change of status?

Changing visa status in the United States can take anywhere from 5 months to a year to process. ISS cannot speculate specific processing time for cases sent to USCIS. We recommend you check the status of your application through the Case Status form online.

Can I start school at UW-Madison while my current status is still pending?

We advise you to maintain your current visa status while your change of status to F-1 or J-1 is pending. To see if your non-immigrant visa allows you to study in the U.S., please see this guide from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.