Changing Your 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. You must be maintaining valid nonimmigrant status in order to apply for a change of status.

However, because of the processing time involved with the change of status application process, this option is typically not recommended. It is usually much faster and more beneficial for you to return to your 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 and sponsoring MUSC department complete the J-1 sponsorship application process with CGH.
  2. If approved, CGH will issue a Form DS-2019 and will send original document to the Exchange Visitor.
  3. Exchange Visitor will pay the SEVIS I-901 fee.
  4. Exchange Visitor will complete and submit USCIS Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. Exchange Visitor is also for paying any associated filing fees.
  5. If USCIS approves the change of status application, USCIS will send Exchange Visitor a Form I-797 Approval Notice.

It is important to note 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. Processing times for I-539 applications vary and are always subject to change, but in general these applications typically take around 6-8 months to be processed by USCIS. There is currently no option for premium processing (e.g., expediting) the I-539 change of status application.

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 an advisor in the Center for Global Health to discuss your circumstances.