Changing Your Visa Status

Once you have entered the U.S., your plans may change and you may need to change your visa status to accommodate your plans.

Change of Non-immigrant Visa Status


If you are currently in the U.S. under a visa status that does not allow full-time or part-time study, you may need to change your visa status.  Contact the Office of International Student Services if a change of visa status is needed to study at the University.

Many students learn that they need to be on an F-1 or J-1 visa in order to be a full-time student.  You must be lawfully maintaining your current visa status in order to be eligible for a change of visa status.  The procedures outlined below describe what is needed to change from one non-immigrant visa status to an F-1 or J-1 visa status.

To apply for a change to F-1 or J-1 status, you may either:

  1. Travel out of the U.S., apply at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate for a new type of visa, and then re-enter the U.S. using the new visa classification.

    OR
  2. Mail a Change of Status application to a USCIS Service Center while remaining within the U.S. You can apply while remaining in the U.S. unless you are a J-1 visa holder who is subject to the two year home residence requirement. If you are subject to this two-year home residency rule, you must travel out of the U.S. to change your status or get a waiver of the requirement.  Make an appointment with an international student advisor to discuss your options.

If you file for a change of status inside the U.S., you should not leave the U.S. while the application is pending.  Leaving the U.S. may cancel the application.

If you will be changing status inside the U.S., the items listed below are required for your application.  It is strongly recommended that you meet with an advisor in the Office of International Student Services to review and mail your application.

  1. A letter from you, requesting the change of status and explaining your circumstances and plans.  It is recommended that an international student advisor review your letter before you mail your packet to the USCIS.
  2. Completed Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Non-immigrant Status.  An international student advisor can help you with items you don't understand.  Remember to complete both sides of the form, answer question Part 4, item 3, on a separate page when necessary, and complete the mailing label.
  3. Your original SEVIS I-20 (F-1) or DS-2019 (J-1) for the new status.  If you are a current Missouri State University student, please complete an I-20 request form and submit it to the Office of International Student Services.
  4. Photocopies of your immigration documents for all current and previous visa statuses:

    - Picture page and name page of your passport
    - Expiration date of your passport
    - Visa page of your passport
    - BOTH sides of your I-94 card
    - Approval Notices you have received in the past concerning your current and previous visa statuses
    - If you are an F-2 or J-2 dependent, all current and previous I-20s or DS-2019s
  5. If you are currently in a dependent visa status, provide photocopies of the immigration documents of the primary spouse or parent:

    - Picture page and name page of his/her passport
    - Expiration date of your passport
    - Visa page of his/her passport
    - BOTH sides of his/her I-94 card
    - Approval Notices he/she has received in the past concerning a current and previous visa statuses
    - If the primary is an F-1 or J-1, all current and previous I-20s or DS-2019s
  6. Financial documentation: evidence of funds for the full amount of expenses listed on your I-20 or DS-2019 (scholarships, personal or family bank statements and/or letter from your academic department describing your assistantship)
  7. Fee of $290: personal check made payable to the Department of Homeland Security
  8. Receipt of SEVIS fee payment $200 for F-1 visa holders or $180 for J-1 visa holders.  For information on how to pay the SEVIS fee, click HERE.

It is strongly recommended that you meet with an advisor in person or by phone to review and mail your application.  Please allow one to three months to process the application.

Change to Lawful Permanent Residency


To apply for Lawful Permanent Residency in the U.S., the applicant must be sponsored by an employer or a family member who is already a U.S. Citizen or lawful Permanent Resident.  Additionally, the U.S. Department of State annually sponsors a Diversity Visa Program which allows foreign nationals to countries with low immigration rates to the U.S. to apply for Lawful Permanent Residency status.

International Student Services is not able to assist students in filing Lawful Permanent Residency applications.  Consult the USCIS website for information about eligibility criteria and how to make an application.  International Student Services recommends that the sponsor of the application consult an immigration attorney for assistance on preparing lawful permanent residency applications.

If you are an F-1 or J-1 student who has applied for Lawful Permanent Residency status, please make an appointment with an international student advisor by calling 417-836-6618 to discuss how the application affects your SEVIS record, travel, and work benefits.