How to Change Your Nonimmigrant (Temporary) Visa Status (COS)

Nonimmigrant visa holders in valid (unexpired and qualifying) visa status may, in certain circumstances, stay in the United States for a different nonimmigrant purpose than the one listed on their current nonimmigrant visa.

You may apply for Change of Status if:

(a) You were lawfully admitted into the United States with a nonimmigrant visa; (b) Your nonimmigrant visa status remains valid; (c) You have not committed any crimes that make you ineligible for a visa; (d) You have not violated the conditions of your admission; and (e) Your passport is valid and will remain valid for the duration of your stay.

Exclusion Categories--you may NOT apply to change your nonimmigrant status if you were admitted to the United States in the following categories:

(a) Visa Waiver Program· Crew member (D nonimmigrant visa); (b) In transit through the United States (C nonimmigrant visa); (c) In transit through the United States without a visa (TWOV); (d) Fiancé of a U.S. citizen or dependent of a fiancé (K nonimmigrant visa); or (e) Informant (and accompanying family) on terrorism or organized crime (S nonimmigrant visa).

M-1 Limitation to COS: If you are a vocational student (M-1), you may NOT apply to change your status to a(n):

(a) Academic student (F-1); or (b) Any H status (Temporary worker), if the training you received as a vocational student in the United States provided the qualifications for the temporary worker position you seek.

J-1 Limitation to COS: If you are an international exchange visitor (J-1), you may NOT change your nonimmigrant status if:

(a) You were admitted to the United States to receive graduate medical training, UNLESS you receive a special waiver; or (b) You are an exchange visitor and are required to meet the foreign residence requirement, UNLESS you receive a waiver. [NOTE: If you do not receive a waiver, you may ONLY apply to change to a diplomatic and other government officials (A visa) or representatives to international organizations (G visa)].

The COS Process

To change your visa status while in the United States, you (or in some cases your employer) must file a request with USCIS on the appropriate form before your authorized stay expires. USCIS recommends that you apply as soon as you determine that you need to change to a different nonimmigrant category.

Important Cautionary Note

Until you receive approval from USCIS, do NOT assume the status change has been approved, and do NOT change your activity in the United States. The consequences of failure to maintain your nonimmigrant status can be very severe--you may be barred from returning to and/or removed (deported) from the United States.


Each situation is different, so visa holders who are interested in learning more about Change of Status are encouraged consult with an immigration lawyer on the facts and nuances in their respective situations. Individual facts vary, and can create circumstances where certain immigration opportunities and/or risks are more likely to arise. We hope you have found this information helpful. Please do not hesitate to contact Van Wormer Law today at (703) 244-6733 or

Additional Resources

Please Note: The information provided at this site is of a general nature and may not apply to any particular set of facts or under all circumstances. It should not be construed as legal advice and does not constitute an engagement of Van Wormer Law or establish an attorney-client relationship. No attorney-client relationship exists until Van Wormer Law has completed a conflicts check and the prospective client signs a representation agreement.

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