Maintaining Your Status


SEVIS, The Student & Exchange Visitor Information System, is an electronic database of information about F/J students studying in the United States.  The following are some important activities that are common to students that must be reported in SEVIS and are essential to maintaining a valid F/J status:

  • Change in address, name, major, degree objective, or degree level 
  • Adjustment in academic course load 
  • Not registering for classes full-time (without prior authorization) 
  • Transfer to another school 
  • Need for new I-20/DS-2019 
  • Change of status/visa classification 
  • I-20/DS-2019 Extensions (I-20/DS-2019 should not expire before graduation) 
  • Travel endorsements 
  • Academic dismissal 
  • Off campus work permission

Change of Address or Name

All changes in address or name must be reported to the college.

Change of Major, Degree Objective, or Degree Level

Your I-20/DS-2019 must accurately reflect the major and level of study you are pursuing.  If you change your major or level of studies, you will need to contact the Buckman Center to update your degree level in the student records system.  Request a new I-20 and new financial documents if you will also need to extend the end date listed on your I-20.

Change of Status to F-1 Student

Non-immigrants in the United States who have maintained lawful status may change to another visa status if their primary purpose for being in the United States changes.  Individuals who are currently in J status (J-1 or J-2) may be ineligible to change status, depending on whether the exchange visitors are subject to the two-year home country requirement (commonly referred to as "the two-year rule").  Students who are interested in changing their status should read the information below, review the change of status checklist and then make an appointment to meet with a study abroad advisor.

Change of Status Through Travel:

Once a student is admitted to Rhodes College by the admissions office, an I-20 can be issued to allow a student to travel home and request an F-1 visa.  Once a student is issued an F-1 visa and re-enters the U.S. with their I-20, they have effectively changed their non-immigrant status.  The travel option, while the cost can vary depending on the student′s home country, allows the student to control when the change of status will be processed and will help a student to ensure that they will have the legal ability to begin classes in the semester they are admitted.  A student who already intends to travel at some point before they begin their studies should talk to the Office of Admissions about being issued an I-20 to change their status using this process.

Change of Status Through a Paper Application to USCIS:

To change nonimmigrant status to F-1 from another nonimmigrant status, a student should complete the Change of Status Application.  Required materials are as follows:

  • Form I-539, completed by printing clearly all information and signed by the intending student
  • Form I-20 indicating “change of status requested” obtained from the Buckman Center
  • Receipt for proof of payment for I-901 SEVIS fee 
  • Original bank documents or graduate assistantship offer letter to document financial support for tuition and living expenses for the first year of studies.  Additional amounts will be required if you have any dependents.
  • Cover letter addressed to USCIS requesting the change and explaining why the change is needed
  • Original I-94 Arrival Departure Record
  • Proof of current lawful status. (If on a dependent visa, provide photocopies of primary visa-holders legal status, such as: the I-94 ; and the I-797, DS-2019 or I-20 ID)
  • Photocopies of I-94s for any dependents who will be changing status with you
  • Check or money order for $200, payable to "USCIS"

Read the supplimentary information to prepare your supporting materials for requesting a change to student status.


If you are in a visa status in which you are not authorized to work or study (i.e., F-2), you may not be employed as an F-1 student in any capacity or study until you receive notification from USCIS that your status has been officially changed.  This process can be lengthy, so it is essential to apply for the change of status as soon as possible if you have been offered an assistantship.

If you would like to change from a B-1 or B-2 visitor’s visa to a F-1 or J-1 student visa, it is important to know that this is not possible in the United States., unless the visitor’s visa or I-94 has "prospective student" written on it.  A denial of the Change of Status will result in a notice from USCIS requesting the student to voluntarily depart the United States.

A person who has changed status while in the United States, and intends to travel outside the United States, must obtain a new entry visa from a United States consulate or embassy before returning to the United States.

If an F student falls out of status with USCIS by not reporting any of the information outlined above, they have the option of applying for reinstatement.  A J-1 student will need to meet with an advisor in the Buckman Center to discuss their options.  Please see the Applying for Reinstatement section of our website for more information.