Form I-539: Application to Change Nonimmigrant Status

Many people in the USA having nonimmigrant status face the necessity to change their legal status in the USA (for example, you entered the USA on a visitor visa, but you want to obtain a student visa).

In most cases you may change your status not leaving the country. Complete Form I-539 for it.

You can submit the form before the period of your legal stay in the USA expires.

Period of legal stay

You can see when a period of your stay in the USA expires on the official site. Check your Form I-94, day of entry and departure.

Remember, the period in your visa does not correspond to the period of your legal stay in the country. You are eligible to appear at the US border for additional interview with immigration officer within the period indicated in your visa. He or she defines how long you may stay in the USA. Nonimmigrant visa in a passport does not guarantee an entry to the USA.

For example: visitor multiple-entry US visa is issued for 3-5 years in some countries, but in most cases you cannot stay continually for more than 6 months on such visa in the USA.

You can extend your stay in the USA having applied form I-539 before I-94 expires. If you do not leave the country after your legal stay period expires, not having filed an application to extend nonimmigrant status, you break immigration law. As a result you may be denied entry to the USA in the future. You may also have problems if you want to immigrate to the USA.

Requirements for filing the application

  • You stay in the USA legally;
  • You have not violated the terms of your stay in the country (for example, you have not worked with a visitor visa);
  • The period of your legal stay in the USA has not expired (it is better to have 45 days left).

Who may not file Form I-539 to change nonimmigrant status

  • C visa holders (transit visa);
  • D visa holders (crewman visa);
  • K1 and K2 visa holders (fiancé visa or visa for fiancé’s children);
  • K3 and K4 visa holders (visa for spouses and children of US citizens);
  • An alien in transit without visa or European Union citizens, who entered the USA without a visa on Visa Waiver Program (TWOV, WT, WB);
  • J1 visa holders (exchange program participants if it is indicated in J1 visa that he or she does not qualify for two year rule apply).


You need to apply the form before the period of your legal stay in the USA expires, preferably in 45 days before I-94 expires. USCIS usually processes Form I-539 for about three months.


  • You submit Form I-539 and required documents. For example, to acquire student status Form I-20 is required issued by your educational institution; bank statement for 3 last months that prove your ability to pay for studies and residing in the USA; Evidence of close ties with your country showing that you are intended to return to your country having completed your studies (for example, reserved return ticket, letter from your employer proving that your employment status will be preserved during your studies etc.);
  • If USCIS approves your application, you receive a new form I-94. A new period of your legal stay and your new status in the country is indicated in it;
  • While you are waiting for an answer, your stay in the USA is lawful, but you do not have a legal status during this period.

Travel outside the USA

If you plan a trip abroad, remember that you cannot reentry the USA after change of status with an old visa in your passport. You need to apply to the US consulate abroad and receive a new visa corresponding to your changed status in the USA.

It is important to know that you should not start working until you receive the confirmation of your new status, even if it authorizes to do it;

Your new status will be valid as soon as your old status period expires no matter when you have received a confirmation of your status change. For example, if your visitor visa has expired on January 1 and you received a confirmation of your status change on March 1, your student status started on January 1.


All your documents in any language, except for English, must be translated. You need to bring originals of all the documents mentioned in your application to an interview at the Embassy or Immigration Service.

Copies of documentary evidence attached to an application shall be of good quality and translated into English. Translation must be certified by translator’s signature with his/her name, contacts and qualification. All the originals will be returned after the interview.

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