Changing to Scholar Status in the U.S.

A Change of Status application refers to changing from one immigration status in the U.S. to another by application to USCIS (Immigration and Citizenship Services). If approved, your status will be changed while you remain in the U.S. 

Need to Know: If you travel abroad after your status has been changed, you will need to apply for an entry visa at a U.S. consulate with which to return.


On this page:

Before You Begin

Need to know: If you are going to be employed by Columbia in

  • H-1B, O-1, or E-3 or TN status, a change of status is part of the petition that Columbia will file. You do not file a change of status application independently, so this page is not for you.
  • J-1 status, a change of status application is not a viable option for you because it takes a very long time to be processed by USCIS--sometimes more than a year---and there is no mechanism for expediting the application. You are not eligible for employment until you have been approved for J-1 status.

If you are not going to be employed by Columbia and will conduct independent research with a Visiting Scholar designation, you may find a change of status to J-1 a good option for you.  


To change your status, you must be maintaining your current status.

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How to Apply for a Change of Status to J-1 in the U.S.

Send your application by registered mail or courier service. Do not submit the I-539 application electronically.

Steps to change to Scholar Status in the U.S.
Step 1

Complete Form I-539

Use this sample form as a guide.

Step 2

Assemble required documents


Step 3

Staple all of the items together (keep a copy for your records) and mail by certified mail or by courier to:


                             ATTN: I-539

                             2501 S. State Highway 121 Business

                             Suite 400

                             Lewisville, TX 75067

Step 4

Please contact us with your receipt number when you get the USCIS receipt in the mail. 


Step 5

Let us know when you receive the I-797 Approval Notice from USCIS. We must update and activate your SEVIS record.