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H1B to J2 Change of Status - Processing Time and Documents Required

Updated: 5 days ago

A change of status from an H1B to a J2 visa is a rare occurrence. Typically, it is the opposite, individuals on J visas often seek to obtain an H1B visa. Nevertheless, there are scenarios where you might find it necessary to change your visa status from H1B to J2 dependent.



One of the common reasons could be the loss of a job on an H1B visa, leading you to consider switching to your spouse's J1 dependent visa. This allows you to remain in the United States without the need to depart. After filing for a change of status, you can obtain a J2 Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and resume working.


It's crucial to maintain a valid job status on H1B; otherwise, you may fall out of status. However, there is a grace period of 60 days before you officially lose your status. If you happen to lose your job on H1B for any reason, you must find another job and return to the payroll within those 60 days. You can read about this in detail here: H1B grace period.


Table of Contents: H1B to J2 Change of Status


I was on an H1B visa and I want to share my experience with H1B to J2 visa change of status. No one wants to lose their H1B status, but sometimes you have no other option. I had completed roughly 4.5 years on H1B and for some reason, I had to quit my job.


Luckily, my wife was working on a J1 visa, and I had the option to change my status to J2 dependent. In this blog, I will share what steps I took, and you might find this useful.


Note that I am not a lawyer and I just requested the Dataneb team to publish my story so that others can find it useful. Please consult a lawyer if you have any doubts.



J Visa 2-Year Rule

Before you decide to file an H1B to J2 change of status, it's really important to understand the J visa 2-year rule. You can read about in more detail regarding the J visa 2-year rule here.


You might be aware that J visas are valid for up to 5 years. However, J visas are subject to a 2-year home residency rule. After completing 5 years on a J visa, J visa holders have two options.


  1. The first option is to return to your home country and serve for 2 years.

  2. The second option is to request a J1 waiver and continue residing in the United States by switching to another visa, such as an academic H1B, or by applying for a green card. Ultimately, you would need a waiver to switch to another visa.


As I changed my status from H1B to a J2 visa, I became subject to the 2-year home residency rule. So, if you are planning to change your status to J2 dependent, keep in mind that you will be subject to the J visa 2-year home residency rule.


It's not the end of the world, though; you can always apply for a J1 waiver. However, it's a lengthy and time-consuming process, and sometimes, it gets denied as well.

The good part is that J2 visa holders automatically receive a waiver when the primary J1 visa holder obtains one, so there's no need to apply for it separately. Additionally, J1 visa holders must get a waiver anyway if they are subject to the 2-year rule.



J2 Change of Status

There are two options for filing a J2 change of status, depending on where you are filing it. One way is to return to your home country and file through the DS-160 form. The second option is to file for a change of status while living in the US using form I-539.


OPTION 01

The first option is to travel back to your home country, apply for a J2 dependent visa, attend a visa interview, obtain the visa stamp, and then return to the US. This process is similar to how you apply for a B1/B2 tourist visa.


This process could take a few months, depending on how soon you can secure a visa interview date. You can check the appointment wait time for students/exchange visitors (F, M, J) visas using the link provided.



After returning to the US, you can apply for J2 EAD, this may take between 3 to 15 months depending on the service center handling your J2 EAD application. The following table shows the current J2 EAD processing time at various USCIS service centers.



One important thing to note is that you can only apply for J2 EAD after returning to the US; this cannot be done from India or your home country along with the J2 visa application.



OPTION 02

The second option is to apply for a J2 change of status (using form I-539) while living in the US. Once your change of status is approved, you can then apply for J2 EAD.


You can do this yourself, it's not much paperwork. You also have a premium processing for I-539 filing. You can read about how to file for premium processing using the link provided.


In my case, I chose this option as I needed to support my family in the US. The entire process took me 10 months, 7 months to have the change of status approved, and an additional 3 months to obtain J2 EAD.


J2 Change of Status (COS) processing time may vary based on the service center that is handling your I-539 form. The following table shows the current processing times for J2 change of status at various service centers.



J2 EAD is granted for a year and can be extended annually, making the renewal process straightforward. The positive aspect is that, unlike H1B, you don't need any sponsorship for J2 EAD. You have the flexibility to work anywhere without any restrictions.


H1B to J2 Change of Status Process

On a high level, you will end up following these steps. I completed all the steps without involving a lawyer, and it's a straightforward but time-consuming process. If you plan to stay in the US,


  • Obtain a DS-2019 Form: The university or sponsor of the J1 visa holder will provide you with a DS-2019 form, which you need to file the J2 change of status.


  • Fill Form I-539: If you are planning to file a J2 change of status while living in the US (Option 02 discussed earlier) then you would need to fill out the I-539 form (Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status), pay the fees, and submit the form. This form is available on the USCIS website.


  • Include Supporting Documents: You will need to provide supporting documents along with the I-539 form. I have mentioned the list of documents required for filing a J2 change of status in the next section.


  • Receive Approval: Once all the documents are ready, you need to post them to USCIS. You can find the mailing address on the USCIS website here. Once approved you will find updated I-94 details on the USCIS I-797 approval notice.


  • File for J2 EAD: You can find all the steps to file J2 EAD in this blog.



If you are planning to visit your home country (Option 01 discussed earlier), then you would need to obtain DS2019 and fill DS-160 form like how you get a B1/B2 visa, it's a similar process.


  • The university will issue you the J2 dependent DS2019 form

  • Go back to your home country and fill DS-160 form

  • Make payment and book the interview dates

  • Get passport stamped

  • Come back to the US and apply for J2 EAD


Documents Required for Filing H1B to J2 Change of Status

If you are planning to file it while staying in the US, then you would need the following documents. I included all of these documents and a few of them might not be even required by USCIS. But I wanted to make sure there is no document missing and thus I included all of the following.


  • Cover letter

  • Completed I-539 Form

  • Copy of DS2019 (J1 & J2 both)

  • J1's latest pay stubs (3 months)

  • Latest I-94 form (J1 & J2 both)

  • Copy of H1B Approval Notices

  • Copy of all pages Passport and Visa (J1 & J2 both)

  • Marriage Certificate (for evidence of the relationship)

  • Marriage pics



H1B to J2 Processing Time

The J2 change of status process may take anywhere from 3 to 15 months, depending on which service center is processing your I-539 request and its current processing time.


Alternatively, if you are planning to visit your home country, the J2 change of status process may be faster, depending on the availability of biometrics and interview appointments. If you find suitable dates, traveling back to your home country becomes a better option.


Additionally, if you are applying for J2 EAD, that might take another 2.5 to 7 months. Again, the processing time depends on the I-765 processing time at various service centers.


I hope you find this blog helpful. Please feel free to comment if you have any questions, and I would be happy to help.



FAQs: H1B to J2 Change of Status

Does the H1B 6-year period still apply to me after the J2 change of status?

No, once you change your status to a J2 visa, the 6-year H1B max period does not apply to you. But the J visa 2-year home residency rule does apply.


Can I work on a J2 visa?

Yes, you can work on a J2 visa after receiving J2 EAD. You don't need any sponsorship like H1B. You can work part-time, full-time, or any number of hours similar to other EADs.


How to apply for a J2 waiver?

J2 dependents don't need to apply for a waiver separately. The J1 waiver will cover their dependents as well. See how to apply for a J visa waiver, read more.


Can I travel outside the US on a J2 visa?

Yes, you can travel outside the United States on a J2 visa as long as you have a valid visa, otherwise, you will need stamping.


Can a J2 visa be converted to J1?

If the J1 principal is subject to the 2-year home residency requirement, then the J2 can't change status to J1 unless a waiver is issued. It's better to apply for J2 EAD and work.


Can a J2 visa be converted to H1B?

You would need a waiver before converting to H1B if the J1 principal is subject to the 2-year home residency requirement.



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5 Comments


Unknown member
Jun 08, 2023

II lost my job and I have a few days grace period left on H1b. I want to do a change of Status from H1b to J2. Can you help me fill form I539?

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Hina Singh
Hina Singh
Jun 11, 2023
Replying to

Sure, let me know here if you find any difficulty while filling out the form and I can help. I-539 is not complicated form and should be easy to fill. Thanks.

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Gokul Srinivasan
Gokul Srinivasan
Apr 16, 2023

Hi, I am in a similar situation in my case I have unused H1B period of 2 years, and I have lost my job. Now I am planning to transfer my H1b to J2 in my home country and come back to USA and after coming to USA if I get a job can, I be able to transfer again to my existing H1b to use my unused H1b period of 2 years?

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Dataneb Team
Dataneb Team
Apr 17, 2023
Replying to

Sharing the links which might help @Gokul

  1. Once you change your status from H1B to J2 visa, you will be subjected to 2 year home residency rule, assuming J1 is subjected to the 212(e) rule. You can read this in detail here and further how to get a waiver. Getting a J visa waiver is a lengthy process.

  2. But once you switch to a J2 visa, you can apply for J2 EAD which will allow you to work in the US without any sponsorship requirement, unlike H1B. You don't need H1B to work again.

  3. J1 visa holders can apply for green card self-petition.

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