Enter the U.S. on B-2 visitor visa and change status to J-1?

In this post we referenced the time that a participant in the J-1 Visa Program can enter the U.S. before start of their J-1 program (30 days).

What if a J-1 participants wants to enter the U.S. more than 30 days prior to program start date?

If a J-1 participant wants an earlier entry into the U.S. (ie. more than 30 days prior to the program start date), the J-1 participant must qualify for, and obtain a visitor (B2) visa. However, the Department of State strongly discourages this approach. If a J-1 participant travels to the U.S. on a visitor visa, they must obtain a change of status classification from B to J before start of the program. The participant must file Form I-539, Application for Change of Nonimmigrant Status, with application fee, and also submit the required Form DS-2019 to the DHS office where the application is made.

J-1 participants are not allowed to start their program until the change of status is approved. The process can be lengthy and there is always a chance of additional delays or denial of the application. Therefore, it is best to travel to the US within the 30-day window and enter on J status.

31 Responses to “Enter the U.S. on B-2 visitor visa and change status to J-1?

  • Mireia Coll
    5 years ago

    First of all, thanks a million Mario for all the really helpful information you provide. That is one of the most useful sites I’ve ever seen regarding the J1 visa program and, trust me, I’ve been looking around for a while.

    To the point, just out of curiosity, what would happen if somebody entered the US not with a B2 Tourist visa but with a waiver. Can you actually have an adjustment of status from a visa waiver to any kind of visa?

    Thanks again for your help

    • Hello Mireira, the U.S. Department of State strongly recommends that all applicants for J visas apply at a U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country. Change of status is possible, but not recommended. Best regards.

  • Karen C
    4 years ago

    Hi Mario, thank you so much for this info. My question is, does the same apply to Canadians?

    Ideally I would like to enter the US as a tourist first, without a DS2019. Once I do receive the DS2019, must I exit the US and reenter with the DS2019 in order to activate my J1 status?

    My problem is that the timelines are too tight for me to get the DS2019 processed (I must show proof of degree completion before processing). I have heard that it may be possible to explain this situation upon my entry to the US and get border services officer to note this in my passport.

    Thank you!

    • Karen, the Department of State requires all J participants to apply for the J visa in their home country. That said, in most cases Canadians can apply for the J-1 visa at the border.

      • Karen C
        4 years ago

        OK, thanks for clarifying that!
        Should I anticipate any issues with “flagpoling” i.e. upon receiving my DS2019 while in the US, driving / flying to the nearest Canadian/US border just to activate the J1 status, and then re-entering the US immediately?

        • Unfortunately, I can’t answer that question, we don’t have enough experience with Canadian J-1s, sorry.

  • Geoff
    4 years ago


    My name is Geoff, I come from France
    I allow myself to contact you to have information about the J-1 visa for the USA.
    Currently I am in New york for vacation with a visa B2 for 6 months.
    But I met by one of my friend an employer who offer me an internship which could be promoted in full time position after few months.

    I would like to know if I can change or apply for a visa J1 and which is the timing to begin my internship.

    I hope you could answer me as soon as possible because the employer would like to meet me tomorow.

    Thank you very much for your Help


    • Geoff, the Department of State requires that all applicants for J visas apply at a U.S. consulate in their home country. Also, the J visa is not a work visa. For employment purposes, please contact an immigration attorney. Good luck.

  • I presently have both a B1/B2 and a J1 visa in my passport. Can I enter the US more than 30 days (35 days) prior to the start of my masters program using a B1 then exit in Mexico for 1-2 days then re-enter the US using a J1 20 days before the start of my masters program? Thanks!

  • My question is similar to the one above from Gen.
    If I have a J-1 trainee visa scheduled to start in October, may I enter the country for touring/sightseeing purposes(visa waiver) starting in August? This would be further in advance than the 30 day allowance, but I since I also wish to do a few days of touring in Canada during my stay, it seems like this might be the perfect time to do that. So if I exit the USA to Canada pior to the 30 day allowance and return within the the 30 day allowance prior to start of my program would that be acceptable to all parties? I see that in Gen’s situation you advised against it (but that’s a different visa catagory, too). If that’s the case here, can you explain why exactly it inadvisable, and how it could cause me problems? I want to be well informed before I make any travel plans. thank you

    • Hi Mary. If you enter the U.S. more than 30 days before the start date of your program, you will likely be admitted on B status (depending on your home country, you may need to apply for a B visa). At some point, you will have to apply for a change of status from B to J. The Department of State advises against this practice. In theory, leaving the U.S. and returning from Canada should work. I just don’t have experience to share. Please let me know how it goes.

  • juanita
    4 years ago

    hi,i currently have a b1/2 visa and want to apply for a j1 visa,to obtain a j1 visa do i have to go through a agency (aupair)or can it be done with out one,and with me having both visa’s will there be a problem with me entering the usa,i used to be an aupair and now have a tourist visa,and its been about a year and want to aupair for the same family again,

    your help will be highly appreciated

    • Hi Juanita. You need new paperwork from an au pair J-1 visa sponsor. The B visa is only valid for tourist purposes.

  • Justin Miguel Barlin
    4 years ago

    Greetings! I am Justin from the Philippines, I am currently staying here already in California with a B2 status, is it possible that sponsors can still hire me and can I change my status from B2 to J1? And, where can I search for sponsors to hire me for trainee or internship jobs? Thank you. 🙂

    • Justin, the Department of State requires that you apply for the J-1 visa at a U.S. consulate in your home country. A list of approval sponsors can be found here.

  • Roland Oboh
    4 years ago

    I presently have B1/B2 and J1 but i entered US with the J1, can go to Canada and re- enter with the B1/B2?

    • You can, but you should be able to explain to the port of entry officer why you are returning to the U.S. and for how long. Remember that you are granted a 30-day grace period upon successful completion of your J program. This time can be used for travel in the U.S.

  • Julian
    4 years ago

    I just received my B2 visa as I was planning a one week vacation in NY. Next day I suddenly received an internship invitation from an US company.
    Considering that I can not afford to miss internship opportunity , what would you recommend:
    * enter the US on B2 and change my status after a week or two? Is this a big deal?
    * change visa type on J1 in my home country before leaving? In this case how would I explain that to the officer? I am afraid of a refuse

    Thank you for your time!

    • Hi Julian. Congratulations on receiving the internship invitation, that is exciting! The U.S. host organization, together with a U.S. J-1 visa sponsor will prepare paperwork that you need to take to the U.S. consulate to apply for a J visa. Once approved, you will have 2 visas in your passport, the B2 and the J-1. You will then travel to the U.S. and enter the U.S. on J status. This should be no issue; it is not uncommon to have 2 visas in a passport.

  • Mohamed
    4 years ago

    Hello Mario , I have a question if you do not mind.
    If I have a b1/b2 visa and a j1 visa, I entered the US on a b1 and b2 visa for medical elective. If I want to convert my status to j1 for somr research, how is the approach ? Is it okay to get out of the country and come back again ( is there a certain time limit ) or do I have to go through the lengthy process of change of status from within the US ( even if I have the j1 visa ) ?

  • Mohamed
    4 years ago

    I am sorry maybe the question was not clear, I meant by Having B1/B2 and J1 visas together, I entered the US on b1 then I wanted to change my status from b1 to j1 ( which I also have ) , how would that be done ? is it okay to leave the country for few days and then re-enter on J1 .. is there a certain time limit to stay outside the US before coming back ?

    • Hi Mohamed, you cannot change status to J without a valid form DS-2019. Do you have one?

      • Mohamed
        4 years ago

        No not yet, I only have b1/b2 visa now. I am waiting to receive these forms from the ubniversity in order to progress with the j1 visa application.

  • Hello,

    I went to US for exchange program on j1 visa and I returned to my country now
    (it’s written 2 yr rule apply)

    Can I go to us again on b1/b2 visa?

    • Hello Mohd, you can return to the U.S. on B1B2 status as long as your B1B2 visa has not expired.

  • HI Mario,

    I wanted to know what persons who are from a country without a U.S. Embassy have to do for a J1? For example, someone who is from Iran and is currently in the U.S. on a B1/B2 visitor visa but would like to adjust to J1. Can they file from within the U.S. directly with CIS? As you know, Iran has no U.S. Embassy.


  • Salman
    4 years ago

    I am on B1/B2 visa with remaining entry 5.5 months. I am national of Pakistan Can I go to Canada as tourist for 30 days by road? Do I need any documents to entry in Canada?

    • Dear Salman. I recommend you reach out to a Canadian consulate in your home country. They will be able to help.