University of Iowa

What is a change of degree level?

A degree level refers to whether you are pursuing a “Bachelor,” “Master,” or “Doctorate” degree or are a “non-degree” student. Your I-20 (F-1 students) or DS-2019 (J-1 students) will show what your current degree level is.

If this information changes, you are required to report the change to our office so that we may notify SEVIS and print an updated I-20/DS-2019 that accurately reflects your degree level.  Generally, a change of level occurs between degrees from a Bachelor to Master or Doctorate degree. 

However, sometimes changes occur mid-program so a change of degree level also includes reductions of academic level, such as Doctorate to Master, as well as same-level degree changes, such as Master of Science to Master of Fine Arts.  If this last situation applies to your specific case, and you are in F-1 status, you are advised to consult with an ISSS advisor as this may be considered a change of degree level or as a change of major depending on the situation.

If you are in J-1 status, you are not permitted to move "down" degree levels.  For example, a J-1 student can  move from Bachelor's to Master's level, but cannot move from Master's to Bachelor's.  J-1 students also cannot change from non-degree to any degree level.  This is federal government policy and not flexible, and will require you to leave the U.S., obtain a new DS-2019, and a new visa before returning to resume studies.

What if it is just a change of major but not degree level?

ISSS receives alerts when your major area of study changes, so that we can take steps to update your I-20/DS-2019.  You do not not need to take any action for these changes, and should be emailed by ISSS to pick up your updated document within two weeks of the change of major.  If you have not heard from ISSS within two weeks please contact us.

Note that at the Bachelor's level, simply changing colleges, such as from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to the College of Business, is handled as a change of major, not a change of degree level.

When should I seek a change of degree level?

You are responsible for maintaining an accurate, updated I-20/DS-2019. 

For changes of level effective in the current semester or session: 

  • Please notify ISSS as soon as possible, ideally on the change effective date.  This situation primarily applies to students who may be changing their degree level in the middle of their current degree program or for students who may be adding a second degree prior to completing their first degree program.

For changes of level that will be effective in a future semester or session:

  • This situation primarily applies to students who are completing one degree level and starting a new degree program.  Please notify ISSS of any change in degree level upon completion of your current degree program.  Please note that you must apply for and be approved for a change of degree level no later than the end of the post-completion 60 day grace period or within 15 days after the start date of the new degree program, whichever comes first.  Remember that in order to work on campus during the gap between programs, you must have obtained your new I-20.  If you intend to travel outside of the U.S. during your grace period between the end of your current degree program and the start of your new degree program, please be aware that the change of level request must be approved prior to your departure or you will need to re-enter on an initial I-20.

For students who are currently on Optional Practical Training or who intend to pursue OPT prior to the starting a new degree program:

  • Please be aware that starting a new degree program will cancel your OPT.  Students who are in this situation are advised to consult with an ISSS advisor to discuss the best timing to apply for the degree level change.

What is the procedure for obtaining a change of level?

  1. Login to your iHawk account (click the blue login button) using your HawkID and password. Go to "F-1 Student Services" or "J-1 Student Services" and complete the e-form "Change of Degree Level Request."
  2. Once you complete the e-form, your academic advisor will need to review it. Your advisor will receive an email message from ISSS which will provide a link to review your request. Your advisor will be asked to comment on your request.
    • If you are advised by the Academic Advising Center, you must make an appointment to meet with your advisor before they will approve the e-form request. 
    • If you are advised in an academic department, your departmental advisor may also prefer that you schedule an appointment to meet with them; it is a good idea to inform your academic advisor that he/she has been sent an email from ISSS that will need to be reviewed and approved.
  3. After your advisor comments on your e-form request, you will receive an e-mail from ISSS telling you to meet an advisor during walk-in hours. Please bring your updated financial documentation with you. Possible documentation could be a bank statement (issued within the last 6 months) or offer letter for a graduate assistantship (indicating stipend and exact amount of tuition scholarship if applicable).  We cannot process your change of degree level without updated financial documentation.  If there are no questions regarding your request, an advisor will approve the e-form and print a new I-20/DS-2019 with the new degree level.

Note: Student must also be registered for coursework during the semester/session the change becomes effective, even if the change occurs in the summer.

Does a change of degree level affect travel?

A change of degree level should not affect your ability to travel outside of the United States.  However, ISSS occasionally hears reports of difficulties from students whose change of degree level start date is effective in the future.  Some Port of Entry officials may try to restrict you from entering the U.S. no more than thirty days before the start date on your new I-20.  This is a rule written for new students who have “Initial Attendance” I-20/DS-2019, but it is NOT meant to apply to continuing students who have maintained status and who have an updated I-20/DS-2019 because of a change of degree level.  In such cases it may help to carry both the old and new document to show together at the Port of Entry.