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Change of Degree Level

Change of Level at the Graduate Level

As an international student, if you decide to pursue a new academic program at UMD, you must follow procedures to maintain status while continuing to another degree level. A change of level may be from B.S. to M.S., M.A. to PhD, etc. This also includes reductions of academic level, such as PhD to M.S., and same-level degree changes, such as one M.A. to a different M.A..

The designated school official (DSO) uses the process known as Change Education Level to create a new Form I‑20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, for a student who is changing education levels: 

  • When moving up a degree level (e.g. M.S. to PhD), you must initiate the change of level either before ending the prior program or before the post-completion “grace period” is reached (30-day grace period for J-1 students; 60-day grace period for F-1 students).
  • When moving from OPT to a new degree level, you must be admitted to a new program and initiate the change of level before the “grace period” is reached. 
    • In addition, you must be maintaining status while on OPT.

Procedure for Obtaining a Change of Level

For changes of level that are moving to a higher degree level a new admission is approved by the graduate school.  Next, you will receive an email from ISSS asking you to follow the admissions checklist in I-Terp.  Like your original admission process, you are required to submit visa and financial documents in order to issue your new I-20.   This checklist must be completed and a new I-20 must be issued no later than the end of your grace period.

Enrollment in your new program must begin at the next available session start date but no more than 5 months from the end of the last program.

For changes of level that involve moving from a Phd to a Masters or from a Master to another Master’s program  most may use the graduate school form “petition for program/Degree objective change”

  • The petition can only be used for certain degree objective changes, review form for eligibility.  (if not eligible you must apply directly to the program for admissions)
  • After receiving department approval, ISSS must sign the form
  • Once all signatures are obtained the form deliver the form to the Graduate school
  • Changes for a current term must be received prior to the last day for schedule adjustment.
  • Changes for a future term will be processed at the conclusion of the current term.

You must obtain your new I-20 for this program within 15 days of beginning the new program.

If you intend to travel outside of the U.S. between the end of your current degree program and the start of your new degree program you will need to re-enter on the new program I-20.

Activation of New Program I-20
When your I-20 is created for your new program it is not active.  You remain on your current active I-20.  Once you register for the upcoming semester of your new program your program level I-20 will be activated and your old I-20 will automatically be deactivated.

If you are currently pursing OPT on your old program, your OPT permissions ends when you begin a new degree program, even if the printed OPT end date on your EAD is later than the new program start date. 

Documents check and orientation are not required of Level change students.  You will receive information about both events, these are optional since you have already attended a previous orientation with ISSS.

Other Concerns:

  • Ability to pursue CPT after a level change:  F-1 starting a new program must complete one semester in the new program before applying for CPT.
  • Driver’s License or Social Security:   The gap between the end of your old program and the start of your new program proves to be a difficult time for students to renew a driver’s license or apply for a Social Security card.   Please work with ISSS to learn about tactics to overcome these issues.​
  • Student International Fee: F-1/J-1 students with a new admission will be assessed an international student fee of 125.00 per semester.
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