Change of Status to the F-1 Student Visa Category
To check if you meet the criteria to change your status and learn about special instructions regarding the change you wish to make, please see Study in the States’ guide to changing your status. It is important to note that in addition to the I-539 fee there is also a separate biometrics requirement and fee. In order to be eligible to change status in the U.S., you must:
- maintain your current immigration status while your application to change your status with USCIS is pending**
- physically remain in the U.S. while your application is pending
- register for a full-time course load (If you are applying for a change of status from B-1/B-2 to F-1, you cannot begin a course of study until you have received your approval notice from USCIS.)
- ** This may involve a separate application for extension to your existing status. If you are currently in B-1 or B-2 status, and your B-1 or B-2 status will expire more than 30 days before the change of status I-20 program start date, you will need to file a separate “bridge” I-539 application, with a separate fee, to request an extension of your current status. The change of status Form I-20 given to you will list a program start date reflecting the spring, summer and fall semesters according to our academic calendar.
- NOTE: Extending your current stay in B-1 or B-2 status and changing from B-1 or B-2 to F-1 status are two separate applications. Therefore, you must pay a separate filing fee for each request. For example, if your change of status I-20 has program start date of 8/27/2018, and your current status will expire 30 days before 8/27/2018, you will have to file a separate I-539 and pay a separate fee to apply for an extension of your current status.
Change of status application processing times can be lengthy. Check the USCIS website for an estimated time range. Due to long processing times, often times it is recommended that the applicant travel home to apply for an F-1 visa rather than apply for a change of status in the United States.
Please note that the change of status application is the responsibility of the applicant. An experienced immigration lawyer is best positioned to advise on all aspects of any change of status application. To view frequently asked questions, visit the USCIS website information on Changing to a Nonimmigrant F or M Student Status.
- Visitors who entered on the visa waiver program are not eligible to study, extend their status, or to change status in the U.S. In this case it is best to travel outside the U.S., obtain an F1 visa, and reenter as an F-1.
- While USCIS is considering your application, you may begin studies only if your current visa type permits it.
- If F-1 status is approved, you will have to obtain an F-1 or the appropriate visa stamp in your passport the next time you leave the U.S. and plan to re-enter in your new status.
- If your change of status application was not approved by the I-20 program start date, Tri-C will defer your admission to the next available semester. You may be asked for additional documents to update your application with Tri-C before the start date on your I-20 is changed to reflect the next semester.
- An approval is not guaranteed. If you are denied a visa, you will be notified of the section of law that applies to your case. Visa applicants are also advised by the consular officer if they may apply for a waiver of their ineligibility. To read the most common reasons for visa ineligibilities visit U.S. Department of State’s website regarding visa denials.
Once all requirements are met, receive an acceptance letter from Tri-C and a Certificate of Eligibility (Form I-20) for the fall, spring or summer semester within three weeks. You may begin preparing the requirements in Step 2 for your mail-in application to the USCIS.
You will need to prepare the documents necessary to mail-in your application to the USCIS for a change of status.
Download the checklist for required documents here.
Mail the application for the change of status to USCIS indicated on the checklist.
Once the application has been filed, you cannot leave the U.S. without cancelling the application.
Once your Form I-539, Application To Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status has been received, you will be notified with a receipt with the case number in the top left corner. You may check your status of your pending case with your specific receipt number on the online Case Status check. If you have a particular problem or need to change the mailing address on your application, you should contact USCIS.
Receive a Form I-797, Notice of Action, by mail from the USCIS indicating the results of your application submission.
Expect to wait according to USCIS processing times for a decision. The application will be approved or denied based on standards established in U.S. law.
You will need to contact your coordinator for Special Student Services with your approval notice and proceed with registration for 12 credit hours of full-time studies.