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Change Status to F-1 Visa

Nonimmigrants in the United States who have maintained lawful status may apply to the Immigration Service for a change of non-immigrant status if their primary purpose for being in the United States changes. Individuals who are currently in J status (J-1 or J-2) may be ineligible to change status, depending on whether the exchange visitors are subject to the two-year home country requirement.

If you are in a visa status in which you are not authorized to work (i.e., F-2), you may not be employed as an F-1 student in any capacity until you receive notification from USCIS that your status has been officially changed. This process can take up to 6 months, so it is essential to apply for the change of status as soon as possible if you have been offered an assistantship.

Persons requesting a change of status from a B-1/B-2 visa status cannot begin academic classes until USCIS has approved the change of status and the new I-94 card has been received. To change nonimmigrant status to F-1 from another nonimmigrant status, a student can obtain an application packet from ISS.

Needed materials

  • Form I-539, completed by printing clearly all information and signed by the intending student.
  • Form I-20 (new) obtained from the designated office (International Student Services)
  • Proof of financial support for the first year of studies, and for any dependents. Proof of payment of the SEVIS I-901 Fee.
  • Check or money order for $290 made payable to "Department of Homeland Security."
  • Cover letter addressed to USCIS requesting the change and explaining why the change is needed. I-94 Arrival Departure Record (photocopy of front and back, darkened so dates are clear).
  • Proof of current lawful status. (If on a dependent visa, provide photocopies of primary visa-holders legal status, such as: I-94, I-797, IAP 66 and/or I-20)
  • Photocopies of I-94s for any dependents who will be changing status with you.
  • Schedule an appointment with ISS where an advisor will assist you in completing the application.

Additional Information Required for Change of Status

The following questions are sometimes asked by USCIS officials when considering the approval or denial of a petition for a change of status, especially when changing from B-2 status to F-1. They may be helpful as you prepare your supporting materials for requesting a change to student status.

  • Give the date and location of issuance of your original visa. Include a photocopy of the visa.
  • Specifically explain the information relating to the purpose of your trip to the U.S. that was given to the American Consulate when you obtained your visa.
  • If you arrived as a visitor, when you arrived at the port of entry in the U.S, what did you tell the inspector as to the purpose of your visit to the U.S.?
  • Did you indicate to the American Consular Official or to the USCIS that you might want to study in the U.S.?
  • Explain how and on what date you arrived at your decision to study in the U.S.
  • How and on what date did you first contact the school as to your desire to enroll as a foreign student? (Provide documentation)
  • On what date were you informed by the school that you had been accepted for admission?
  • Did you bring the documents necessary for admission to the school with you or were they mailed to the school from abroad by you?
  • If your intent to attend school in the U.S. was prior to your entry into this country, why did you not apply for the appropriate student visa from the American Consulate in your home country?
  • Have you been in the U.S. before? If yes, please state when, for what purpose and how long did you stay?
  • Do you have any relatives in the U.S. and if so, what type of visas do they have?