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Change of Status to F-1

  • Overview

    Overview

    A change of status is required when your purpose for being in the U.S. no longer corresponds with the terms of your current visa type. To apply for Change of Status (COS) to F-1 you must submit the Change of Immigration Status to F-1 request form in accessVIS.  A change of status can occur through travel and reentry, or within the U.S. by submitting an application to USCIS.

    A person of any non-immigrant status except C, D, K, or M (and in some cases J), and except those who entered the United States under the terms of the Visa Waiver Program, can apply for a change to F-1 status if he/she has maintained lawful non-immigrant status up to the time of application. Those with J status who are subject to 212(e) two-year home country physical requirement may not change status in the U.S. unless a waiver has been granted. Non-immigrants in A, G, or NATO status must first complete Form I-566, and have it properly endorsed by the foreign mission to the U.S. and the Department of State.

    It is important to know that a change of status within the U.S. is not a change of visa type; it is only permission to remain in the U.S.  The I-94 card or stamp issued to you upon approval is not a travel document and therefore you will need to apply for an F-1 Visa if you choose to return to the U.S. after leaving.

  • Change of Status Within the U.S.

    Change of Status Within the U.S.

    A change of status is required when your purpose for being in the U.S. no longer corresponds with the terms of your current visa type. It is important to note that you may not be eligible for a change of status within the U.S. if there are restrictions to your current status, or if you do not have legal status inside the U.S. You may still be eligible for F-1 status, but only by obtaining it through travel and reentry.

    It is important to know that a change of status within the U.S. is not a change of visa type; it is only permission to remain in the U.S.  The I-94 card or stamp issued to you upon approval is not a travel document and therefore you will need to apply for an F-1 Visa if you choose to return to the U.S. after leaving.

    While it is recommended that you work with an Immigration Attorney during this process, we have provided the following checklist is to help you with assembling your application packet. Include all documents in the order given below.

    Speak with your International Student Advisor about study and employment restrictions that may apply to you.

    PART I: REQUESTING A FORM I-20 
    1. Login to accessVIS through Full-Services using your netID and password.
    2. Complete all required forms within the Change of Immigration Status to F-1 request.
    3. Upon approval, your International Student Advisor will email you to collect your Form I-20 indicating your intention to apply for a change of status to F-1 within the U.S.
    PART II: FILING THE I-539 WITH USCIS 

    Your request for a Change of Status to F-1 may be filed by using the paper-based application or the online Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status,  if you are applying as a single applicant (without co-applicants, or legal or accredited representation) . While it is recommended that you work with an Immigration Attorney during this process, your International Student Advisor may agree to review your application prior to submission to USCIS.

    Preparation of the forms and supporting documentation is required when filing the paper-based I-539 Request for Change of Status:

    DOCUMENTATION & SUPPORTING DOCUMENTATION
    • Application & Biometric Fees: You may pay the fees with a money order, personal check, or cashier’s check. When filing at a USCIS Lockbox facility, you may also pay by credit card using Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions. If you pay by check, you must make your check payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  For the most up-to-date information on fees, visit the USCIS Fees webpage.

    • $370 Form I-539 application fee

    • $85 Biometric Services fee for each applicant (including spouse or children)

    • Form G-1145 - Informs USCIS that you wish to be notified you by email and/or text upon receipt of your application.

    • Form I-539 – Application form is accessible at www.uscis.gov/i-539. You may file using the  the paper-based application or the online  Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status,  if you are applying as a single applicant (without co-applicants, or legal or accredited representation)

    • I-94 Record: Original I-94 card or print out of your most recent electronic copy of I-94  found on https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov .

    • Stony Brook Issued I-20: Original Stony Brook issued Form I-20 signed and dated on the bottom of page 1 by you and your VIS Advisor. Your application will be delayed if you forget to sign and date the I-20.

    • Evidence of financial support: Original financial documents showing proof of sufficient funding for the duration of your program. Funds must be current, liquid and accessible.

    • Photocopy of your passport: Include the expiration date, identity page, U.S. visa page, and most recent U.S. entry stamp.

    • Proof of current lawful status showing your current visa category and any supporting documents

    • Proof of SEVIS fee payment: The mandatory SEVIS fee is payable online at www.fmjfee.com

    • Detailed letter explaining why you wish to request a change of status to F-1.  Your letter should clearly state (a) your current status, (b) explain your plans for studying at Stony Brook University, and (c) indicate how you will continue to maintain ties to your home country, (i.e. residence, expected job offer, or continuing family ties).

    If your current status (i.e. F-2, H-4, L-2, etc.) is tied to a parent or spouse's status you must include photocopies of all applicable documents as proof of the primary visa holder’s legal status:

    • His/her I-94 record (either a copy of the I-94 card stapled within their passport, or a printout of their electronic arrival/department record found on https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov )
    • His/her passport identity page, U.S. visa page, and most recent U.S. entry stamp
    • Any other supporting materials that prove the primary is maintaining legal status

    MAKE A COPY OF YOUR ENTIRE APPLICATION FOR YOUR RECORDS


    MAILING ADDRESS AND WHERE TO FILE

    Mail your complete application to the USCIS Dallas Lockbox via express mail courier service (i.e. DHL, FedEx, UPS) and be sure to request a tracking number.  

    USCIS
    ATTN: I-539
    2501 S. State Highway 121 Business
    Suite 400
    Lewisville, TX 75067

    NOTICE OF ACTION AND DECISION NOTICE:

    Once USCIS receives your application, a Form I-797, “Notice of Action” (NOA) will be mailed to you giving your case number. Within a few months (3-12), your decision notice will be mailed to you. Please provide Visa and Immigration Services with a copy of your NOA and decision notice as soon as you receive them.

    CHANGE OF ADDRESS:

    If you need to move from your current place of residence and have not yet received your NOA or your decision notice, be sure to update your address with USCIS by completing the online AR-11 Change of Address Form .

    Failure to complete the AR-11 can lead to your documents being mailed to the wrong place. If your documents get lost in the mail, USCIS may charge a fee for sending duplicate documents. It may also further delay the processing time for your application.

    WHAT IF I HAVE A GAP IN STATUS?

    USCIS announced new policy guidance in July 2021 that eliminates  the need for individuals who have applied for a change of status (COS) to F-1 student to apply to change or extend their nonimmigrant status while their initial F-1 COS application is pending.

    To prevent a “ gap” in status, USCIS will grant  the change of status to F-1 effective  the day they approve an applicant’s  Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. If they approve an application more than 30 days before  the student’s program start date,  the student must ensure they do not violate their F-1 status during that time. An example of a violation would be engaging in employment, including on-campus employment, more than 30 days before  the program start date as listed on their Form I-20.


    What to expect when filing within the U.S.:

    • Once USCIS receives your application, they will deposit your payment and mail you a Form I-797 Notice of Receipt with your assigned case number.  You can check the status of your application online, or by calling the phone number on the bottom of the I-797.
    • USCIS can take up to 6 months to process a change of status application. If you do not receive a reply within 6 months, contact Visa and Immigration Services for assistance.
    • If currently in lawful status, filing for a change to F-1 status within the U.S., you may remain in the United States until you receive a decision from USCIS. However, you are not eligible for any F-1 benefits or privileges (i.e. working on campus, applying for practical training, etc.) until the change of status is approved.
    • When USCIS has made a decision, they will send you a Form I-797 Notice of Action. If your application is approved, the I-797 will include a new I-94 card(s) and the I-20 will be returned to you.
    • Upload any documents you receive from USCIS through accessVIS, including the I-797 Notice of Receipt, I-797 Notice of Action, and I-94 Card.

    IMPORTANT: If you plan to leave the U.S. after you have obtained the change of status, you must contact Visa and Immigration Services before leaving.

    STUDY RESTRICTIONS:

    If you are currently in F-2 status: (8 CFR § 214.2(f)(15)(ii))

    Individuals in F-2 status are eligible for part time study. Refer to F-2 Dependents for details. However, once your change of status to F-1 is approved, you are required to be enrolled full time. If your change of status has not been approved by the deadline for adding/dropping classes, your I-20 start date will be deferred until the start of the next semester and you must stay enrolled part time until the end of the current semester in order to maintain your F-2 status.


    If you are currently in B1/B2 status: (8 CFR § 214.2(b)(7) and §248.1(c))

    Individuals in B1/B2 status are prohibited from “enrolling in a course of study” until after USCIS approves their change of status application.


    If you are currently in any other status (e.g., H, J, L, E, etc.):

    If your current status allows full-time studies in the U.S., you may start classes before your change of status application is approved. However, you are not eligible for employment under F-1 status (CPT/OPT) until after your application is approved and you have received proper authorization from our office or USCIS.

  • Change of Status through Travel & Reentry

    Change of Status through Travel & Reentry

    The alternative method of changing to F-1 status is through travel and re-entry, which may be preferred over the in-country change of status in certain situations. In this case, you would depart the U.S. and then apply for an F-1 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad, preferably the local consulate in your home country. If the F-1 visa application is approved and the F-1 visa is issued, then you can re-enter the U.S. using your F-1 I-20 form and F-1 visa. At the Port of Entry, your electronic I-94 will be updated to show your status as F-1 and the Admit Until Date as D/S, which confirms F-1 status.

    Please note that Canadian citizens are exempt from the requirement of a having an F-1 visa to re-enter the U.S. in F-1 status. But travel and re-entry are still required for Canadian citizens to obtain F-1 status.

    For further information about travel and re-entry and/or visa applications, refer to the U.S. Department of State web site.

    PART I: REQUESTING A FORM I-20 
    1.  I-20 Login to accessVIS through Full-Services using your netID and password.

    2. Complete all required forms within the Change of Immigration Status to F-1 request.

    3. Upon approval, your International Student Advisor will email you to collect your Form I-20.

    PART II: TRAVEL & RE-ENTRY TO THE U.S.
    1. Return to your home country and schedule a visa interview at the U.S. Consulate/Embassy.
    2. Pay the SEVIS Fee by completing the Form I-901 online at FMJfee.com. Proof of SEVIS fee payment will be required at your interview.  Check the U.S. Consulate/Embassy’s website in your home country for a list of other required documents.
    3. Once your passport has been returned by the U.S. Consulate/Embassy with the F-1 visa stamp, you may return to the U.S.
    4. Upon arrival to Stony Brook, you must check-in with Visa & Immigration Services and complete the Immigration Intake in accessVIS.
    WHAT TO EXPECT WITH APPLYING THROUGH TRAVEL & RE-ENTRY
    • The U.S. Consulate/Embassy may require administrative processing of your application.  This can be a timely process that cannot be expedited by Visa & Immigration Services.
    • Applying for a visa status of any kind is always a risk, VIS cannot guarantee approval of your request for an F-1 Visa.