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Change of Status to F-1

  • 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. If you are currently in the U.S. on another visa and wish to change to F-1 status, it is important to note that you will still need to apply for an F-1 Visa if you choose to travel outside of the U.S. and re-enter.

    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 they have maintained lawful non-immigrant status up to the time of their 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.

  • Change of Status Within the U.S.

    Change of Status Within the U.S.

    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.

    Part I: Request a Form I-20

    Step 1: Login to accessVIS
    Step 2: Submit the request
    Step 3: Receive your new I-20

    Part II: File the I-539 with USCIS

    Filing online
    Filing by mail
    If your current status is linked to a parent or spouse
    Mailing address for paper applications
    Notice of Action and Notice of Decision
    Change of address

    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 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.

    If you are 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.

    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.

  • 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. 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. However, 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 website.

    Part I: Request a Form I-20

    Step 1: Login to accessVIS
    Step 2: Submit the request
    Step 3: Receive your new I-20

    Part II: Travel & Rentry

    Step 1: Return to your home country
    Step 2: Pay the SEVIS Fee
    Step 3: Receive your F-1 visa
    What to Expect
    • 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.
  • Study Restrictions while Awaiting COS

    Study Restrictions while Awaiting COS

    If you are currently in F-2 status
    If you are currently in B-1/B-2 status
    If you are currently in any other status