Change of Status FAQ
A change of status is the process of a non-immigrant changing to a different class of admission. Generally, non-immigrants who have filed a timely application for change of status to a different nonimmigrant status or have filed an application for extension of stay can remain in the United States while their application is being adjudicated by USCIS.
Certain non immigrants are not permitted to change status to F-1 while in the United States. Such non immigrants may still be eligible for F-1 status, but the only way they can get F-1 status is through obtaining an F-1 visa and re-entering the United States.
The following non immigrants are not permitted to change status to F-1 in the United States (8 C.F.R. § 248.1 and § 248.2):
- M-1 students
- C, D, and K non immigrants
- J-1 physicians admitted to receive graduate medical education or training
- J non immigrants subject to the 212(e) 2-year foreign residence requirement
- Aliens admitted as visitors under 8 C.F.R. § 212.1(e)
- WT and WB visitors admitted under the Visa Waiver Program.
Please note that any individual applying for a change of status from a B-1/B-2 to F-1 on an Elgin Community College issued I-20 will generally be required to work with an experienced immigration attorney.
A non immigrant's current status must be valid until the start date requested in the change of status application. However, some Service Centers have approved change of status applications if the prior status is valid until 30 days before the I-20 program start date. ECC will sponsor change of status applications for initial admission if a student’s current status is valid within 30 days of the anticipated program start date. However, students filing a change of status to F-1 whose change of status application is dated after their current status has expired should note there is a possibility that USCIS will deny the change of status request.
An applicant for change of non immigrant status to F-1 may start attending school even before the application has been approved by USCIS, except for the following, who must wait until their change of status application is approved by USCIS:
- Non immigrants changing to F-1 from B-1 or B-2 status; and
- Non immigrants changing to F-1 from F-2 dependent status.
Special note on B-1/B-2 non-immigrant visa holders. If an individual currently holds B-1 or B-2 non immigrant status and would like to enroll in a course of study, the individual may apply to change to either F-1 or M-1 student status if:
- The individual has not yet enrolled in classes;
- The individual’s current status has not expired; and
- The individual has not worked in the United States without employment authorization.
According to USCIS, non immigrants must maintain their B-1 or B-2 status while their Form I-539 is pending. An individual will need to file a second Form I-539, with a separate fee, to request an extension of the B-1 or B-2 status if:
- The current status will expire more than 30 days before the initial F-1 or M-1 program start date. USCIS may approve the Form I-539 change of status request only if the individual is maintaining B-1/B-2 status up to 30 days before the program’s initial start date.If the status will expire more than 30 days before the F-1 or M-1 program’s initial start date, the individual must file a second Form I-539 requesting to extend the B-1 or B-2 status. If the individual does not file this extension request on time, USCIS will deny the Form I-539 request to change to F-1 or M-1 status. Please check USCIS processing times to determine if there is a need to file a request to extend a B-1/B-2 status.
- The F-1 or M-1 program start date is deferred to the following academic term or semester because USCIS did not make a decision on the Form I-539 change of status application before the originally intended F-1 program start date.The non immigrant must file a second Form I-539 in order to bridge the gap in time between when the current status expires and the 30 day period before the new F-1 program start date.
Because extending an individual’s current stay in B-1 or B-2 status and changing from B-1 or B-2 to F-1 or M-1 status are two distinct benefits, the non immigrant must pay a separate filing fee for each request. See the User Fee Statute, 31 U.S.C. 9701.
Elgin Community College will assist students in B-1/B-2 status through the change of status process only if the student will remain in status and eligible for the requested benefit until the date that the new status is requested to begin. This may require the student to request an extension from USCIS of their B-1 or B-2 status. Please note that Elgin Community College does not provide assistance or advice on filing such extension requests. Due to the complexity of some change of status cases, Elgin Community College recommends all non immigrants in B-1 or B-2 status changing to F-1 work with a licensed U.S. immigration attorney. The Center for International Education and Programs can recommend a licensed U.S. immigration attorney. Certain change of status applications from B-1/B-2 to F-1 will not be considered or supported unless the student agrees to and shows proof of working with a licensed U.S. immigration attorney.
Applicants should note that applying for a change of status to F-1 in the U.S. does not give the bearer an F-1 visa in his/her passport. The student will receive F-1 status if the change of status is approved by USCIS; however, if the student travels outside the U.S., he/she will need to reapply for an F-1 visa to reenter the U.S. A student who applies for and is granted F-1 status outside the U.S. is given an F-1 visa in his/her passport.
A non immigrant requesting F-1 status from within the U.S. does not receive F-1 benefits (e.g. working on campus, CPT, etc.) until USCIS has approved his/her application, even if the non immigrant has been attending classes while the change of status application is pending. Additionally, as of June 1, 2012, for both ELIS and paper filings, USCIS will no longer return a stamped I-20 to the applicant after a change of status application is approved.
Please note that Elgin Community College recommends all potential F-1 students apply for an F-1 visa at the U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country.