Change of Status FAQ
Falling out of F-1 status is a very serious violation of responsibility as an international student. It can have long-term consequences on a student's immigration benefits in the United States. A student who is out of status is no longer eligible for benefits such as practical training, on-campus employment, and travel signatures to re-enter the U.S. If a student fails to rectify your status through reinstatement, you risk being deported and/or being unable to secure visas to enter the U.S. in the future.
USCIS may consider reinstating a student to F-1 status if the student can prove the following, among other things, that you have not been out of status for more than 5 months prior to filing for reinstatement (unless you can show that there were exceptional circumstances that prevented the student from filing during the 5 month period).
- If a student is out of status for more than 5 months from the date of the status violation, there is a presumption that the student is ineligible for reinstatement, unless you can prove that there were exceptional circumstances that prevented filing within the 5 month period and that you filed the request for reinstatement as soon as possible given those exceptional circumstances.
Applications are considered on a case-by-case basis. Elgin Community College reserves the right to refuse to support any reinstatement application. Students filing for reinstatement more than five months from the date of the status violation will be considered by Elgin Community College, but any support for a reinstatement application in these instances must be accompanied by the reinstatement application being facilitated by a U.S. licensed attorney. Elgin Community College will require proof that an attorney will support the student's application prior to issuing an I-20 requesting reinstatement. All fees related to the expense of an attorney are the responsibility of the student. Students who have been out of status for more than five months will also have to pay a new SEVIS I-901 fee [8 CFR 214.13(d)(7)] and include proof of payment with their recertification application.
- Reinstatement: Apply for reinstatement by submitting an application to USCIS within the U.S. A student will need to provide documentation that he/she fell out of status due to circumstances beyond your control, and an immigration officer will decide whether or not to reinstate you based on the information provided in the application. A student must continue to take and pay for classes while the reinstatement request is pending; however, a student is not allowed to be employed. If an application is denied, the student must exit the country immediately. See the F-1 travel checklist on how to apply for reinstatement within the U.S.
- Travel and re-entry: A student must exit the United States and return on a new I-20 issued to him/her by a D.S.O. In order to obtain a new I-20, a student will need to provide the same kind of financial documentation he/she showed when he/she was first admitted to ECC. If a student currently has a valid F-1 visa, he/she can travel to a different country and show your new I-20 when you re-enter the U.S. If a student does not have a valid F-1 visa, he/she will need to make a visa appointment in your home country, obtain the visa, and then return to the U.S. using your new I-20. If a student decides to pursue option number two, please note that you will have to wait two academic semesters before he/she is eligible for practical training (C.P.T. and O.P.T.).
Expect to wait two to four months for a reply from USCIS. If your application is approved, USCIS will send you your I-20 and Form I-797A (reinstatement approval notice). You may also receive either your original I-94 card back if you mailed in your original or you may receive a new I-94 card located at the bottom of Form I-797A. Please call the Center for International Education and Programs at 847-214-7809 to arrange a meeting with a D.S.O. after you receive the above-mentioned documents. Please bring these documents with you, along with a copy, to your appointment with the D.S.O.
If your request for reinstatement is denied, you must depart the U.S. immediately; denial of the application for reinstatement cannot be appealed, although a motion to reopen or reconsider may be filed by you or your attorney if warranted (8CFR214.2f16ii).
As an international student, you must follow all of the immigration laws in the United States. You must maintain valid nonimmigrant documents at all times while in the U.S. This includes your passport and your Form I-20 document. Keep your passport and paperwork valid at all times, and renew at least six months before expiring. If you do not have a VIsa in your passport and you travel outside the U.S., you need to reapply for an F-1 Visa to re-enter the U.S.
Yes, 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.
A change of status is the process of a nonimmigrant changing to a different class of admission to the United States. To apply, you must be in the United States with a valid nonimmigrant status. Generally, nonimmigrants who have filed a timely application for change of status to a different nonimmigrant status or who have filed a petition for an extension of their stay can remain in the United States while USCIS is adjudicating their application. If the request approved, an approval notice is sent and the nonimmigrant is issued an updated Form I-94. If denied, the petitioner must be prepared to exit the United States.
Certain nonimmigrants are not permitted to change their status to F-1 Visa while in the United States. These nonimmigrants may still be eligible for F-1 Visa (Academic Student) but must obtain an F-1 Visa and re-enter the United States. Please note: Any applicant applying for a change of status from a B-1/B-2 to F-1 Visa on an Elgin Community College issued I-20 will generally be required to work with an experienced immigration attorney.
The following nonimmigrants are not permitted to change the status to F-1 Visa while in the United States (8 C.F.R. § 248.1 and § 248.2):
- M-1 Visa students (foreign students pursuing nonacademic or vocational studies).
- C, D, and K nonimmigrants.
- J-1 physicians admitted to receiving graduate medical education or training.
- J nonimmigrants subject to the 212(e) 2-year foreign residence requirement.
- Aliens admitted as visitors under 8 C.F.R. § 212.1(e).
- W.T. and W.B. visitors admitted under the Visa Waiver Program.
A nonimmigrant's current status must be valid until the start date requested in the change of status application. However, some USCIS service centers have approved a change of status application if the prior status is valid until 30 days before the I-20 program start date. ECC's Center for International Education and Programs sponsors "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” application to an F-1 Visa 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. The F-1 nonimmigrant admission notation on Form I-94/I-94A Arrival-Departure Record usually states “D/S” indicating the duration of status.
An applicant status to F-1 Visa may start attending school even before the application has been approved by USCIS, except for the following:
- Nonimmigrants changing to F-1 Visa from B-1 or B-2 status; and
- Nonimmigrants are changing to F-1 Visa from F-2 dependent status. Special note on B-1/B-2 nonimmigrant visa holders.
B-1 or B-2 nonimmigrant statuses may enroll in the course of study and must apply to change their status to either F-1 Visa or M-1 Visa student status if the applicant has:
- Not yet enrolled in classes.
- A current status that is not expired, and
- Not worked in the United States without employment authorization.
Some students must wait until USCIS approves a change of status application has:
- Already enrolled in classes.
- A current status that is expired, and
- Previously worked in the United States without employment authorization.
According to USCIS, nonimmigrants must maintain their B-1 or B-2 status while their Form I-539 is pending. Elgin Community College will assist students in B-1/B-2 status through the change of status process only if you remain in status and eligible for the requested benefit until the date that the new status is requested to begin. This may require you to request an extension from USCIS of their B-1 or B-2 status.
File a second Form I-539, with a separate fee, to request an extension of their B-1 or B-2 status, if:
- The current status will expire more than 30 days before the initial F-1 Visa or M-1 Visa program start date. If the applicant does not submit this extension request on time, USCIS will deny the request for a status change. If this is the case, your program start date will be deferred to the following academic term or semester because USCIS did not decide on the change of status application before the originally intended F-1 Visa program start date.
- USCIS may approve the Form I-539 change of status request only if the applicant is maintaining B-1/B-2 status up to 30 days before the program's initial start date. If the status expires more than 30 days before the program's initial start date, you must file a second Form I-539 requesting to bridge the gap in time between when the current status expires and the 30 days before the new F-1 Visa program start date and extend their B-1 or B-2 status. USCIS processing times determine if there is a need to file a petition to extend a B-1/B-2 status. Because extending an applicant's current stay in B-1 or B-2 status and changing from B-1 or B-2 to F-1 Visa or M-1 Visa status are two distinct benefits, the nonimmigrant must pay a separate filing fee for each request. See the User Fee Statute, 31 U.S.C. 9701.
After USCIS receives your application and ensures it is complete, you will inform you in writing if you need to attend an appointment. If an appointment is necessary, the notice will provide the location of your local or designated USCIS Application Support Center (A.S.C.) and the date and time of your appointment or, if you are currently overseas, instruct you to contact a U.S. Embassy, U.S. Consulate, or USCIS office outside the United States to set up an appointment. If you fail to attend your appointment, USCIS may deny your application. To make an appointment visit uscis.gov/forms/forms-information/preparing-your-biometric-services-appointment.
Yes, you may pay the filing fee and biometrics service fee by check or money order to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Personal checks must be pre-printed with the name of the bank and the account holder. Also, the account holder's address and phone number must be pre-printed, typed, or written in ink on the check. All checks must be typed or written in ink. Important note: Write the date of the check-in the U.S. style of month/day/year. For the most current filing and biometrics service fees visit uscis.gov to learn more.
USCIS may require that you appear for an interview or provide biometrics (fingerprints, photograph, and/or signature) at any time to verify your identity, obtain additional information, and conduct background and security checks, including a check of criminal history records maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.), before making a decision on your application or petition. You must sign an oath reaffirming that:
- You provided or authorized all information in the application.
- You reviewed and understood all of the information contained in, and submitted with, your application; and
- All of this information was complete, true, and correct at the time of filing.
- Applying for a change of status to F-1 Visa in the U.S. does not give the bearer an F-1 Visa in your passport.
- You will receive an F-1 Visa status if USCIS approves the change of status; however, if you travel outside the U.S., you will need to reapply for an F-1 Visa to re-enter the U.S.
- A student who applies for and is granted F-1 Visa status outside the U.S. is given an F-1 Visa in your passport.
- A nonimmigrant requesting F-1 Visa status from within the U.S. does not receive F-1 Visa benefits (e.g., working on campus, C.P.T., etc.) until USCIS has approved the application, even if the nonimmigrant 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.
Yes. Applying for a change of status to F-1 Visa in the U.S. does not give the bearer an F-1 Visa in your passport. You will receive F-1 Visa status if the change of status is approved by USCIS; however, if you travel outside the U.S., you need to reapply for an F-1 Visa to re-enter the U.S. A student who applies for and is granted F-1 Visa status outside the U.S. is given an F-1 Visa in your passport. A nonimmigrant requesting F-1 Visa status from within the U.S. does not receive F-1 Visa benefits (e.g., working on campus, C.P.T., etc.) until USCIS has approved your application, even if the nonimmigrant has been attending classes while the change of status application is pending. 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.
Yes, if you have an F-1 visa, you should check your travel documents prior to departure. When leaving the United States to travel, all F-1 students should check your travel documents prior to departure.
F-1 Travel Checklist
Determine if your documents are in order for re-entry into the United States:
Valid Passport: Check the passport to make sure it is valid (i.e., not expired).
Valid I-20: Check the validity of the I-20 (see item #5 on I-20 for expiration date).
D.S.O. Signature: Check for valid travel signature (see page #3 of the I-20 to make sure the signature is not older than 6 months).
Traveling somewhere other than home country: Check with the embassy of the country the student intends to visit if you need a visitor’s visa to enter this country.
Traveling after completion of studies: Depending on the circumstances, this might be risky. Consult with the Office of International Education and Programs before making travel plans.
If a student has applied for optional practical training: Based on completion of studies, you must wait until you have received the Employment Authorization Document (E.A.D. card) before departing the U.S. If a student has received your E.A.D. card and wishes to travel, the student will need to carry an E.A.D. card and follow the above guidelines to facilitate your re-entry to the United States. A student should be aware that getting a new visa while on optional practical training is often difficult. Any student traveling outside the U.S. while on O.P.T. should make an appointment prior to travel with the Office of International Education and Programs.