Change of Status FAQ
A change of status is the process of changing to a different class of admission (visa) in the United States (U.S.). To apply, you must be in the U.S. with a valid nonimmigrant status. Generally, if you file a timely application for change of status or petition for an extension of your stay, you can remain in the U.S. while USCIS is adjudicating your application. If your request is approved, an approval notice is sent, and you will be issued an updated Form I-94. If denied, you must be prepared to exit the U.S.
In general, you may apply to change your nonimmigrant status while remaining in the U.S. if:
- You were lawfully admitted to the U.S. in a nonimmigrant status;
- Your nonimmigrant status remains valid;
- You have not violated the conditions of your status; and
- You have not committed any crimes or engaged in any other actions that would make you ineligible for change of status.
Certain nonimmigrants are not permitted to change their status to F-1 while in the U.S. You may still be eligible for F-1 status, but the only way you can get F-1 status is by leaving the U.S., obtaining an F-1 visa in your home country, and re-entering the U.S. The following nonimmigrants are not permitted to change their status to F-1 while in the U.S. [8 CFR § 248.1 and § 248.2]:
- M-1 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 CFR § 212.1(e).
- WT and WB visitors admitted under the Visa Waiver Program.
Your 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 will sponsor change of status applications for initial admission if your current status is valid within 30 days of the anticipated program start date. However, if you are filing a change of status dated after your current status has expired, there is a possibility that USCIS will deny your request.
You may start attending classes even before the application has been approved by USCIS, except if one of the following applies to you:
- You are currently on a B-1 or B-2 visa and changing to an F-1 visa.
- You are now on an F-2 visa and changing to an F-1 visa.
If these apply to you, you must wait until your application has been approved to begin attending classes.
You may apply to change to F-1 status if:
- You have not yet enrolled in classes,
- Your current status is not expired, and
- You have not worked in the U.S. without employment authorization.
You must maintain your B-1 or B-2 status while your change of status is pending. If your current B-1 or B-2 status will expire more than 30 days before the initial F-1 program start date, you will also need to file a second Form I-539 to request an extension of your B-1 or B-2 status. This requires that you pay a second application and biometric fee. If you do not file this extension on time, USCIS may deny your change of status request.
Please check USCIS processing times to determine if there is a need to file a request to extend a B-1 or B-2 status.
If USCIS does not make a decision on your change of status before your initial F-1 program start date, your program start date will be deferred to the following academic term. If this delay causes your B-1 or B-2 status to expire, you must file a Form I-539 to request an extension of your B-1 or B-2 status.
Due to the complexity of some change of status cases, ECC recommends all nonimmigrants changing to F-1 status work with a licensed U.S. immigration attorney. The Center for International Education and Programs can recommend a licensed U.S. immigration attorney. B-1 or B-2 visa holders changing to F-1 status are required to work with a licensed U.S. immigration attorney.
Yes. All applicants are now required to attend a biometric services appointment where fingerprints, photographs, and signatures will be collected. After your change of status application is filed, USCIS will schedule your biometric services appointment at a local Application Support Center (ASC). They will send you an appointment notice (Form I-797C, Notice of Action), which will include the date, time, and location of your ASC appointment.
Yes, there is an $85 biometric services fee. You may pay your fee online using a credit/debit card or bank withdrawal; by mail with a card or check; or in person at a USCIS field office.
Generally, ECC recommends that all potential F-1 students apply for an F-1 visa at the U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country. It is typically faster and less expensive to return home and apply for an F-1 visa than it is to apply for a change of status. You can take advantage of F-1 benefits (like working on campus, requesting CPT/OPT, etc.) right away. Most importantly, you will receive an F-1 visa stamp in your passport.
Filing a change of status is typically a longer and more expensive process. Also, if you exit the U.S. during your processing time, your application will be considered abandoned and you will need to reapply for a new visa. You must wait to take advantage of F-1 benefits (like working on campus, requesting CPT/OPT, etc.) until your change of status is approved. Also, you will not receive the F-1 visa stamp in your passport.