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Change of Status Process

The United States Change of Status Process - Checklist

Once you receive your I-20, you can start applying for the Change of Status to an F-1 student.  Here are the items you will need:

  • Form I-539 (Paper application only; if you apply online, complete Form I-539 information online)
  • $290 fee: check or money order payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security” (Paper application only; if you apply online, you will pay the fee online)

Copies of:

  • Your new I-20 indicating “Change of Status” in item #3, completed and signed. (You must request this new I-20 from the OIS via iStart!)
  • Your admission letter—from the Office of International Admissions.
  • Financial documents showing that funds are available to cover the expenses as listed on the I-20
  • Original I-94 card or photocopy of admission stamp and paper printout of  I-94 record
  • Photocopy of the visa page and identification page in your passport
  • Documentation that proves that you have been maintaining your other visa status (examples will be provided by an OIS advisor)
  • Pay SEVIS Fee (one-time fee)
    • Go to www.fmjfee.com
    • Complete Form I-901 (SEVIS fee) online (be sure to fill out your name exactly as it appears on your I-20).
    • Print a copy of the online receipt. (include this in your USCIS package)
  • Detailed letter requesting and explaining the need to change status

Submit your application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) one of two ways:

  • Apply online through the USCIS ELIS (USCIS Electronic Immigration System), you must scan and upload copies of the above documents to ELIS. You will complete Form I-539 information online and pay the application fee online.  (Recommended Method)
  • If you choose the paper application option, you can mail all of the above items by certified mail with return receipt requested to: 

For U.S. Postal Service deliveries:

USCIS

P.O. Box 660166

Dallas, TX 75266

For Express mail and commercial courier deliveries:

USCIS

ATTN: I-539

2501 S. State Highway 121 Business Ste 400

Lewisville, TX 75067

**You should make and keep photocopies of all the documents before mailing them**

Things to include in your letter explaining the need to change status:

Assessing your situation

The following questions are a guideline to help you decide if you should make extra efforts to prove your true intent to study in the U.S.:

  • What did you tell the consular officer was the purpose of your visit to the U.S.?
  • Upon entry to the U.S., what did you tell the immigration officer was the purpose of your visit?
  • How and when did you arrive at your decision to study in the U.S.?
  • How and when did you first contact the University, and when were you informed you had been admitted?
  • If prior to your entry into the U.S. your intention was to attend school, why didn't you apply for an F-1 student visa rather than your current visa?
  • Have you been in the U.S. before? When and for what purpose?
  • Any relatives in the U.S.? If so, what types of status are they here on?

The regulations prohibit beginning a full course of study until the change of status to F-1 is approved.

F-1 status cannot begin earlier than 30 days before the start date on your I-20. You should submit your application several months in advance, and you must be able to maintain your current B-1/B-2 status until 30 days before the I-20 start date. If your tourist status will expire prior to 30 days before your I-20 start date, your application will most likely be denied. Even though you are allowed to stay in the U.S. while the application is pending, if your application is likely to be denied, it will be better for you to travel, obtain an F-1 visa abroad, and reenter the U.S. in F-1 status. 

If you have a B-1/B-2 Visitor visa with “prospective student” endorsement, you should have little difficulty changing to student status.  If you do not have this endorsement noted on your Visa, try your best to answer the above questions and include the information below.

Financial Relation

Proof of strong financial ties to your home country is a great indicator of “nonimmigrant intent”.  Note that you cannot use the same assets that will be used to pay for your F-1 or J-1 programs.

  • Suggestive documents to submit: Copies of investment statements, home country work contracts, home ownership documents.
Family Relation

If all members of your immediate family live in your home country, or if a member of your immediate family (in your home country) is not in good health, this is another reason to indicate that you might return to your home country.

  • Suggestive documents to submit: Copies of official documents providing family relationships, letters from physicians explaining any special medical condition of your family members.
Your Visa and Immigration History

If you have visited other countries and returned to your home country after those visits in a timely manner, you have demonstrated a pattern of obeying immigration regulations.  USCIS will be more likely to believe that you will return home after your study in the U.S.  The more trips you have made, the better your situation.

  • Suggestive documents to submit: Copies of current and past passports with visa, entry and exist stamps.

If you have additional questions or concerns regarding this process.  Please feel free to contact OISS for assistance.

Last updated: 09/09/2016