College of the Extended University

Changing Status

Changing to an F-1 Visa

Overview

When you enter the United States in nonimmigrant status, you do so for a specific purpose, such as study, work, or travel. You may enter the U.S. with one purpose and later change your purpose. When this happens, you may need to obtain a new status. Different visa/status categories allow different activities.

International Student Advisers are not immigration attorneys. It may be advisable to consult an immigration attorney about your plans to apply to obtain F-1 status. The International Center can provide a list of immigration attorneys if you do not have one. 

Here is a helpful document about selecting an immigration attorney. 

Gaining a New Nonimmigrant Status

There are two ways of gaining a new nonimmigrant status. When deciding which option is best for you, you should consider various factors:

  • Upcoming travel plans
  • Application processing times
  • The expiration date or special conditions of your current status

Option 1: Travel and Reentry

Leave the U.S., apply for a new visa at a U.S. consulate, and reenter the U.S. with the new visa and other relevant documents. You will gain your new status when you are admitted into the U.S.

Advantages
  • This process is usually faster than changing status in the U.S.
  • You will obtain the visa and the status
Disadvantages
  • Possibility of visa processing delay
  • Expense of travel

Step 1: Request an I-20 from CPP International Center

The International Center issues the immigration document I-20 needed for the F-1 Visa. To request an I-20, you will need to provide us with:
  • Current financial documentation, less than 6 months old
  • A copy of your passport identity page (including date of birth, name, photo, and expiration date)
  • A copy of the passport identity pages for any dependents on your record

Step 2: Travel back to your home country

Step 3: Apply for an F-1 Visa 

Step 4: Re-enter the United States using your new F-1 Visa and I-20, your new status will take effect

Option 2: Change Status in the U.S.

Submit an application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for a change of status. This option allows you to change your nonimmigrant status while remaining in the U.S. With this option you may gain the new status but you will not receive a new visa; visas are only issued outside the U.S.

Advantages
  • Ability to stay in the U.S. during processing
  • Avoid the hassle of a visa application process (for now)
Disadvantages
  • Processing can be very slow, which may jeopardize your ability to begin your new activity, such as studying or accepting a research or teaching assistantship or other campus employment.
  • You must stay in the U.S. during processing; exiting the U.S. cancels the application
  • You must still obtain a visa stamp to match your status the next time you travel outside the U.S. 
  • The application might be denied, which could require you to quickly depart the U.S.

Step 1: Consult with an immigration attorney

Step 2: Request an I-20 from CPP International Center

The International Center issues the immigration document I-20 needed for the F-1 Visa. To request an I-20, you will need to provide us with:
  • Current financial documentation, less than 6 months old
  • A copy of your passport identity page (including date of birth, name, photo, and expiration date)
  • A copy of the passport identity pages for any dependents on your record

Step 3: Apply for change of status with USCIS 

Step 4: Upon approval, meet with an International Student Advisor

Things to Know

Processing times vary, so be prepared to wait to learn the outcome of your application. To review current processing times and your pending case status, visit the USCIS Case Status Service Online.

Approval or denial

USCIS will notify you of their decision with Form I-797 Notice of Action. The I-797 is an important document and should be kept with your passport and I-94 card. The denial letter or approval notice will be mailed to the address listed on Form I-539 in your application. Note that if you change your address, the postal service will not forward mail sent to you by USCIS.  Please upload your I-797.

Remaining in the U.S. during processing

You may remain in the U.S. while your application is pending, even if your original status expires during the application processing.

Travel outside the U.S. while application is pending

Do not travel outside of the U.S. while your change of status case is pending. If you leave the country, USCIS will consider your application abandoned.

Travel outside the U.S. after application is approved

In order to re-enter the U.S. after a trip abroad (except for brief trips to Canada or Mexico under 30 days), you must visit a U.S. consulate to request a new visa to match your new status.

Employment eligibility

Do not begin employment, if permitted under the new status, until the change of status is approved.

Applications Pending After the Start of the Semester: New I-20 Required (for change of status to F-1)

If your Change of Status to F-1 application is still pending after the program start date printed on your I-20, International Center must defer the program start date to a future term. You must submit the new I-20 to USCIS with a copy of your USCIS receipt notice.