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Changing Status to F-1

Santa Clara University has students from all over the world. Many prospective, admitted and enrolled students are in the U.S. in an immigration status other than the F-1 student status.

The ISS Team regularly advises admitted SCU students on how to transition to F-1 immigration status. We’ve included some general information below. We are happy to meet with admitted and current SCU students during drop-in advising hours or, for admitted students who have not yet moved to the Santa Clara area, to schedule a phone consultation to provide more personal guidance. We look forward to working with you.

Change of Status to F-1 Process

  1. Decide if F-1 status is right for you
  2. Decide which option for obtaining F-1 status is right for you
  3. Request your I-20
  4. Transition to F-1 status by either:
    • Option 1: Visa Stamping (outside the U.S)
    • Option 2: Change of Status Application (in the U.S.)
  5. Complete Immigration Check-in and Attend ISW

Is F-1 right for me?

Students decide to transition to F-1 status for many reasons. In addition to the benefits, it's important that you understand the requirements for F-1 status before you decide if the status is right for you.

Students decide to transition to F-1 status for many reasons. Here are some of the benefits to F-1 status:

  • F-1 student immigration status is an independent immigration status. It is not tied to an employer or a family relationship.
  • Students in F-1 status are eligible to work on-campus and are eligible for fellowships, assistantships and tuition waivers.
  • Students in F-1 status can become eligible to receive authorization for academic internships or qualified employment tied to their field of study while they are enrolled (Curricular Practical Training “CPT”)
  • Students in F-1 status can become eligible to receive authorization for academic internships or qualified employment tied to their field of study after they graduate (Optional Practical Training “OPT” and STEM OPT Extension)

In addition to its benefits, F-1 student immigration status comes with important responsibilities. You should be sure that you are willing to maintain valid F-1 immigration status before you request an I-20 and begin the process to transition to F-1 status. As an F-1 student, you will be required to:

  • Attend International Student Welcome (ISW) once you’ve been given your SCU I-20
  • Enroll and attend classes full time
  • Keep ISS updated about changes to your contact information and your employment
  • Work only with F-1 authorization (other work authorizations are no longer valid)
  • Get permission before travelling outside the U.S.
  • Keep valid and accurate immigration documents

There are many immigration status that will allow a student to enroll in a full course load of classes without obtaining F-1 status. 

You can enroll in full-time classes at SCU without obtaining F-1 status if you are currently in: E-1, E-2, E-3, E-2D, H-1B, H-4, J-1, J-2, L-1, L-2, O-1, O-2, O-3, P-1, P-2, P-3, P-4, R-1, R-2, TN, TD, Temporary Protected Status (TPS), Refugee / Asylee, immigrant visas (including spouse and fiancee visas), pending Adjustment of Status ("green card"), Lawful Permanent Resident ("green card").

You can enroll only in part-time classes at SCU without obtaining F-1 status if you are currently in: F-2 or M-2 status

You cannot enroll in any classes at SCU if you are currently in: B-1, B-2, "ESTA", Visa Waiver / VWP

Review Immigration and Custom Enforcement's Who Can Study? document for more information.

Please note that while you may be eligible to study at SCU, you are not eligible to work on or off-campus without employment authorization. This may also impact your eligibility for fellowships, assistantships and tuition waivers.

Options to Change to F-1 Status

Once you have decided that you are ready to accept the responsibility of F-1 status, generally there are two options to transition into F-1 immigration status. The best option for you will depend on a variety of factors, including your current immigration status, your academic goals and your ability to travel.

Option 1: Travel, Visa Stamping and Re-entry

This option is recommended for most students.

  • This is the recommended option for the majority of students.
  • Comparably faster and easier than a Change of Status application.
  • You get an F-1 visa stamp in your passport, which facilitates easier travel during your academic program and after graduation.
  • You can only go for visa stamping at certain times of the year (summer break, or in rare cases winter break).
  • Once you have the visa stamp, the first time you enter the U.S. in F-1 status can be no earlier than 30 days before the next term of classes start. 
  • Expense of travel
  • Possibility of Administrative Processing
  • Not available for students that have pending immigrant visa ("green card") application
  • Not available for students that have any history of criminal charges, conviction etc.
  • Not recommended for students from certain countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen). Citizens of Turkey and Russia should consult with an immigration attorney.

Option 2: USCIS Change of Status Application in the U.S. 

This option is generally not recommended due to long government processing times and limitations on travel during and after the process.

  • Allows the student to stay in the U.S.
  • Only requires USCIS filing fee ($370)
  • The only option for students from certain countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen)
  • May be less problematic for students with:
    • Pending immigrant visa ("green card") applications
    • Fewer ties to their home country
    • Prior criminal convictions
  • In some cases, you would not be able to start as a full-time student until the change of status is approved.
  • Takes a very long time to be processed by USCIS, possibly more than a year. There is no guaranteed approval time and there is no way to expedite or speed up the process. 
  • While application is pending, must continually maintain your current immigration status or acquire another status until 30 days before your program start date. Your start date will be deferred to the following academic term if your application has not been approved by the original start date.
  • Cannot leave the U.S. while the Change of Status is pending (even in the case of an emergency).
  • Must still obtain an F-1 visa stamp the next time you travel outside the U.S. Therefore, travel abroad after Change of Status must be carefully planned.
  • If the application is denied, there is a risk that you could not only be out of status, but that you could be referred to immigration court for deportation / removal.
  • Not available to students in J-1 status, B-1/ B-2 (or ESTA, tourist visa or visa waiver).
  • Not available to students who have an immigration status that will soon expire or become invalid.

How do I get my SCU I-20?

  • Please see the I-20 Request Website
  • Be sure to confirm which option for changing status you wish to use on page 1 of your I-20 Request
  • Admitted students submit their I-20 Request Package through the admission portal
  • Currently enrolled students submit their I-20 Request Package to the ISS Team via email (
  • Please note that the ISS Team cannot review your I-20 Request documents (including financial documents) before you properly submit the I-20 Request package. Once we have your package we will review all documents together. We will contact you directly if we have any questions.

What happens after I get my SCU I-20?

  • Option 1: If you have requested an Initial I-20, follow the visa application process.
  • Option 2: If you have requested a Change of Status I-20, file a Change of Status application.

What do I do once I am in F-1 status?

  • Attend ISW
  • Complete Immigration Check-In

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

General Questions

Questions About Obtaining F-1 Status through Visa Stamping

Questions About Obtaining F-1 Status through Change of Status

Disclaimer: U.S. immigration regulations are complex and change frequently. While we strive to maintain a website that is both current and helpful, Santa Clara University is not responsible for students maintaining lawful immigration status; this is the responsibility of the student. Links provided do not constitute endorsement by Santa Clara University.