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Changing Status to F-1

If you hold a valid non-immigrant visa status and you want to become a full-time student at SCU, you may apply to change your status to F-1.  Once approved, you become eligible for all F-1 status benefits (including working).

How do I change status to become an F-1 student?

  1. Apply for a change of status to F-1 while in the US
  2. Depart the US and apply for an F-1 Visa in your home country

Read more about both options to see which is right for you.

 

Option 1: Applying in the US

To change status in the US, you must submit an application to the US Government.  This process can take 3 - 4 months (or longer), so plan accordingly.

Note: If you are changing from B-2 or F-2 to F-1, you MUST receive approval before the first day of the admitted quarter.  Failure to receive this approval may delay your admission or prevent your enrollment.

 

To apply in the U.S., you must meet the following criteria:

  • Your current I-94 status is valid.  There cannot be more than 30 days between when your current status ends and when the Form I-20 begins.
  • Your current I-94 status allows a change of status while remaining in the USA
  • Your primary purpose for changing status is to become a full-time student at SCU
  • If you’ve ever been in a J-Exchange Visitor status, and are subject to the two year home residency requirement, you are eligible to apply only if you have fulfilled the requirement or have obtained a waiver and can provide a copy of the waiver

 

Submit the following documents to the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) and keep a copy of all documents for your records.

  • Personal letter (typed) explaining why you want to change status.  Include information about:
    • why you entered the USA in your current status
    • why and how your intentions changed once in the USA
    • any other relevant information
    • Recommended: plans to return home after completing your studies
    • Recommended: ties to your home country
  • I-20 request form
  • Proof of admission to SCU (admission letter or if a current student, an SCU transcript)
  • I-539 form
  • Check for $370 made payable to “US Department of Homeland Security”
  • Receipt confirming payment of the SEVIS fee (Form I-901)
  • I-94
  • Copy of passport bio pages (picture and expiration date)
  • Copy of visa page in passport
  • Financial Documents
  • any supplementary documents, see below

Supplemental Documents to include:  Please include these if applicable.

Changing from A-status:

You may begin/continue your studies while the change of status application is pending.  In addition, you must complete Form I-566 with Office of Protocol at the Department of State, before filing your change of status.

  • If changing from A-1 status: include copies of all forms I-797 showing dates of status.
  • If changing from A-2 status: include the A-1’s copies of form I-797, passport bio page, visa, and I-94

Changing from E- or L-status:

You may begin/continue your studies while the change of status application is pending.

  • If changing from E-1 or L-1 status: include copies of all forms I-797 showing dates of status.
  • If changing from E-2 or L-2 status: include the E-1 or L-1’s copies of form I-797, passport bio page, visa, and I-94

Changing from F-2 status:

You may not begin full time studies until F-1 status is approved.

  • Copies of all I-20 forms for both F-1 and F-2, passport bio page, visa, I-94, and transcripts (or academic history) of F-1 (and, if currently on OPT, copy of EAD card).

Changing from H-status:

You may begin/continue your studies while the change of status application is pending.  If you are an H-1B, you may not work after the change of status is effective.

  • Copies of all forms I-797 showing dates of status, evidence that H-1B maintained status (e.g., letter from employer confirming employment or 3 recent paystubs).  
  • If you are a dependent (H-4), copies of form I-797, passport bio page, visa, and I-94 of principal

Changing from J-status:

You may begin/continue your studies while the change of status application is pending.

  • Copies of all forms DS-2019
  • If dependent (J-2), copies of passport bio page, visa, I-94 of principal, copy of waiver recommendation or approval (Note: J-1 exchange visitors and their families who are subject to the two year home residence requirement cannot apply for a change of status to F-1 without a recommendation for a waiver)

Sending Your Change of Status Application to USCIS

Mail your application to USCIS at least two weeks before the expiration of your current I-94 to make sure that they receive it before the end of your current status.



You will receive a receipt notice within one month of mailing your application.  Keep the receipt in a safe place and provide a copy to the Global Engagement Office via email.

You can view processing times here.  While your application is pending, you may remain in the USA.  However, you should be prepared to take immediate action, in case your application is not approved.  In some cases this may include travel.

 

Please do not travel internationally while your application is pending as the government will view this as you abandoning your application.  You will need to apply outside of the country for a Visa, if you do this.

 

Generally yes.  In fact, sometimes, it is required that you act like an F-1 student during this transition. Be sure to speak with an International Student Advisor during Walk-In hours as you make the transition from your previous status, to determine if you should enroll full-time or if you should wait.

 

When applying for a change of status to F-1, you are notifying the U.S. Government that you have the intent to return to your home country after completing your studies.  Concurrent applications for adjustment of status to permanent residency - EVEN IF you are not the primary applicant, may cause denial of your application.  Please consult with an immigration attorney before filing for permanent residency or change of status to F-1 student status.

 

When approved, you’ll be issued an I-797 Approval Notice with an attached I-94.  After approval, please visit the Global Engagement Office within 15 days of your I-20 start date, so that we can check you in as an F-1 student. You will also need to attend an Orientation session.

 

Option 2: Departing the US and applying in my home country

  1. Speak with an advisor during walk-in hours about your situation
  2. Submit the I-20 request form to our office
  3. Follow the rest of the instructions for incoming students. When you participate in your interview, you may be asked to provide proof that you truly have non-immigrant intent and strong ties to your home country

After approval, please visit the Global Engagement Office within 15 days of your I-20 start date, so that we can check you in as an F-1 student. You will also need to attend an Orientation session.



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.