Changing to F-1 Status

In order to change to F-1 status from another non-immigrant status, there are two options. The first option is submitting a change of status application to USCIS in the U.S., and the second option is traveling outside of the U.S. and applying for F-1 status at a U.S. consulate.

Changing to F-1 Status in the U.S.

Regulations

If you are already in the U.S. on a non-immigrant visa such as F-2, H-4, R-2, L-2 or similar, you can change status to F-1 while remaining in the U.S. This process generally takes longer than applying for an F-1 visa outside of the  U.S., sometimes up to 120 days, and will require you to submit an application to USCIS. If you choose to change status to F-1 this way, your change of status must be completed before your current non-immigrant status expires. This is especially important if you are in a dependent visa classification (F-2, R-2, L-2, H-4, etc.) because your status will expire when you turn 21 years of age. In addition, if you choose this option, the next time you travel outside of the U.S. you will need to go to a U.S. consulate, apply for and obtain an F-1 visa stamp in your passport before re-entering the U.S.

 

Eligibility

You may be able to change status to F-1 in the U.S. if…

  • You are maintaining your current status
  • Your current status must remain valid to within 30 days of the requested program start date on the I-20
  • You are eligible for F-1 status

You generally CANNOT change status in the U.S. if…
 

  • Your period of authorized stay has already expired
  • You have otherwise violated the conditions of stay

The following nonimmigrants are NOT permitted to change status to F-1 in the U.S.

  • M-1 students
  • C, D, K, and S nonimmigrants
  • J-1 physicians admitted to receive graduate medical education or training
  • J nonimmigrants subject to the 212€ 2-year foreign residence requirement
  • Aliens admitted as visitors under 8 C.F.R. 212.1(e)
  • WT and WB visitors admitted under the Visa Waiver Program

Travel Outside of the U.S. After Change of Status

In order to re-enter the U.S. after travel abroad (except brief trips to Canada and Mexico under 30 days), you must visit a U.S. consulate to request a new visa, referred to as a visa stamping, to match your new F-1 status.

 

Documents You Will Need

  • Copy of your Initial I-20
  • Most Recent I-94
  • Form I-539 – Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status
  • Your Letter of Request
  • Copies of all passports and visas for everyone involved in the application
  • Check or Money Order of $370 made payable to the Department of Homeland Security
    • Please note that beginning on March 11th, 2019, every applicant and co-applicant must pay an $85 biometric service fee in addition to the $370 form fee, except for certain A, G, and NATO non-immigrants.
  • Copy of your Baylor Admission letter
  • Evidence of Financial Support
    • Ex: Bank statements, assistantship letter, tuition remission award letter, etc.
  • Copy of your SEVIS fee receipt
    • You can pay the SEVIS fee ($200) HERE.
  • Copies of all immigration documents showing that you are in lawful non-immigrant status
  • Copy of the waiver of the 212(e) Two-Year Foreign Residency Requirement, if applicable
    • This only applies if you were previously in J status and subject to the requirement
  • Copy of the marriage certificate, if applicable
    • This only applies if you are the spouse of the primary visa holder

 

Process
  1. The student contacts Baylor’s ISSS office to schedule an appointment with a DSO to discuss your eligibility for change of status.
  2. If the student is eligible, they will be notified via their Baylor email account to log in to the Global Bears System in order to begin processing his or her I-20 and complete the Change of Status form.
  3. Gather all needed documents except the I-20 and SEVIS fee receipt (listed above).
  4. Once the DSO confirms that all documents are acceptable, the DSO will create an initial I-20 for the student.
  5. The DSO will notify the student by email when the I-20 is ready for pick-up.
  6. The student can choose to have the I-20 mailed or come to the ISSS office to sign and pick-up the I-20.
  7. The student downloads and completes Form I-539, and pays the SEVIS fee.
  8. The student files the needed documents (listed above) to USCIS.
  9. The student receives notification of their biometrics appointment at a USCIS Application Support Center, and attends the appointment.
  10. USCIS reviews and approves or denies the Change of Status request.
  11. If approved, USCIS will send the I-797 receipt within 2 weeks and another I-797 Notice of Action within 3 to 6 months to the address that the student provides on Form I-539. Students can check the status of their case online HERE.

Traveling and Re-entering the U.S. to Change to F-1 Status

Policy

If you are already in the U.S. on a non-immigrant visa you can also change to F-1 status through travel and re-entry. Generally speaking, traveling and re-entering the U.S. in order to change status is faster than requesting a Change of Status from within the U.S. This method will require you to obtain an F-1 visa from a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.

Documents You Will Need

  • Copies of all passports for everyone involved in the application
  • Initial I-20
  • Evidence of Financial Support
    • Ex: Bank statements, assistantship letter, tuition remission award letter, scholarship award letter, etc.
Process
  1. The student contacts Baylor’s ISSS office to schedule an appointment with a DSO to discuss your eligibility for change of status via travel and re-entry.
  2. The student will be notified via their Baylor email account to log in to the Global Bears System in order to begin processing his or her I-20.
  3. The student will be directed to complete the Immigration Status Form and upload the Confirmation of Financial Resources form in Global Bears.
  4. If all documents are acceptable, the DSO will issue the initial I-20.
  5. The student will pick-up the initial I-20 and check it for mistakes.
  6. The student must pay the SEVIS fee and schedule his or her visa appointment at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
  7. The student travels, attends his or her visa appointment, and re-enters the U.S. within 30 days of their program start date (listed on their I-20) and enrolls in a full-time course of study.