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Changing To F-1 Visa Status While In The US

In certain circumstances, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) allows people already in the United States to apply for a change from their current visa status to F-1 visa status without leaving the country.  This allows someone who wants to study in the U.S. to maintain legal status as a visitor to the U.S. without leaving the country in order to apply for an F-1 visa.

Applying for a Change to F-1 Status

An application for change of status must be submitted to the appropriate USCIS office before your current visa status has expired. Filing addresses are not the same for every person and in some cases applicants can file the form online with USCIS Electronic Immigration System (USCISELIS).  If you have questions, contact either Trina Allen or Katherine Thompson.

Processing time for a change of status application varies, but it can take as little as 60 days and as long as 9 months or more.  Be ready to provide additional information if it is requested.

Approval/Denial of Change of Status

If the change of status is approved, the applicant must begin full-time study the next available quarter. 

If a change of status is denied, the applicant is normally given time to leave the United States.

Change of Status and the F-1 Visa

When USCIS approves a change of status to F-1, it will not issue the applicant an F-1 visa.  The approval only means that the student can remain in the United States in legal student status until the student has completed the program of study.

A change of status works best for prospective students who do not plan to leave the country or travel before finishing their academic program. 

Students who expect to travel soon after applying for a change of status might want to consider applying for an F-1 visa outside of the United States.

Studying While Change of Status is Pending

Students can study while a change of status is pending if the original status allowed the applicant to study.  If, for example, applicants have current J status, they are allowed to study while waiting for a change of status application to be completed.  B visa holders cannot study, however, as B visa holders are not allowed to engage in a program of study.