Changing to F-1 Visa Status in the United States

In certain circumstances, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) allow 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 an individual to remain in the United States in legal status instead of leaving the country to apply for an F-1 visa at a US consular post.

Applying for a Change to F-1 Status

An application for change of status must be submitted to the appropriate USCIS office before the current visa status has expired. Some visa statuses may have restrictions on how and when a change of status can be filed. You may consult with an Immigration Advisor at the International Programs Office for more information. 

Processing time for a change of status application varies depending on the workload of the USCIS service center and the individual circumstances of the applicant. Generally, it can take as little as 60 days, and as long as 9 months or more. If the application reviewer needs additional information to process the application, a request will be sent to the applicant for additional details or documentation.

For information on documents required for filing a change of status, please contact the International Programs (IP) Office.

Approval / Denial of the Change of Status

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

If a change of status is denied, the applicant is normally given time to prepare to depart the United States. It is not possible to return to the previous status without leaving the United States first.

Approval or denial of a change of status does not normally have any bearing on whether an F-1 visa application might be approved at a later date.

Change of Status and the F-1 Visa

It is important to note that when USCIS approves a change of status to F-1, it does not issue the applicant an F-1 visa. The approval only allows the student to remain in the United States in legal student status until the student has completed the program of study. If a student who is granted a change of status to F-1 leaves the United States, the student must apply for an F-1 visa at a US consular post before being able to re-enter the United States as an F-1 student.   

A change of status works best for prospective students who do not plan to leave the country or travel before finishing an academic program. Those students who expect to travel relatively soon after applying for a change of status might save time and money by planning to apply for an F-1 visa outside of the United States.

Study While Change of Status Application is Pending

Study is permitted while a change of status is pending if the original status allowed the applicant to study. For example, applicants who hold H or J status are allowed to study while waiting for a change of status application to be adjudicated. B visa holders cannot, since individuals on B visas are not permitted to engage in a program of study.  

Applicants for change of status are not eligible for benefits of F-1 status, such as on campus employment or practical training authorization, until the change of status application is approved.