Changing to F-1/F-2 Status
A change of status to F-1 is necessary for the maintenance of legal status when a nonimmigrant changes or ends his or her principal activity, reason, or purpose for being in the U.S. and wants to remain in the U.S. to pursue a specific educational objective full-time.
Though the ISSS office issues the change of status I-20, the change of status application is adjudicated by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Requesting a change of status to F-1 is a multi-step process with specific rules, and not every nonimmigrant will be eligible for change of status or find this option ideal for his or her situation.
When you came to the United States you had a particular reason or purpose for your stay. You may have come for business, or to accompany another family member. That purpose is called your “principal activity” or “status.” However; your purpose for being here may have changed. Perhaps you are thinking about getting a graduate degree. Or your “principal activity” may be ending because you’re thinking about leaving your job and returning to school.
If your principal activity, reason or purpose for being in the U.S. has changed, and you want to stay in the U.S. because you have a specific educational or professional objective you want to pursue full-time, you will need to change your status to F-1 student status or F-2 dependent status by travel or by filing an application with the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS). The ISSS is happy to help you with applying to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for a change of your nonimmigrant status to F-1 student. One of our staff will be available to advise you as to whether or not changing your status is the right thing for you and to advise you about USCIS’s requirements and procedures.
Changing to F-1/F-2 Status
1. You must be in lawful status at the time of requesting an I-20 and filing your application for change of status with USCIS.
2. Non-immigrants in A, G, or NATO status must first complete Form I-566, and have it properly endorsed by the foreign mission to the U.S. and the Department of State.
3. Nonimmigrant visa holders in the following categories are not permitted to file an application for a change of status:
J-1 students who are subject to and have not fulfilled the two-year home residency requirement, unless a waiver has been granted
Person of non-immigrant C, D, K, or M status
Visitors admitted under the Visa Waiver Program
If any documents regarding Lawful Permanent Residence have been filed on your behalf, we strongly recommend you consult an immigration attorney.
If you are not eligible to file an application for a change of status with USCIS, it may be possible to travel outside of the U.S. to apply for an F-1 or F-2 visa and enter the U.S. in a new status.
Option 1: Travel and Reentry:
You may change your status by departing the U.S. and re-entering in F-1 student or F-2 dependent status. In order to reenter the U.S. you must have a valid unexpired F-1 or F-2 entry visa.
If you are seeking to change status to F-1, apply for and be admitted to a full-time program of study at Stevens.
Request and obtain an I-20 from the ISSS office by submitting the documentation listed below under “Required Documents for I-20 Issuance”.
Newly admitted students must upload all required documents via the online admission application (student status page). Please follow the instructions provided on the Newly Admitted International Students section of the ISSS website. An international student or dependent of an international student who is currently enrolled at Stevens must submit the required documents directly to the ISSS office.
Leave the U.S. and apply for an F-1 or F-2 visa at a U.S. Embassy/Consulate in your home country.
Once you obtain your new F-1/F-2 visa, you may enter the U.S. up to 30 days before the program start date on your I-20. You will be in F-1/F-2 status upon your successful entry into the U.S. and complete SEVIS Activation with the ISSS office.
SEVIS Activation with ISSS is required to complete your change to F-1 status.
Failure to complete SEVIS Activation in a timely matter by the program start date on your I-20 and produce your documents to ISSS may result in the loss of your lawful F-1 status. You will NOT be able to use that I-20 again for entry to the U.S. If you need a new I-20 to attend Stevens in the future, you must reach out to ISSS ([email protected]) to discuss next steps for I-20 issuance.
Option 2 - Change of Status in the U.S.:
If you are eligible, you may file a change of status application with USCIS. This option allows you to officially change nonimmigrant status (if the application is approved) while remaining in the U.S. With this option, you are able to gain a new status, but you will not yet have a visa corresponding to your new status.
If you are applying for a Change of Status to F-1, apply for and be admitted to a full-time program of study at Stevens.
Request a Form I-20 for a change of status by submitting the documentation listed below under "Required Documents for I-20 Issuance." Newly admitted students must upload all required documents via the online admission application (student status page). Please follow the instructions provided on the Newly Admitted International Students section of the ISSS website. An international student who is currently enrolled at Stevens must submit the required documents directly to the ISSS office.
Compile the application documents specific to your change of status (See “Change of Status Application (I-539) and Supporting Documents” below).
Once completed, send your application to the USCIS Dallas, TX Lockbox facility:
U.S. Postal Service (USPS) only, USCIS, PO Box 660166
Dallas, TX 75266
Courier Service (Fedex or UPS)
2501 S. State Hwy. 121, Business Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067
You must mail your application package (certified mail, return receipt requested) to the USCIS Service Center having jurisdiction over the district of your residence. Please make sure to verify the mailing address listed on the USCIS website prior to mailing your documents. The ISSS recommends that you retain a copy of your application and supporting documents for your records before mailing the application to USCIS.
After you have submitted your Change of Status application please send an email with your receipt number to the ISSS advisor who processed your Form I-20.
Processing times vary, so be prepared to wait several months (applications average 9 to 12.5 months) to learn the outcome of your application. This waiting period may jeopardize your ability to begin your new activity, such as studying or accepting a research or teaching assistantship or other on-campus employment.
The USCIS Processing Time Information website provides approximate wait times for different types of petitions at each USCIS Service Center. When USCIS receives your application, it will deposit your fee payment and mail you a Form I-797 Notice of Receipt with your assigned case number. You can check the status of your application online at USCIS Case Status Service Online by entering your receipt number/case number.
Please submit all required documents via email to [email protected].
Newly Admitted Students:
Please upload all required documents to your online application status page.
Study plan (only for students who are currently attending Stevens)
Copies of your passport identification and visa pages
Printout of your electronic I-94 or copy of your most recent I-94 card or a copy of your I-797A (if applicable)
Graduate or Undergraduate Financial Verification Form (Undergraduate Financial Verification Form for the 2023-2024 Academic Year will be posted soon).
Proof of financial support*: bank statements to to cover one academic year (or half year of study if only one-half year remains in your academic program) and living expenses as found on the Graduate or Undergraduate Financial Verification Form (Undergraduate Financial Verification Form for the 2023-2024 Academic Year will be posted soon).
*Read more about financial requirements on the Financial Documentation Requirements webpage
A completed Form I-539 and filing fee. The most recent Form I-539 and filing instructions can be found on the USCIS website.
Acceptance letter from Admissions (for new and continuing students) and/or official transcript (for continuing students).
Personal statement explaining your request to change status. Please see “Points to Consider When Writing Your Personal Statement for Change of Status” below for assistance.
Change of status I-20 (photocopy). Please make sure to sign and date the original document before copying it.
Confirmation of SEVIS I-901 Fee payment (only for change of nonimmigrant status to F-1; for a Change of Status to F-2, send a copy of the F1’s SEVIS fee receipt) The SEVIS I-901 fee can be paid on-line. For detailed information, please refer to the SEVIS I-901 fee processing website.
Applicants in A-1 or A-2 and G-1 through G-4 nonimmigrant status are not required to pay the application filing fee.
Photocopies of your passport identification page and current visa. You must be in possession of a valid passport at the time of filing. Photocopy of your paper I-94 card or print-out of electronic I-94 record that can be obtained at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home.
Financial Documents showing that you have sufficient financial resources to meet tuition and living expenses for your full program of study as listed on your Form I-20. If your support is coming from a sponsor, you should also submit a copy of the sponsor’s affidavit of support.
Photocopy of your two-year residency requirement Waiver (for “J” visa holders only)
If you are changing status from A or G to F-1 you must first file Form I-566. Only after the Form I-566 has been endorsed and signed by the proper entity will you be eligible to file a change of status application with USCIS.
Evidence that you have maintained lawful status while in the United States prior to submitting your application for a change of status. For example: employment statuses (H, E, L, etc.) should provide a letter certifying their employment and pay stubs covering the past three months; dependents (H-4, L-2 etc.) should provide evidence that the principal is maintaining status (copies of the principal visa holder’s passport, visa, I-94, and Approval Notice)
If you are requesting change of status to a dependent status (F-2) you must submit the documentary evidence (a marriage or birth certificate) that would establish your relationship with the principal F-1 visa holder. If any foreign language documents are submitted, the applicant must include an English translation created by someone other than the applicant. You should also provide copies of your spouse’s/parent’s I-20, passport, visa, and I-94.
Points to Consider When Writing Your Personal Statement for Change of Status
ISSS can provide general assistance, guidance, and information about the Change of Status application process, but it is important to note that a Change of Status application belongs to the applicant—in this case, you—and not the ISSS office. As such, it is essential that the applicant clearly understands the process and the kind of information and documentation required with this type of application. A Change of Status application generally includes a statement explaining the reasons a Change of Status is requested. In an effort to assist you with that process, below is a list of points to consider when writing your personal statement.
Please be aware that this document is intended simply as a guide. You may choose to use it, or you may choose to write your own cover letter to accompany the I-539 application. It is important that you understand that the ISSS is not responsible for the outcome of a Change of Status application. If you have specific concerns about your immigration status or the likelihood of the application’s approval, please seek the assistance of an immigration attorney prior to filing the application.
Explain why you came to the U.S.
Explain what you have been doing since you arrived. Be specific, and give dates if you have already started attending school.
Explain the reason you will be returning to your home country after completion of your studies or your spouse/parent’s studies if you are changing status to F-2. If you have a permanent residence to which you plan to return, include this information, and any documentation you may have as proof.
Explain why you want to change your status to F-1 or F-2 (dependents).
If you were employed back home, explain how your studies will affect returning to that employment. If applicable, describe how your career will benefit from your U.S. education. If you have a job back home, attach a letter from your employer that establishes that an extended stay in the U.S. will not affect your employment. (Changes of status to F-2 may skip this question.)
If you were not employed back home, describe how your studies in the U.S. will help prepare you for a career back home. (Changes of status to F-2 may skip this question.)
If you are in a B status (B-1 or B-2), explain when and why you decided to study after your arrival in the U.S. Write a detailed, step-by-step description of the circumstances that led to your decision to attend school here. Attach any evidence to prove what happened. (Changes of status to F-2 may skip this question.)
When deciding which option is best for you, you should consider various factors: application processing times, the expiration date or conditions of your current status, your travel plans, and the start date of your program of study. Please read the following thoroughly to make the best decision for your own situation.
The issuance of a Form I-20 does not guarantee approval of your change of status application.
You are not permitted to travel internationally before your application is adjudicated. If you do, your application for a Change of Status will be considered abandoned. Please contact us before making any travel plans.
If you are applying for a change of status to F-1, while your application is being adjudicated, if your current nonimmigrant status allows enrollment, you should enroll in a full-time course load.
Do not begin employment, if permitted under the new status, until the Change of Status is approved.
If the I-20 program start date (in the third box on the I-20 labeled “Program of Study”) arrives before your change of status is approved, your Designated School Official (DSO) must update the start date to a later date or a future semester (depending on whether you are permitted by your current nonimmigrant status to study) in order to avoid auto-cancellation of your SEVIS record by the system.
USCIS always uses the U.S. address listed on the Form I-539 as an applicant’s mailing address, so the address you enter will be the address where your Receipt and other communications from USCIS will be mailed.
Please note that if you change your address, the postal service will not necessarily forward mail sent to you by USCIS. Therefore while your application for change of status is pending, any changes in your address must be promptly reported to the ISSS and to USCIS through their online system.
USCIS officers will determine your eligibility for a Change of Status and will either approve it, deny it or issue a Request for Evidence (RFE). An RFE would indicate what information is needed by USCIS to fully evaluate your application for a change of status. If you receive an RFE, please contact the ISSS office for assistance.
If the application for a change of nonimmigrant status is denied, the applicant is notified of the decision and the reason.
It is the student's responsibility to notify the ISSS office about the status of his/her Change of Status application before the first class day and immediately upon notification from USCIS, whether the application has been approved or denied.
When a Change of Status Is Approved
If the application for Change of Status is approved, USCIS will notify you with a Form I-797A Notice of Action. This form will be mailed to you. The form includes a tear-off Form I-94 indicating your approved nonimmigrant status in the U.S. This replaces your previous I-94.
You should report to the ISSS in person as soon as your application has been approved. Please have the original Approval Notice with you.
You will be asked to complete Check-in with the ISSS office.
Your SEVIS record will be activated after you have met with immigration advisor.