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Change of Status

F-1 student status is appropriate if you intend to pursue full-time study in the United States.


If you are currently in the United States as a tourist, temporary worker, diplomat, exchange visitor or any other kind of non-immigrant classification and need to change to F-1 student status, follow the procedures indicated below. Note: if you are currently in the United States unlawfully or have overstayed your current status, you are ineligible to apply for a change of status from within the United States.


In order to qualify for F-1 student status, you must be admitted to a full-time program of study at York College and obtain a SEVIS I-20 by submitting the following documents to your International Student Advisor:

  • Affidavit of Support Form
  • Financial documentation showing that you have sufficient funds to cover tuition, living expenses, and fees for a least one year.


Change Your Status

Once you obtain an SEVIS I-20 from York, you must change to F-1 student status either by travel or by application to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (formally INS)

Change By Travel

You may change your status by departing the United States and re-entering in F-1 status.  In order to re-enter the United States in F-1 status you must have a valid F-1 entry Visa (if you do not have an entry Visa already).

 If you were previously in lawful F-1 status at another school in the United States and have an unexpired F-1 entry Visa, you may continue to use the Visa unless it was canceled (even if the Visa was issued for your previous school). 

If you do not have an F-1 entry Visa, you must apply for one at the United States Consulate in your home country or country of residence.  Once you have obtained an F-1 entry Visa, you would then enter the United States with your Visa and the following:

  • Your SEVIS I-20 from York College.
  • Supporting documents such as copies of your admission letter and your financial documentation.
  • Receipt of the SEVIS fee payment.

Upon your arrival, you would request F-1 status.  The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services inspector at the port of entry will inspect your visa, your SEVIS I-20, and your supporting documents, and admit you in F-1 status by issuing you an I-94 card marked “F-1 D/S” (F-1 is your status, D/S stands for duration of status.)

Change by Application to the USCIS

You may also attempt to change your status by submitting a change of status application to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  This requires that you assemble the following materials: 

  • A completed Form I-539
  • Your original Form I-94 and the original Form I-94 of each person included in the  application
  • Your original Form SEVIS I-20 from York College signed on the bottom of page 1.

To request a change of status, you must submit documentation that demonstrates your ability to pay for your studies and support yourself while you are in the United States.

  • Photocopy of your passport’s identification page - do not send your passport to the USCIS.
  • A bank check or money order payable to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services for the required  fee.  A personal check is acceptable only if your name and address are preprinted on the front.  The USCIS does not accept cash.  This fee includes any dependents who are changing status with you.
  • A letter of explanation of why you are requesting the change of status.  This is extremely important: your letter should clearly explain your current status, your plans for study at York and your longer-term plans as well.  Keep in mind that F-status is a NON-Immigrant classification.  This means that you must indicate, and in certain cases may be required to document, that you continue to maintain ties to your home country—whether in the form of a residence, an expected job offer, or continuing family ties.  It is not unusual for the USCIS to request documentation regarding your ties to your home country, and you should be prepared to provide such documentation.
  • Receipt of payment of SEVIS fee.

Your letter must include the following information if you are requesting a Change of Status form: 

H-1 - You should give your dates of employment under H-1 and the date of registration at York College.  Also include a copy of the I-797 and other documentation establishing that you hold and maintain a valid H-1 status.   The USCIS must receive your Change of Status application no later than you terminate your H-1 employment, as there is no “grace period” for those in H-1 status: your status as an H-1.terminates the day you leave your H-1 employer.

B-1 or B-2 - Remember that when you entered the United States, you told a Visa officer your reason for coming to the United States.  You should have a reasonable explanation for changing your intent from visiting the United States to studying in the United States. 

Note:  Any suspicion that you misrepresented your intentions when you entered the U.S. could lead to a denial of your change of status application, requiring you to change your status by travel instead.

As of April 2002, you will not be able to register for a course of study at a school in the U.S without a valid F1-status.

What if My Current Status Doesn’t Allow Me to Enroll in Classes?

If you are requesting to change from another nonimmigrant status to F or M student status and your current nonimmigrant status does not permit you to enroll in classes, do not enroll in classes or begin your studies until USCIS has approved your change of status. If USCIS has not adjudicated your change of status at least 15 days before the program start date on your Form I-20, contact the DSO at your new school. If USCIS does not grant your request to change status prior to the start date of classes, you will need to defer attendance and wait until the following term in order to begin your studies at the school in F or M status.

Please note that you must maintain a valid nonimmigrant status while your Form I-539 change of status application is pending.

We encourage all students and prospective students to work closely with their DSO to coordinate the timing of applying for change of status and enrolling in a course of study.

NOTE: If you are an M-1 student, you may not change to F status while you are in the United States.

What if I Have a Gap in Status?

If your current nonimmigrant status will expire more than 30 days before your F-1 or M-1 program start date and you wish to remain in the United States until your start date, you must find a way to obtain status all the way up to the date that is 30 days before your program start date (“bridge the gap”). For most people, you will need to file a separate Form I-539 to request to extend your current status or change to another nonimmigrant status, in addition to your other Form I-539 application to change to student status. If you do not file this separate request prior to the expiration of your status, USCIS will deny your Form I-539 request to change to F-1 or M-1 status. Please continue to check the USCIS processing times while your Form I-539 change of status request is pending to determine if you need to file a request to extend or change your nonimmigrant status. 

Note that because of processing times, your F-1 or M-1 program start date may be deferred to the following academic term or semester because USCIS did not make a decision on your Form I-539 change of status application before your originally intended F-1 or M-1 program start date. In that instance, you will need to obtain status all the way up to the date which is 30 days before your new program start date. If you had already filed an I-539 to bridge the original gap, you may need to file another I-539 to bridge the new gap.    
Because extending or changing nonimmigrant status to bridge the gap and changing to F-1 or M-1 status are two distinct benefits, you must pay a separate filing fee for each request. See the User Fee Statute, 31 U.S.C. § 9701. 

WT or WB - You cannot change your status in the United States if you entered the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program as a visitor for business or pleasure, as indicated by a “WT” or “WB” notation on your green I-94 card.  You must change your status by travel (see the above section on Change by Travel).

A or G - Before filing for a change of status, you must first file form I-566 with either the Department of State or the Office of Host Country Affairs at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations within 10 days of the completion if you’re A or G employment.  Only after the I-566 has been approved and returned to you are you eligible to file a change of status application with the USCIS.  Form I-566 and instructions are available from the ISSC.

J-1 or J2 - You cannot change to F-1 in the U.S if you are subject to Section 212(e), also known as the “two-year home residency requirement”, unless you have received a recommendation for a waiver of the requirement from the Department of State.

Once completed, mail your application to the USCIS.  You may ask an ISSC staff member to review your application and make suggestions.  Photocopy your application and send it by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services that has jurisdiction over your place of residence.  For persons residing the New York area, mail your application to:

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
Vermont Service Center
75 Lower Weldon Street
St. Albans, VT. 05479-0001

When the USCIS receives your application, it will deposit your fee payment and mail you a Form I-797 Notice of Receipt  form with your assigned case number (EAC--). You can check the status of your application by calling the phone number on at the bottom of the I-797 and entering your case number or via the USCIS website.

The form will also tell you an approximate processing time.

Special Considerations

If you are in lawful status and decide to change to F-1 status by applying to USCIS, you remain in lawful status until you receive your reply from USCIS.  However, you do not have the privileges of student status—working on campus, applying for practical training, etc.—until the change is approved.  When USCIS has made a decision, they will send you a Form I-797-Notice of Action.  If your application is approved, the I-797 will include a new I-94 card(s) and pages 1 and 3 of the SEVIS I-20 will be returned to you.

If you are applying for a change of status from B-2 to F-1, please note that you must fulfill the USCIS requirement of being in a valid student status for 9 consecutive months before you are eligible to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT).

Note:  The USCIS can take up to 6 months to process a change of status application.  If you do not receive a reply within 6 months, contact the ISSC for assistance

If you attempt to change your status by travel, but overstayed your previous visa, you must apply for a new F-1 Visa in your home country; you cannot apply for an F-1 Visa in a third country (such as Canada).  If you overstayed your stay for more than 180 days, you may be prevented from returning to the United States for 10 years or more.