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  • Writer's pictureThamys Gaertner

Change of Status to F-1

Updated: Oct 20, 2022

If you are in the United States in a valid nonimmigrant status, such as B1/B2 tourist, you may be able to change your status to an F-1 (international student) status from inside the United States. This process is called a change of status. There are many benefits and important things to keep in mind when considering a change of status.

Change Your Status in The United States

In short, to do a change of status process, you must submit an application to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requesting the change. This application is called the I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. Along with the application you will submit supporting documents showing that you qualify for F-1 status. Generally, you should submit the following types of documents:

  • Ties to your home country;

  • Financial documents (showing you can afford to study in the United States and not work); and

  • Documents from School in the U.S. (Admission letter, Form I-20, SEVIS Fee payment).

Benefits and Challenges of Changing Your Nonimmigrant Status in The United States

  • You are allowed to stay in the United States during the entire process. In other words, you must stay in the United States until the application is decided.

  • Family members are usually allowed to change their nonimmigrant status along with the primary applicant.

  • There is no interview during the change of status process. USCIS will make a decision based on the documents submitted.

  • If approved, you will not receive an F-1 visa in your passport. You will only receive an approval to stay in the United States as an F-1 student. If you choose to travel after approval, you will need to go to an interview at a U.S. Consulate abroad and acquire the F-1 visa.

  • If you are in B1/B2 status when filing, you are not allowed to enroll in a course of study until after the change of status application is approved.

Should You Change your Status in the U.S.?

Before making this decision, you must consider the following questions:

  • What is your short-term and long-term immigration goal?

  • Do you need to travel outside of the United States soon? (If you do, then a change of status to F-1 might not be the best option for you)

  • You must be in the U.S. at the time of application and remain in the country until the application is decided.

  • You must be in valid status at the time you apply for the change of status.

  • The application will only be approved if you are able to show evidence that you meet the requirements to be an F-1 student in the U.S.

  • If you entered the country on a visa waiver program (VWP or ESTA), you will not be able to file a change of status. Instead, you will need to go to a U.S. Consulate abroad and apply for a visa there.


If you are thinking of filing for a change of status to F-1, you should carefully consider the processing times, expiration dates, documentation requirements, etc. It is advisable to consult with an immigration attorney to identify the best option for you.

To schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys and discuss your plans and questions regarding change of status to F-1, please click HERE.

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