Change of Status

Current and prospective students who want to change from one visa type to another in the United States may have the option of applying for a Change of Status within the US. Applying for a change of status can be difficult if your current status is going to expire soon or your current status does not allow you to study. ISSS recommends making an appointment with an advisor in our office to discuss the pros and cons of applying for a change of status from within the US and learn more about the process. Advisors can provide information on the basic application process and requirements, but we may refer you to an outside immigration attorney if you have specific questions about your situation.

  1. Decide if applying for a change of status in the US is right for you
  2. Be accepted to a USF program that allows F-1 or J-1 student enrollment
  3. Obtain a Certificate of Eligibility (I-20 or DS-2019) issued for "Change of Status" from USF
  4. Complete the USCIS I-539 application and prepare supporting documents. Students can meet with their ISSS advisors regarding the required supporting documents.
  5. Submit the Form I-539 to USCIS. It can take months for USCIS to process the applications and students CAN NOT leave the United States during this time or the application will be considered abandoned. 

Note: A change of status does not give you a new visa. A change of status application only affects your current status in the US and it does not grant you an F-1 visa that you can use for travel. If you plan on traveling outside the United States and re-entering within before the application would be approved, it is recommended that you apply for an F-1 visa in your home country.


Filing the I-539  is requesting for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to change your existing immigration status to that of an F-1 international student. The application can be filed online on USCIS website, or mailed in paper.

* If you choose to mail your Change of Status application in the traditional mailing method, please see the filing address from USCIS website.

Preparing and Submitting a Change of Status application

  1. Form I-539: “Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status” (Fill in completely). This immigration form is available on the USCIS website at: and can be completed online or in paper form. If you choose to fill out the paper Form I-539 and mail it, please follow the filling instructions from USCIS website. As you complete the Form I-539, you will need to submit the following documents along with your application.
  2. Form I-20 (copy) Issues for “Change of Status”: For students wishing to change to F-1 visa status (be sure to print and sign the bottom of page 1, scan the signed version of the I-20 and save it with your other documents for your application). 
  3. Form I-94: You can print this online at 
  4. Statement of Financial Support: You need to show documentation that you and/or your sponsor have sufficient  funds available to cover your estimated expenses---specifically, the amount listed on the I-20 form. This  documentation can be in the form of bank account balance statements, bank letters, and/or a letter of support from your sponsor(s) if appropriate (letter sample). If you are submitting bank account balance statements as evidence of your financial support, please note that the USCIS usually wants to see the account holder’s bank account balance statements (checking and/or savings accounts preferred) for the past 4 months and not just the most recent balance statement. 
  5. Evidence of SEVIS (I-901) Fee Payment: If you are applying for a change to F-1 status, you are subject to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) I-901 fee. The most convenient way to pay this fee is by credit or debit card via the Internet. Please see the SEVIS fee website at: for more information.  Once you have paid your I-901 fee, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will issue you a Form I-797 receipt notice. You must submit a photocopy of this receipt notice as part of your Change of Status application. 
  6. Visa: Copy of the visa page in your passport. 
  7. Passport: Copy of the biographic page in your passport. 
  8. Filing Fee: The application filing fee is payable online, or by money order or check made out to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security if you are applying by mail. In most cases the biometric appointment will not be required for the Change of Status application and you do not need to pay a biometric fee. In some cases, USCIS may still determine that biometrics are required and will contact the applicant if it is. Applicants should follow the instructions from USCIS regarding if a biometric appointment is required. 
  9. Letter explaining why you are seeking F-1 status: Your letter should mention your exact arrival date in the United States, as well as the reasons that you have now decided to apply for a change to a student status. Your letter should be written in as much detail as possible as this will be your opportunity to explain your situation to the USCIS office.  
  10. Other Documents: Depending on what your current status is, it is recommended that you submit additional documentation. For example, if you are currently a dependent (such as F-2, H-4, etc.), you should include a copy of the primary status holder’s passport, visa, and I-94. If the primary status holder has a work-authorized visa status, you should include at least two of the primary status holder’s most recent pay stubs as evidence of maintenance of status. Some applications may also need a letter of support from the International Student Advisor. Be sure to speak with your ISSS advisor for additional information on what further documentation might be needed.

After you complete the I-539 application and upload the required documents, click Review and Submit. You will be redirected to another webpage to make your filing fee payment, and then your application will be submitted once you pay your fee.

  • After you submit the application online, you will immediately receive a notification in your USCIS account that your application was received. 
  • You should also receive a paper receipt notice called a "Notice of Action" in the mail with your Case Status number. If you want to check on the status of your application, you may do so on the USCIS website
  • If your application is approved, USCIS will issue you a new I-94 form and approval notice that shows your new F-1 status. The I-94 will note “D/S” (Duration of Status), which means that your new F-1 status is valid for the duration of time that you are enrolled full-time in a degree program and/or any authorized periods of practical training plus 60 days. Remember that in order to re-enter the United States, you will need to apply for an F-1 visa from a US Embassy/Consulate abroad before re-entry.
  • Once your change to F-1 status has been approved, you must notify our office. Please email us for directions on how to submit your Form I-20, Form I-797 approval notice, new Form I-94, passport and report your US address through MyISSS so that we can review your documents and activate your F-1 record in SEVIS.

It can take USCIS several months to process a Form I-539 petition for a change of status. Therefore, before you apply for a change of status you must consider the following:

  1. You cannot receive F1 benefits, such as apply for work authorization, until you are approved for F1 status and eligible for the benefit.  
  2. Your Change of Status needs to be approved before your program ends or you will likely not qualify for Optional Practical Training (OPT).  
  3. ISSS staff can provide information on the application process and requirements, but we may refer you to an outside immigration attorney if you have specific questions about your situation. 
  4. If your Change of Status is not approved by the start date on your I-20, ISSS is required to defer your SEVIS record to the next term.
  5. Depending on your current immigration status, you may or may not be eligible to start/continue studying until your change of status is approved.

ISSS strives to keep up to date with changes in law and policy, but the information ISSS provides is not guaranteed to be current or complete. Information provided by ISSS never replaces consultation with informed legal counsel when specific immigration-related guidance is needed.