Change of Non-Immigrant to F-1 Student Visa

What is F1 status?

Foreigner with residents in another country that wants to study in the US will apply for a F1 student visa. This status is given to international students who attend an academic program or English Language Program at a US college or university.

How do I qualify for an F-1 visa?

  • You must have a foreign residence and intend to return there upon the completion of your studies in the US.
  • You must have a Sponsoring Institution (US College or University), and if you are granted an F-1 visa, then you may only study at the Sponsoring Institution through which your visa was granted.
  • You must have the necessary financial support for the entire duration of their studies.
  • You must have strong ties to your home country, which can include but are not limited to this list:
    • A job offer from a foreign company at the completion of your studies
    • Assets (i.e., Property, land, vehicle, etc.)
    • Bank accounts
    • Family

Why do I have to apply for a change of status to attend a US College or University?

If you were granted a valid nonimmigrant visa upon your entrance to the US, then it is based on the purpose of your intend to remain (other than attending school). If that intend to remain in the US changes because you want to attend a US college or university, then you must be approved by the USCIS with a change of status. The change of status to an F-1 is needed to attend a US college or university.

What is the process to change to an F-1 visa?

If you are currently residing in the US and want to remain with a valid nonimmigrant visa, then:

  1. Apply and receive acceptance from an SEVP-certified school (Student and Exchange Visitor Program). (Link to search:
  2. Obtain an initial I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status, from the school where you have applied and been accepted. The designated school official (DSO) should provide ‘change of status’ in the Issue Reason section of the Form I-20.
  3. Pay the I-901 fee
  4. Complete and file form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, with the USCIS.
  5. FOR B-1/B-2 ONLY. Do not begin studies until you have received the USCIS change of status approval if you are changing status from B-1/B-2 to F or M student. If your program start date is approaching (at least 15 days before) and you have not received a notification from the USCIS of your change of status, then contact your DSO at your new school. You will need to wait to attend until you have your approval.
  6. If you are a nonimmigrant with a pending change of status application, then you may enroll in and begin studies if you meet the following conditions:
    • You are eligible to change status
    • You have submitted an application to change to F or M student status
    • You are not currently in the United States on a visa waiver program or on a B-1/B-2. C, D, K, S or V visa
    • Receive a Form I-797A, "Notice of Action" from USCIS (if approved), which will include an updated Form I-94, "Arrival/Departure Record" listing your new status and the day you must depart the United States (which may be either your "admit until" date or the date of your duration of stay).