Change of Status
Students who have been admitted to a degree program or who are already enrolled in a degree program may apply for change to F-1 status, provided they currently hold a valid non-immigrant visa status in another category. Note: Students in F-2 or B status may not enroll in a course of study before their change of status is approved. M-1 students, C, D, and K visa holders are also not eligible to change to F-1 status without first leaving the United States and obtaining the F-1 visa.
ISS can help you submit a change of status application to an F-1 visa. Please understand that changing status from one visa to another can be complex. If you have a complex immigration case, we recommend you to consult with an immigration lawyer. We do not send your change of status application to USCIS for you, but we can help you gather all of your documents.
Please look at the Change of Status Application and schedule an appointment with International Student Services.
After you have been accepted to Northwest University, we need the following:
- Initial I-20 – change of status requested. The ISS Department will do this after you have completed all of the below documents.
- Completed USCIS Form I-539. Make sure this is the most recent form!
- I-901 SEVIS fee receipt. Pay the required $350 DHS SEVIS Fee (I-901) and retain the receipt to mail with your change of status application. https://www.fmjfee.com/
- $455 I-539 fee – Check made payable to “Department of Homeland Security”. This fee increases every now and then, currently it’s $455.
- Personal statement, written to the USCIS adjudication officer, in which you explain why you are requesting a change to F-1 status
- Bank statement showing sufficient funds that matches the information in item 8 on your I-20
- Copies of all your immigration documents, passport biographical pages, current visa, visa stamp, etc.
- (If applicable) Copies of all immigration documents of the person from whom your current status is derived (i.e. your spouse or parent), including the I-94 (front & back), passport biographical pages, visa stamp, I-20, funding and transcript or job letter and recent pay-stubs, if applicable, etc.
- (If applicable) Copy of your marriage license, birth certificate, or other proof of relation to this person
- Acceptance letter to a Northwest University program
- ISS does not mail the documents for you to USCIS. You must mail them. Make sure you copy all of your documents and forms prior to mailing them.
- Paper clip everything together and place items in a large envelope. Send it via express mail and make sure you get a tracking number. The sooner you get it to USCIS, the quicker they will begin to process your application.
USCIS California Service Center
P.O. Box 10129
Laguna Niguel, CA 92607-1053
1. After mailing your documents, USCIS should send you an I-797C receipt notice within 2-3 weeks in the mail. This receipt lets you know that they have received your package and are processing it. If you do not get a notice, please contact ISS. On this document is a receipt number which you can use to track your application at uscis.gov.
2. Approval takes approximately 4+ months depending on what visa you are converting from. This is a long process. Remember that when you file for change of status, you cannot leave the country until it is approved.
3. While you are waiting, USCIS may send you a request for evidence (RFE) document. If you get an RFE, please contact the ISS department so we can help you. This RFE will ask you to submit additional documentation in order to approve your application. Do not worry if you get this document.
4. When your change of status is approved, you will receive an I-797A Notice of Action document in the mail. This document is important because it is now your current I-94 and is your official evidence that you have changed visas. After your application is approved, we will be able to register you as an active F-1 student in SEVIS. Remember that at this point if you leave the country, you will need to renew your visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate.
Unique Change of Status Issues
1. B-1/2 visas – you cannot begin studying until your change of status application is approved.
2. Your current visa is expiring soon – if your visa is expiring sooner than 30 days before your program start date, you will need to submit a second form I-539 and additional $370 fee to extend your current visa. For example, your current visa is expiring on July 1st, but your program doesn’t start until August 28th. This is a difference of 58 days, which is more than the maximum of 30 days.
3. If you have other immigration applications on file, please let us know. These could delay your change of status to an F-1 visa.
4. Please understand the F-1 visa regulations. While your change of status application is pending, you are required to maintain the regulations of your current valid visa. When your change is approved, you must take note of the differences in regulations pertaining to your visa, such as employment.
The International Education Department is able to provide students with general guidance. However, any advice provided to students by our office, including the information above, should not be construed as legal advice. Additionally, due to the fluid nature of governmental interpretation, the USCIS may change its interpretation of these immigration laws/regulations and eligibility requirements for benefits at any time. We will do our best to provide you with the most current guidance. Each case is fact-specific and it is advised that you contact an experienced immigration attorney if you have questions regarding your situation.