A change of status means you are changing your reason for staying in the United States. For instance, maybe you came as a tourist or were a dependent on another kind of status and now you want to become an F-1 visa student to complete a degree here.
If you currently fall under the following visa categories, you are eligible for change of status to F-1 student:
- Visitor for business or pleasure
- Treaty trader or investor
- Dependent of F-1
- Specialty worker
- Dependent of Specialty worker
- Exchange Visitor
- Intra-company transfer
- Workers of Extraordinary ability
- Religious Worker
- Statutory eligibility: The Immigration and Nationality Act prohibits change to or from certain non-immigrant categories. Some aliens are in a classifications that does not allow for a change of status in the United States.
- Maintenance of status: An applicant for change of status must be "in status" at the time he or she applies for the change
- Timely filing: An application for change of status must also be filed in a timely fashion, which means that it must be received by USCIS before the period of previously authorized stay expired.
- Completeness of forms and documentation: USCIS adjudicators report that the most common reason for denial is that the forms are not complete and/or the documentation is inadequate.
- Discretionary factors: USCIS officials have the right to exercise discretion in applications for change of status. The following are possible areas of inquiry by USCIS officials:
- Financial ability
- Preconceived intent
- Immigration history
- Non-immigrant intent
- Status of a non-immigrant while an application for change of status is pending
Changing your immigration status to F-1 (student can be done in one of two ways
- Remain in the U.S. and file a Change of Nonimmigrant Status application with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
- Travel outside the U.S. and apply for an F-1 student visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad and re-enter the U.S. in F-1 student status.
Important facts about change of status to F-1
- To qualify for F-1 status, you must be admitted to a degree program and be able to show that you have sufficient funding to support your education and living expenses for one year with the prospect of continuous funding for future years.
- You may not attend classes if you are B-2 or F-2 until your Change of Status is approved by USCIS.
- You may not accept employment at Portland Community College until your status has been changed to F-1
- J1 status holders subjected to the two-year home residency requirement are not eligible to apply for a change of status to F-1 with USCIS unless they have obtained a 212e waiver and can submit I-612.
- Applications to change nonimmigrant status take approximately 60-90 days for USCIS to adjudicate. Students may not begin on campus employment including graduate assistantships until they receive their F1 approval notice from USCIS. F-2 and B-1/B-2 students cannot begin study until their status has been changed to F-1.
- Any travel outside of the United States will void a pending Change of Status application. Travel plans should be postponed until the F-1 status has been approved.
- Once a status has been changed to F-1; it is the student’s responsibility to adhere to the regulations of that status.
- F-1 students are required to obtain health insurance. Once a change of status been approved the F-1 student will automatically be enrolled in and billed for Portland Community College student health insurance plan.
Legal Disclaimer: This is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney licensed or authorized to practice.
Frequently Asked Questions
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What is the difference between status and visa?
Your U.S. visa is for the purpose of entering the U.S. It is a stamped document in your passport that allows you to enter and re-enter the U.S. for a period of time (usually 1-10 years).
Your status is indicated on your I-94. It is usually a time sensitive document that indicates the type and duration of entry. Look at the endorsement on your I-94 in the upper right hand corner (for example B-2 until 2/20/02 - this indicates that you have a tourist visa and you can stay in the U.S. until February 20, 2002).
What is a change of status?
A change of status means you are changing your reason for staying in the United States. For instance, maybe you came as a tourist or were a dependent on another kind of status and now you want to do something else (perhaps you want to complete a degree here).
If I change my status will my visa change too?
No. You can change your status (purpose for your stay) here but your visa can only be changed at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy outside the United States.
My current status will expire soon, when should I apply for a change of status?
You should apply to the USCIS no later than 45 days before it expires. If your current I-94 expires on September 1, you should apply for the change by July 15.
How can I change my status to student?
You must first apply as an international student to a school. Once the school has agreed to admit you, then you can request that Immigration change your status (reason for staying in the U.S.).
What forms are required for a change of status?
You must have a SEVIS I-20 from the school that has admitted you. You will also need a Form I-539 and proof of finances from your sponsor. If your sponsor is an American citizen or permanent resident here, you will need to have them complete a Form I-134. .
What additional documents must I send?
You should send a copy of the photo page of your passport (make sure your passport will be valid for at least six months at the time you send in your request). You also need to send a copy of your I-94 and a written letter explaining how you have paid for your stay in the United States without working.
Is there a fee for this?
Yes. USCIS fee is $290.00 U.S. to process a request for change of status. This is payable (in a bank draft, personal check, debit or credit card) to "USCIS".
Where do I send the request?
You should send it to the Northern Service Center of USCIS. Please check the official mailing address on their website (www.USCIS.gov).
Should I keep a copy of everything I send?
How long will the whole process take?
Your should receive a receipt from the USCIS in about 45 working days that will tell you approximately how long the processing will take. The usual amount of time is about 90-180 working days.
While I am waiting can I travel outside the U.S.?
No. If you leave the U.S. for any reason it will cause your request to be terminated - this includes traveling across the border to Canada or a quick trip to Mexico.
While I am waiting can I attend classes at PCC?
Yes, generally. You should enroll full-time for the first term that noted on your I-20 was written for. If you do not, it may complicate your situation if your request is processed and granted quickly.
B visa holders and F-2s cannot attend school while they wait for the change of status application to be approved.
May I work on campus while I am waiting?
No. You are not eligible to work until the USCIS has completed the processing of your application.