Change to F-1 Status

With certain exceptions, an alien already in the United States can apply for a change to F-1 status if he or she has maintained lawful nonimmigrant status up to the time the application is filed.

USCIS will determine eligibility for the change of status based on two levels of inquiry:

  • Eligibility for F-1 status itself
  • Eligibility for change of status in general

USCIS adjudications officers will be alert to whether the applicant for change of status possessed a "preconceived intent" to study in the United States, particularly when the student applies to change from B-2 tourist status to F-1.


Certain nonimmigrants are not permitted to change status to F-1 while in the United States. Such nonimmigrants may still be eligible for F-1 status, but the only way they can get F-1 status is through obtaining an F-1 visa and re-entering the United States.

The following are not permitted to change status to F-1 in the United States:

  • M-1 students
  • C,D, and K nonimmigrants
  • J-1 physicians admitted to receive graduate medical education or training
  • J nonimmigrants subject to the 212 9e) 2-year foreign residence requirement
  • Aliens admitted as visitors under 8 C.F.R., 212.1(e)
  • WT and WB visitors admitted under the Visa Waiver Program

Required Documents

  • Form I-539. Application to extend or change nonimmigrant status.
  • Form I-539 fee. The proper fee, in the form of a check or money order payable to "USCIS".
  • Original I-20. The student should submit an original Form I-20 which has an issue reason of "Initial attendance - change of status requested." Be sure it is signed by the student and the DSO.
  • Proof or payment of SEVIS fee.
  • Copy of Form I-94.
  • Copy of Visa Stamp.
  • Copy of Passport ID pages.
  • Copy of financial support documents.
  • Dependent family member documents.
  • Letter from student. It is optional for the student to send a letter explaining why he or she wants to change status to F-1. However, a strong letter can help convince USCIS of the student's temporary intent as well as persuade USCIS that the student did not have a pre-conceived intention to study in the U.S.

Make file copies of all documents before mailing them to USCIS. Use a receipt-based mailing option such as certified mail, so that there will be evidence that the documents were received by USCIS.

Mail to:

U.S. Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Nebraska Service Center
P.O. Box 87539
Lincoln, NE 68501-7539