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International Education

Visa Requirements

Instructions Changing Status to F-1 (Student) Or F-2 (Spouse or Child of Student)

The Immigration and Naturalization Service grants changes of status to thousands of applicants each year. However, the Service also says "no" to thousands of applicants. Sometimes the reason for failure is that the applicant is not eligible, under the law, to be an F-1 student. More commonly, the Service says "no" because the application was incomplete or careless. These instructions are designed carefully to get "yes" answers for eligible students.

These instructions are also very long, because the laws governing immigration in the United States are very complicated. We advise you to read only the sections below that apply to you. In other words, if you are in B-2 status, skip the parts below about A or L or any statuses other than the one you now have. If you are curious, you can ready them later, after your application has been sent to the Immigration Service.

Before going any further, we must determine whether the law will allow you to change to F-1 or F-2 status and be sure that making the change is the best thing for you to do. If you have no lawful status or have violated the terms of the present status, the law strictly prevents you from making any change to a nonimmigrant status such as F-1. You are in violation of status if the date on your Form I-94 has passed (unless you submitted some other change application before it expired), if the principal has stopped the activity for which he or she was admitted to the U.S., such as work for an H-1 employer, or if you have worked without authorization, or if other rules have been broken.

A late application will be accepted only if the lateness is due to "extraordinary circumstances beyond the control of the applicant or petitioner." These standards are very difficult to meet and every day of lateness makes the situation worse.


A (A-1, A-2, or A-3). Before you submit an application for change of status to the Immigration Service, you must first complete Form I-566 and send it to the Department of State for a recommendation. The recommendation must be enclosed with your change application when it is sent to Immigration. If the department does not recommend approval, Immigration is not going to say "yes." Form I-566 must be signed by an official of the diplomatic mission employing you or your parent or spouse and submitted to: Office of Protocol, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C. 20520. As long as you are accredited or listed by the Department of State as entitled to diplomatic status, you may not change to F-1 status. Ask your foreign student advisor for a copy of "Studying in Diplomatic Status" for more information.


B (B1, B2, B-1/B-2). Applicants changing from the B statuses must take special care to show that they did not intentionally apply for the wrong visa or intentionally enter the U.S. in the wrong status. If you knew you were going to enter school when you applied for your visa, you cannot change your status unless you stated on your visa application that you wanted to go to school or investigate different schools. If you intended to mislead U.S. government officials about the purpose of your visit, neither your Foreign Student Adviser nor a lawyer will assist you with your change application. If you entered in B-1 status, it is important to show evidence that you engaged in business after your arrival. If you entered in B-2 status, use your application to describe the tourism, family visits, or medical treatment in which you engaged. If there is any evidence available, take care to include it. Do not apply for a change from B-2 to F status until you have been in the U.S. for at least four months. If you are a Canadian who was not issued Form I-94 by the Immigration Inspector when you crossed the border, you are in B-1/B-2 status and may apply for a change of status if there is an inspection stamp in your passport or if you have an I-94 showing a B status, you may apply for a change. Usually, the easiest procedure is to go to Canada and come back with a Form I-20 and proof of financial support.

C (C-1, C-2, or C-3). Persons in C statuses are not permitted to change to any other status.

D (D-1 or D-2. Persons in D statuses are not permitted to change to any other status.

E (E-1 or E-2). Changes from E statuses to F are usually granted to dependents as long as the principal is still employed as a treaty trader or investor at the time the application is submitted. Proof of this employment should be included with the application.

F (F-1 or F-2). When a spouse in F-1 status completes studies and the F-2 spouse wishes to remain in the U.S. to complete or begin an academic program, the family may be able to stay together if the F-2 converts to F-1 status and the F-1 or F-2 status. Such applications must be done very carefully. Immigration may suspect that the change is intended only to delay a return to the home country. Therefore, the original F-2 should complete Question #5 on the enclosed attachment form very carefully and in detail to show that he or she is going to attend school full-time and that he or she has very definite career plans for which a degree is necessary. The application must be made no later than 60 days after the original F-1 completes studies, or within 60 days after the end of any period of practical training after graduation. Both applications should be submitted to the Immigration Service at the same time. The original F-2 spouse should apply as the principal, with a newly-issued Form I-20. The original F-1 spouse should submit proof that he or she continues to be in status at the time of the application. Both applications should be submitted to the Immigration Service at the same time. On Form I-539, in Part 3, the original F-1 should check "yes" after Question #3 and cross out the words "filed previously and pending with INS." The name of the original F-2 should be written in the box after Question #4. When the applications are filed at the same time, the fee to the Immigration Service is $75 for the student who is applying for a change to F-1, plus $10 for the spouse who is applying to change to F-2 and $10 for each child. Only one Form I-539 is submitted for a family, information on the spouse and any children is provided on the supplement form. All applicants for F-2 status must submit proof of the relationship to the F-1 (birth or marriage certificate.)


Principles are also permitted to attend school and earn degrees, as long as their "principal activities" are work or other activities for their employers or sponsors. Studying full-time for one term usually will not violate status, though full-time study for a year or more would often be the "principal activity" and a violation of status. There is no clear legal definition of "principal activity" and principals in statuses such as H-1 should be cautious about study without changing status unless they can show rather than just say that work is their most important activity.


A change of status is not a change of visa. F visas are not issued in the U.S. If the Immigration Service grants your change application, you may stay in the U.S. and study for as long as you follow the rules, such as studying full-time. Your visa does not matter. However, if you travel to your home country or most other countries, you must apply for an F-1 or F-2 visa in order to return to the U.S.


The fee is $75 for an individual and $10 for each spouse or child. An application for a spouse or child sent separately is $75. Put your money order receipt in a safe place and do not lose it. The Immigration Service sometimes loses applications and you may have to locate the receipt to prove that you applied.


Complete the attachment form first. Before you begin, read the section above on your present status again-carefully. Be sure to write complete answers to all questions and sign the attachment. Then complete and sign Form I-539. You must enter a street address in Part 1, not a post office box number. If you have no social security number or your number was issued by the school and not by the U.S. Government, write "none." If you have no alien registration number (A#), write "none." Doe not forget to enter the 11-digit number from your Form I-94.

In Part 2, #1(a), write in "F-1" for yourself or "F-2": on an application for a spouse or child. In Part 2 and Part 3, be sure to include family members, if any. You must not skip any questions in Part 4. If an employer of family member has applied for a "green card" for you, this is not your application, so you would answer "no" to Question (a) and "yes' to Question (b) unless you have actually signed an application for yourself. If you have signed such an application, you are not eligible to change to another nonimmigrant status. Sign and date Part 5. Do not write in Part 6. Write your name on the mailing label (last page).

When you finish, staple the papers together, with a copy of the front and back of your original Form I-94 on top, then Form I-539, then the attachment, and any evidence on the bottom. You must include proof that you are now in lawful status. Then, with a separate staple, attach your money order to the upper left corner of the I-539. The applications for each family member must be separate, though the money order attached to the principal (F-1) applicant's I-539 should cover all of the applications. Finally, return the completed application to Debbie Lain in Admissions & Records. Your new I-20 and financial documentation will be attached there. No not forget to sign the I-20.