Change of Status to F-1

If you are in the United States in a valid immigration status, you may be eligible to change your status to F-1. Please read our web page on How to Maintain Status to learn important information about F-1 status. There are two ways to change your status: by application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or by international travel. In either case, you must be a continuing student or a newly admitted student for the upcoming semester for ISSS to assist you with this process.

Change of Status Within the United States

Important points to know:

  • Processing with USCIS can take 6 to 12 months plus mailing time or longer depending on USCIS processing times. While the application is pending you may not leave the United States.
  • Applicants in B-2 status may not begin classes until they have changed to a student status or other status eligible to enroll in classes. Since the process to change to student status from B-2 can be complicated, please schedule an appointment to talk with an international student advisor about your options.
  • On-campus employment may not begin until the change of status has been approved.
  • You must maintain your underlying status until your Change of Status to F-1 is approved.
  • Applicants who are changing status from F-2 can begin classes part-time but can only be enrolled full time once the application has been approved.
  • You must submit the application to USCIS within 30 days of being issued the I-20 from ISSS.
  • The USCIS process will change your immigration status within the United States but does not give you a new visa stamp in your passport. After the application is approved and if you need to depart the U.S., you will need to apply for an F-1 visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy in order to return in F-1 status.

In order to file a change your status inside the U.S., you first need to obtain a “Change of Status” I-20 from International Student & Scholar Services. ISSS can create this once we have received proof of funding for one year of expenses and a valid foreign address. The most recent estimate of expenses can be found on the Financial Requirements web page.

Once an advisor issues your I-20, you must pay the SEVIS fee. Payment may be made only after obtaining an I-20. For more information about the SEVIS fee, please refer to the Department of Homeland Security's website on the I-901 SEVIS fee.

Please note that once we issue you the Change of Status I-20, you will automatically be enrolled and charged for the UT Student Health Plan. In certain cases, students holding comparable coverage may be eligible to waive enrollment in the UT Student Health Insurance Plan. For additional information, including waiver eligibility, process, and deadlines, please see Insurance Waivers.

    Once you have gathered all the documents listed below, schedule an appointment to meet with an international student advisor. We will review all documentation for accuracy and completion before you submit the application to USCIS.

    • Form I-539. Complete this form before your appointment. Be sure you indicate the International Office mailing address on the application. This will help ISSS monitor your application.
      • C/O International Advisor
        P.O. Box A
        Austin TX
        78713-8901
    • A letter written to USCIS – Explain why you are requesting a change to F-1 status (e.g. that the spouse or parent will soon complete his/her program and leave the U.S., that the dependent visa holder has been admitted as a full-time regular degree- seeking student, and/or that eligibility to accept employment related to the field of study would be beneficial). The letter should include your brief immigration history (how you originally came to the US and whether you have changed status before). The letter cannot cite employment as reason for wanting to change to F1 status.
    • “Initial Attendance – Change of Status Requested” Form I-20 provided by ISSS. ISSS can create this once we have received proof of funding for one year of expenses and a valid foreign address. Please note that once we issue you the Change of Status I-20, you will automatically be enrolled and charged for the UT Student Health Plan. In certain cases, students holding comparable coverage may be eligible to waive enrollment in the UT Student Health Insurance Plan. For additional information, including waiver eligibility, process, and deadlines, please see Insurance Waivers.
    • Receipt showing payment of the SEVIS Fee Payment may be made only after obtaining an I-20. For more information about the SEVIS fee please refer to the SEVIS Fee page.
    • Current immigration documents:
      • Passport
      • Most recent entry visa
      • Form I-94
      • Any other documents verifying your current status (e.g. I-797, DS-2019, dependent I-20, etc.).
    • Evidence of financial support that is equal to or more than the amount that will appear on your I-20.
    • If you are currently a student: transcript or enrollment letter. If you are a new student: acceptance letter.
    • If changing from H-1B or L-1 status, letter verifying current employment and paystubs for the last 3 months of employment.
    • If changing from A-1 or A-2 status, Form I-566 completed by the Department of State. Additionally, A-1s and A-2s are not required to pay a fee with Form I-539.
    • If changing from a dependent status to F-1, you will need to provide a copy of your marriage certificate or birth certificate (and English translation, if applicable) as well as copies of the principal visa holder’s documentation including:
      • Passport
      • Visa
      • Form I-94
      • Any other type of immigration form (e.g. I-20, DS-2019, I-797, etc.).
        • If currently in F-2 status, transcript of F-1 student.
        • If changing from H4 or L2, letter verifying current employment and paystubs for the last 3 months of employment of the primary visa holder (H-1B or L1).
        • If changing from E2, proof of business ownership of the primary visa holder, including business tax records.
    • Check or money order made out to “Department of Homeland Security” for $370.00.

    Once ISSS reviews all of the application documents, we will help you compile them and prepare the package for submission. Mailing the application to USCIS will be your responsibility, but ISSS will give you detailed instructions on how to do so

    Changing Status to F-1 By Travel

    Important points to know:

    • Your change of status is not complete until you reenter the United States and meet with an international student advisor to activate your F-1 immigration record.
    • If you are changing your status from B-2, you may begin classes only after you return to the United States and obtain F-1 status.
    • If changing from F-2 to F-1, you may only begin full time classes after you return to the United States in F-1 status.
    • You may begin on-campus employment only after you reenter in F-1 status and check-in with ISSS.
    • You may enter the United States no earlier than 30 days prior to the program start date listed in section 5 of the Initial I-20. Therefore it is important to plan your travel carefully.

    In order to change your status by travel, you first need to obtain an “Initial Attendance” I-20 from International Student & Scholar Services. ISSS can create this once we have received proof of funding for one year of expenses and a valid foreign address. The most recent estimate of expenses can be found on the Financial Requirements web page.

    Once an advisor issues your I-20, you must pay the SEVIS fee. Payment may be made only after obtaining an I-20. For more information about the SEVIS fee, please refer to the Department of Homeland Security's website on the I-901 SEVIS fee.

    Please note that once we issue you the Initial I-20, you will automatically be enrolled and charged for the UT Student Health Plan. In certain cases, students holding comparable coverage may be eligible to waive enrollment in the UT Student Health Insurance Plan. For additional information, including waiver eligibility, process, and deadlines, please see Insurance Waivers.

    When you leave the United States, you will need the Form I-20 to obtain an F-1 visa from a U.S. consulate or embassy. It is not possible to obtain an F-1 visa inside the United States.

    We recommend that you make your application in your home country or country of residence. Please visit our Visa Information web page for more information on how to apply for a visa.

    • You may enter the United States no earlier than 30 days prior to the program start date listed in section 5 of the Initial I-20.
    • At the port of entry present your I-20 and newly acquired F-1 visa to the inspection officer.
    • After you return to the United States in F-1 status you must review and print your I-94 information. The I-94 record must indicate “F-1” and “D/S.” A note about traveling to Canada or Mexico: be sure that upon your return to the United States, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspection officer gives you a new I-94 entry record to indicate your new F-1 status. If you are not given a new I-94 record that indicates you are in F-1 status, you will be required to travel again in order to obtain the proper status.
    • Schedule an appointment to meet with an International Student Advisor shortly after you return to the United States. You will need to bring all of your immigration documents with you so we can review them and activate your record.
    • Failure to meet with ISSS in a timely manner could lead to the termination of your F-1 record and cause you to lose your valid immigration status.