Change of Status

A change of status is required when your purpose for being in the U.S. no longer corresponds with the terms of your current visa type. To apply for Change of Status (COS) you must report a change of status in accessVIS - a change of status can occur by either traveling and reentering the U.S. or applying within the U.S. by submitting an application to USCIS.


Applying for Change of Status within the United States:
An alien already in the United States in nonimmigrant status may apply for a change to F-1 status. A change of status within the U.S. is not a change of visa; it is only permission to remain in the U.S. The I-94 Card or stamp issued to you upon approval of your change of status it is not a travel document and therefore there is no guarantee that you will be able to come back into the U.S. if you leave the country or that you won’t have to apply for an F-1 Visa if you choose to return to the U.S. after leaving.

Restrictions on changing to F-1 status:
Certain nonimmigrants are not permitted to change status to F-1 while in the United States. These nonimmigrants may still be eligible for F-1 status, but only through obtaining an F-1 visa at the U.S Consulate or Embassy in their country and re-entering the United States.

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

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

The majority applicants for change of nonimmigrant status to F-1 may start attending school even before the application has been submitted or approved. The exception are those on F-2, B1 and B2 status - applicants in these statuses are not allowed to attend school until their change of status application is approved by USCIS(except in the case of F-2 minors studying at the primary or secondary level).

An application for Change of Status within the U.S. requires the following documents:

  1. In accessVIS report your Change of Status through International Status/Document Update.
  2. Form G-1145 - This form should be on the top of your application for USCIS to notify you by email and/or text message that they have accepted your application.
  3. A completed Form I-539.
  4. Original I-94 card or print out of electronic copy of I-94 and copy of the stamp on your passport.  
  5. Your new original Form I-20 from Stony Brook University signed on the bottom of page 1. Your application will be delayed if you forget to sign the I-20.
  6. Original financial documents.
  7. Photocopy of your valid passport identification page - do not send your passport to the USCIS.
  8. A bank check, money order, or personal check payable to Department of Homeland Security with "USCIS I-539" noted in the memo line for the required $290 fee. The USCIS does not accept cash.
  9. Proof of SEVIS fee payment. This fee can be paid online by completing Form I-901.
  10. A letter explaining why you are requesting the change of status. This is extremely important: your letter should clearly indicate your current status, explain your plans for studying at Stony Brook University, and your longer-term plans as well. Keep in mind that F-1 status is a NON-IMMIGRANT classification. This means that you must indicate, and in certain cases may be required to document, that you continue to maintain ties to your home country--whether in the form of a residence, an expected job offer, or continuing family ties. It is not unusual for the USCIS to request documentation regarding your ties to your home country, and you should be prepared to provide such documentation.
  11. Once completed, mail your application to the USCIS.  A Visa and Immigration Advisor will review your Change of Status in AccessVIS.  You can also hire an immigration attorney to assist you.  It is recommended that you photocopy your application for yourself and send the original application by courier service to the USCIS Lockbox facility.

Once USCIS receives your application, they will deposit your payment of the fee and mail you a Form I-797 Notice of Receipt with your assigned case number. You can check the status of your application by calling the phone number on the bottom of the I-797 or online and entering your case number.

Upload any documents you receive from USCIS through accessVIS, including the notice of receipt of your application, notice of approval of your change of status and stamped I-20 when it has been adjudicated.

If you plan to leave the U.S. after you have obtained the change of status, you must contact Visa and Immigration Services before leaving.

NOTE: Your application for change of status must be received by USCIS during the period of 30 days before the program start date on your I-20 to no later than 30 days after the start date.

Special Considerations:
If you are in lawful status and file a change to F-1 status by applying to the USCIS, you can remain in the United States until you receive your decision from USCIS. However, you do not have the privileges of the F-1 student status (i.e. working on campus, applying for practical training, etc.) until the change is approved. When USCIS has made a decision, they will send you a Form I-797 Notice of Action. If your application is approved, the I-797 will include a new I-94 card(s) and the I-20 will be returned to you.

USCIS can take up to 6 months to process a change of status application. If you do not receive a reply within 6 months, contact Visa and Immigration Services for assistance.

Applying for Change of Status through Travel:
A student may choose to change their status by returning home and applying for a Visa at the U.S. Consulate/Embassy in their home country. In order to do so they must request an Initial Attendance I-20 from the Visa and Immigration Services Office.