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Change of Status to F-1

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) to F-1 you must submit the Change of Immigration Status to F-1 request form in accessVIS.  A change of status can occur through travel and reentry, or within the U.S. by submitting an application to USCIS.
 

Applying for Change of Status within the United States:
If you are already in the United States in non-immigrant status, you may be eligible to apply for F-1 status within the U.S.  It is important to know that a change of status within the U.S. is not a change of visa type; it is only permission to remain in the U.S.  The I-94 card or stamp issued to you upon approval is not a travel document and therefore you will need 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 non-immigrants are not permitted to change to F-1 status within the United States. These non-immigrants may still be eligible for F-1 status, but only through travel and reentry.  Travel and re-entry requires you to apply for an F-1 visa at the U.S Consulate or Embassy outside of the U.S, then once approved re-enter the United States in valid F-1 status.  The following non-immigrant statuses are not permitted to apply for a change of status to F-1 within the U.S.:
  • M-1 students
  • C, D, K, and S non-immigrants
  • J-1 physicians admitted to receive graduate medical education or training
  • J non-immigrants 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 of those applying for a change of status to F-1 may start or continue attending school even before the application has been submitted or approved by USCIS. The exception are those in F-2, B-1 or B-2 status - applicants in these statuses are not allowed to attend school until their application for a change of status has been approved by USCIS (except in the case of F-2 minors studying at the primary or secondary level).


Application Procedures:

Part I: Request an I-20 from Visa & Immigration Services (VIS)

  1. Login to accessVIS through Full-Services using your netID and password.
  2. Complete all required forms within the Change of Immigration Status to F-1 request.
  3. Upon approval, your International Student Advisor will email you to collect your Form I-20 indicating your intention to apply for a change of status to F-1 within the U.S.

Part II: Submitting the Change of Status Request to USCIS
Your request for a Change of Status must be filed by using the paper-based application.  While it is recommended that you work with an Immigration Attorney during this process, your International Student Advisor may agree to review your application prior to submission to USCIS.  

NOTE: As of June 15, 2015, USCIS is no longer accepting electronically filed Forms I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status.


Filing the Paper-Based I-539:

Preparation of the forms and supporting documentation is required when filing the paper-based I-539 Request for Change of Status:

  1. Form G-1145 - Informs USCIS that you wish to be notified you by email and/or text message upon receipt of your your application.
  2. Form I-539 - Used by non-immigrants to request a change to another non-immigrant status (i.e. F-1)
  3. Original I-94 card or print out of the electronic copy of I-94 and copy of the admission stamp in your passport.
  4. Original Stony Brook issued Form I-20 signed on the bottom of page 1 by you and your VIS Advisor. Your application will be delayed if you forget to sign the I-20.
  5. Original financial documents showing proof of sufficient funding for the duration of your program.
  6. Photocopy of your valid passport identification page - do not send your passport to the USCIS
  7. Application Fee: A Cashier’s Check, Money Order, or Personal Check for $370 payable to Department of Homeland Security with "USCIS I-539" noted in the memo line. USCIS does not accept cash
  8. Proof of SEVIS fee payment: This fee is payable online by completing Form I-901.
  9. Letter of Intent, explaining why you wish to request a change of status to F-1.  Your letter should clearly state (a) your current status, (b) explain your plans for studying at Stony Brook University, and (c) indicate how you will continue to maintain ties to your home country, (i.e. residence, expected job offer, or continuing family ties).

Mail Application to USCIS:  We recommend you use an express mail courier service (i.e. DHL, FedEx, UPS) and be sure to request a tracking number. Note: VIS strongly recommends you photocopy your entire I-539 application for your records prior to mailing to USCIS.

IMPORTANT: 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.


What to expect when filing within the U.S.:

  • Once USCIS receives your application, they will deposit your payment and mail you a Form I-797 Notice of Receipt with your assigned case number.  You can check the status of your application online, or by calling the phone number on the bottom of the I-797.
  • 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.
  • If currently in lawful status, filing for a change to F-1 status within the U.S., you may remain in the United States until you receive a decision from USCIS. However, you are not eligible for any F-1 benefits or privileges (i.e. working on campus, applying for practical training, etc.) until the change of status 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.
  • Upload any documents you receive from USCIS through accessVIS, including the I-797 Notice of Receipt, I-797 Notice of Action, and I-94 Card.

IMPORTANT: 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.



Applying for Change of Status through Travel:

Part I: Request an I-20 from Visa & Immigration Services (VIS)

  1. Login to accessVIS through Full-Services using your netID and password.
  2. Complete all required forms within the Change of Immigration Status to F-1 request.
  3. Upon approval, your International Student Advisor will email you to collect your Form I-20.
Part II: Travel & Re-Entry
  1. Return to your home country and schedule a visa interview at the U.S. Consulate/Embassy.
  2. Pay the SEVIS Fee by completing the Form I-901 online.  Proof of SEVIS fee payment will be required at your interview.  Check the U.S. Consulate/Embassy’s website in your home country for a list of other required documents.
  3. Once your passport has been returned by the U.S. Consulate/Embassy with the F-1 visa stamp, you may return to the U.S.
  4. Upon arrival to Stony Brook, you must check-in with Visa & Immigration Services and complete the intake in accessVIS.
What to expect when filing within the U.S.:
  • The U.S. Consulate/Embassy may require administrative processing of your application.  This can be a timely process that cannot be expedited by Visa & Immigration Services.
  • Applying for a visa status of any kind is always a risk, VIS cannot guarantee approval of your request for an F-1 Visa.
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