Changing to F-1 Visa Status in the U.S.
In certain circumstances, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) allows people already in the U.S. to apply for a change from their current visa status to F-1 visa status without leaving the country. This allows an individual to remain in the U.S. in legal status instead of leaving the country to apply for an F-1 visa at a U.S. consular post.
Seattle Colleges recommends that international students consult with an immigration attorney for assistance with this process.
Applying for a Change to F-1 Status
An application for change of status must be submitted to the appropriate USCIS office before the current visa status has expired. Some visa statuses may have restrictions on how and when a change of status can be filed. Processing time varies and can take anywhere from 60 days to 9 months or more.
Decision on Change of Status
If the change of status application is approved, the applicant must begin full-time study at the next available term. If it is denied, the applicant is normally given time to prepare to depart the United States. Approval or denial of a change of status does not normally impact a student's chances of getting approved for an F-1 visa later.
Change of Status to F-1
Upon approval of a change of status to F-1, USCIS does not issue the applicant an F-1 visa. The approval only allows the student to remain in the United States in legal status until they have completed the program of study. If a student who is granted a change of status to F-1 leaves the U.S., they must apply for an F-1 visa at a U.S. consular post before being able to re-enter the country as an F-1 student.
Studying While Change of Status is Pending
Study is permitted while a change of status is pending if the original status allowed the applicant to study. For example, applicants who hold H or J status are allowed to study while waiting for a change of status application to be determined. B visa holders cannot, since individuals on B visas are not permitted to engage in a program of study.