Change of Status to F-1

Change of Status to F-1

A student acquires F-1 status using Form I-20, issued by the U.S. school which the student is attending/planning to attend. Status is acquired in one of two ways: 1) by entering the United States with the I-20 and an F-1 visa obtained at a U.S. consulate abroad (Canadian citizens are exempt from the visa requirement); or 2) by applying to USCIS for change of nonimmigrant status (if the student is already in the United States and cannot travel).

How to apply:

Change of Status via USCIS
  • Gather the  following  documents
    • G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance
    • A cover letter (one page) requesting the change of status from your current status to F-1. This letter should include a brief explanation as why you wish to change to F-1 status. You should also provide a checklist of the documentation you are including in your application.
    • USCIS Form I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, including application fee.
    • Evidence of financial support (i.e., bank statement, assistantship letter, etc.). This should be the same evidence you have provided for your I-20.
    • Copy of the admission letter from Montclair.
    • Copy of your Form I-20 with your original signature in blue ink.  Do NOT send your original I-20. USCIS does not require the original and will not return it.
    • Copy of the receipt indicating payment of the SEVIS fee.
    • Copies of all of the prior immigration documents you have had. (e.g. DS-2019, F-2 I-20, I-797, paper or print-out of electronic Form I-94, valid passport, visa stamp, EAD card, etc.) showing that you are currently in lawful non-immigrant status.
    • Copy of the waiver of the 212(e) Two-Year Foreign Residency Requirement (if you were previously in J status and subject to the requirement), if applicable.

Mailing Address and Where to File

It may take USCIS several months/years to adjudicate an I-539 request, and therefore you should use a return address that will be valid for many months. We do not recommend trying to change your I-539 mailing address once your application has been submitted to USCIS.  USCIS does not forward mail!


If you are currently in F-2 status:

  • Individuals in F-2 status are eligible for part time study.  However, once your change of status to F-1 is approved, you are required to be enrolled full time. If your change of status has not been approved by the deadline for adding/dropping classes, your I-20 start date will be deferred until the start of the next semester and you must stay enrolled part time until the end of the current semester in order to maintain your F-2 status.

If you are currently in B1/B2 status:

  • Individuals in B1/B2 status are prohibited from “enrolling in a course of study” until after USCIS approves their change of status application.

If you are currently in any other status (e.g., H, J, L, E, etc.):

  • If your current status allows full-time studies in the U.S., you may start classes before your change of status application is approved. However, you are not allowed employment under F-1 status until after your application is approved.
Change of Status via Travel and Re-entry

The alternative method of changing to F-1 status is through travel and re-entry. In this case, you would depart the U.S. and then apply for an F-1 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad, preferably the local consulate in your home country. If the F-1 visa application is approved and the F-1 visa is issued, then you can re-enter the U.S. using your F-1 I-20 form and F-1 visa. At the Port of Entry, your electronic I-94 will be updated to show your status as F-1 and the Admit Until Date as D/S, which confirms F-1 status.

Please note that Canadian citizens are exempt from the requirement of a having an F-1 visa to re-enter the U.S. in F-1 status. But travel and re-entry are still required for Canadian citizens to obtain F-1 status.

For further information about travel and re-entry and/or visa applications, refer to the U.S. Department of State web site and Travel Outside the U.S. and Reentry.