An F-1 student is a nonimmigrant who is pursuing a full course of study to achieve a specific educational objective at an academic institution in the United States. Once the educational objective has been achieved, the F-1 student is expected by the U.S. government to return to his or her residence abroad.
There are two ways a student can acquire F-1 status:
- Obtain an I-20 from the U.S. school the student will attend and apply for an F-1 visa at a U.S. consulate abroad. (Canadian citizens are exempt from the visa requirement.)
- Apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for a change of nonimmigrant status. This option is if the student is already in the United States and cannot travel to obtain an F-1 visa at a U.S. consulate.
Who is eligible for a Change of Status?
A person of any non-immigrant status except C, D, K, M, and those that entered the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. Those with J status who are subject to 212(e) two-year home country physical requirement may not change status in the United States unless a waiver has been granted. Non-immigrants in A, G, or NATO status must first complete Form I-566, and have it properly endorsed by the foreign mission to the U.S. and the Department of State before applying for Change of Status to F-1.
Timing concerns of when to file for Change of Status
Timing is very important. Applications submitted too early may rejected, while applications submitted too late may not be approved before the start of the term.
If you are currently in F-2 or B1/B2 status, you must wait until your Change of Status is approved before you can register for and take classes at EMU.
If you are currently in any other status (H, J, L, E, etc.): If your current status allows full-time studies in the United States, you may start classes before your change of status application is approved. However, you are not allowed any on- or off-campus employment under F-1 status until after your application is approved.
Change of Status can take up to 5 months to be approved, so please plan accordingly. It is not possible to expedite the process.
Please note that after your Change of Status to F-1 is approved, the earliest date you may start working on campus is 30 days before the first day of classes of your first term as an F-1 student.
The OIS cannot issue SSN ineligibility letters for driver's licenses or sign offer letters for on-campus employment for SSNs for those awaiting Change of Status approval. We are only able to sign these forms confirming your F-1 status after your F-1 status has been approved.
What documents do I need to apply for a Change of Status to F-1?
- G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance
- A Cover Letter. You should list your current status and state you are applying to change to an F-1. This letter should include a brief explanation as why you wish to change to F-1 status. You should explain why you are applying for a Change of Status. You should also provide a checklist of the documentation included in your application. Include your contact information and sign the letter.
- USCIS Form I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status
- Application fee- a check made out to U.S. Department of Homeland Security for $290.00
- Evidence of financial support (bank statement, assistantship letter, etc.).
- Copy of your I-20. You will obtain this I-20 after you meet with an OIS advisor.
- Copy of the receipt indicating payment of the SEVIS fee.
- Copies of all of your current immigration documents for the other visa status (for example DS-2019, F-2 I-20, I-797, paper or printout of electronic Form I-94, valid passport, visa stamp, EAD card). If you are applying from a dependent status, you need to also provide photocopies of your spouse's I-94, I-20, proof of marriage, copies of I-20s.
- 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.
Where do I mail the application?
It may take USCIS several months to adjudicate an I-539 request, and therefore you are advised to use an address that will continue to be valid for at least the next few months. It is not recommended to change your I-539 mailing address once your application has been submitted to USCIS.
The address that you use on your I-539 determines where you should mail your application. If the address you use is in Michigan, you should mail your application to one of the following:
For U.S. Postal Service (including US Postal Service Express mail):
P.O. Box 660166
Dallas, TX 75266
The U.S. Postal Service is the only service that delivers to a P.O. Box address. We recommend that you use a trackable mailing method so that you have delivery confirmation of your application. If you send your application with a method that requires a signature upon delivery, use the express mail and courier deliveries address below.
For express mail and courier deliveries (e.g., UPS, FedEx, DHL, etc):
2501 S. State Highway 121 Business
Lewisville, TX 75067
If you are using a non-Michigan address on the I-539 form, please refer to the USCIS Form I-539 instructions for the correct USCIS mailing address.
If your Change of Status is pending with USCIS and you later decide to leave the U.S., your Change of Status is considered to have been abandoned.
You will receive a receipt notice after filing for a Change of Status. You can use the case number listed on this receipt to check the status of your case at https://egov.uscis.gov/cris/Dashboard/CaseStatus.do
Traveling after the Change of Status application has been filed
You cannot leave the United States while the application is pending. If you do travel outside the United States, it will be seen as you are abandoning the Change of Status petition.
After approval to F-1 status
After approval, you will receive an approval notice and I-94 card in the mail.
All F-1 students are required to complete an immigration check-in and orientation. After your Change of Status is approved, you are required to attend both these events for the semester which your F-1 status is effective. For more information, see http://www.emich.edu/ois/checklist.html