There are two ways to obtain a change to F-1 status. One is by remaining in the U.S. and filing an application with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). The success of this application depends on your particular situation as well as your current immigration status. The other way to change to F-1 status is to leave the United States, apply for an F-1 visa, then return using the F-1 visa to re-enter the U.S.
Filing a Change of Status Application
Not everyone is eligible to obtain a change of status in the U.S. If your I-94 card has expired you cannot apply for a change of status within the United States. If you are in WT (visa waiver) status C, D, K or M status you are not eligible for a change to F-1 status this way. Those in J status with a two year home residency requirement may not apply for a change to F-1 without fulfilling the home residency requirement or being granted a waiver first.
Even if you get a change of status approved within the U.S., you will still need to apply for an F-1 entry visa the next time you travel outside the United States and want to come back in F-1 status (excluding Canada, Mexico, and islands adjacent to the U.S., as long as you are not there longer than 30 days and do not apply for a visa while there). Having a change of status approved is no guarantee that you will be granted an F-1 entry visa. It is highly recommended that you see an advisor at CIP to discuss any travel plans.
If you are applying to change from B-1/B-2 status to F-1 status, you will need to prove to USCIS that your intention to become a student happened after you arrived in the United States. Applications for change of status filed shortly after arrival arouse suspicion that you misrepresented yourself by failing to reveal your intention to study when applying for a visa to enter the U.S. Your cover letter should clearly explain how and when you decided to go to school. USCIS will occasionally ask the university to verify when a student first contacted us.
Receiving a Decision
You will receive an answer in anywhere from 1 to 6 months. If your change of status is approved, USCIS will return your I-20 Form stamped with the approval. In a separate mailing you will receive a Notice of Action with a new I-94 card attached. CIP will also be notified of the outcome of your application. Bring your new I-94 card and stamped I-20 to CIP for photocopying once they arrive. You must register to be a full-time student (12 credits each fall and spring for undergraduates, 9 credits each fall and spring for graduate students) once your change of status is approved.
Make an Appointment with an International Student Advisor at email@example.com for More Information Relevant to Your Particular Situation