ISS Change of Status

Change of Status to F-1 Student

Prospective international students may wonder whether or not they need to change their status in order to study at Lewis University. To determine whether or not you need to file a change of status, you should contact the Lewis University International Student Services Office. We will help you make this determination and assist you with the process. Here are some questions which we use to determine if a change of non-immigrant status is necessary:

  • Have you recently been admitted into a full-time degree program at Lewis University, but your current non-immigrant status does not permit you to study (this includes individuals in B-1/B-2 “visitor” status)? Did you tell the immigration officer at the border that you were a “prospective student” and is this notation on your I-94?
  • Are you a continuing student at Lewis University with a non-immigrant status that cannot be extended or is about to expire?
  • Are you attending Lewis University as a full-time student in a non-immigrant status other than F-1 or J-1 and would like to change your visa status to that of a student?

If you answered yes to any of the above AND you have no plans to travel outside of the U.S., you should make an appointment with the ISS Director to apply for a change of status.

Applying for a Change of Non-immigrant Status

To apply for a change of status (COS), you must make an appointment with the ISS Director. Please note that it is imperative that US CIS receives your application before the expiration of your current immigration status.

There are some restrictions for applying for a change of non-immigrant status. You may apply for a change of status, if you are a non-immigrant in the U.S. You may not be granted a change of status if you were admitted to the USA under the “Visa Waiver Program” or if you are a J-1 exchange visitor subject to the foreign residence requirement who has not received a waiver of that requirement (you would only be eligible for a change of status to A or G status, or you may leave and apply for a B or O status). You may also be denied an application if you are out of status, have failed to maintain your status, were not inspected at a port of entry when entering the USA, or if you have worked without authorization in the United States.

Please note: If you are changing status from H-1, H-2, H-3, or H-4, L-1, L-2, or other employment based non-immigrant visa status to F-1 or J-1 status, and you, or a member of your family has, or intends to file, an immigrant visa petition for U.S. permanent residency, you should consult your immigration attorney about the immigration implications of a change of status.

Below you will find a list of the forms and documents you will need in order to file for a change of non-immigrant status.

Study While a Change of Status is Pending

Some non-immigrants wish to attend school while their change of status is pending.

Federal regulations reflect that individuals holding B-2 status may not begin a course of studies prior to obtaining the approval of a change of status application from the US CIS. To do so would be a violation of his or her B-1 or B-2 non-immigrant status. This is true even where that individual has a “prospective student” notation on his or her B-2 visa stamp. The term “course of study” implies a focuses program of classes, such as a fill-time course load leading to a degree, or in the case of a vocational student, some type of certification. Casual, short-term classes that are not the primary purpose of the alien’s presence in the United States, such as a single English language or crafts class, would not constitute a “course of study.” Courses with more substance or that teaches a potential vocation, such as flight training, would be considered part of a “course of study” and thus would require approval of a student change of status application.

Similarly, the U.S. CIS changed the regulations governing enrollment for F-2 dependents on January 1,2003. Under this rule, the F-2 spouse of an F-1 student may not engage in full time study, and the F-2 child may only engage in full time study if the study is in an elementary or secondary school (kindergarten through 12th grade). The F-2 spouse and child may engage in study that is vocational or recreational in nature. Full time study is defined as 12 credit hours for undergraduate students and 8 credit hours for graduate students. Thus any F-2 dependent wishing to enroll full time at Lewis University must apply for a change of status to F-1 status and abide by all F-1 regulations after that change of status is approved. An F-2 spouse or F-2 child violates his or her nonimmigrant status by engaging in full time study.

Employment While A Change of Status is Pending

Until the US CIS approves your application, you are not eligible for any type of work authorization, including on-campus employment and teaching or research assistantships. The exception to this is that if you currently hold H1B1 status or a similar status, you may continue to work for your H1B1 employer until the change of status to F-1 is approved. At that point you must immediately cease employment for your H1B1 employer. If you need to begin your on-campus employment or assistantship at the start of the semester, please discuss traveling options for adjusting status with your ISS advisor.

If you have an application for a labor certification or permanent residency pending, or if you are the beneficiary of an immigrant visa petition, you must consult with a U.S. Immigration attorney before filing for a change of non-immigrant status.

Documents Needed to Apply for a Change of Status

The following materials must be included in your application for a change of status:

  1. Personal check or money order for $195 payable to Immigration and Naturalization Service
  2. Proof of payment of SEVIS fee, once that requirement is instituted.
  3. Completed and signed Form I-539 (available at the ISS).
    Reminder: Part 4, Question 3.f. must be answered on a separate sheet of paper (printed or typed in black ink).
    Be sure your name and I-94 number are on this sheet.
  4. Personal letter to THE US CIS containing the following information:

    a) requesting the change of status and stating the status from which are changing and the type of visa status you are now requesting

    b) explaining the circumstances for your request and why you want to change your status. Please note that unless you have a “prospective student notation” next to your B-2 visa stamp it is not recommended that you file a COS application within 6 weeks of entering the USA.

    c) stating how you intend to support yourself financially during your studies Letter from student indicating;

    d) stating that you have maintained your immigration status since entering the U.S.

    e) stating that you have not engaged in any unauthorized employment since entering the U.S.
  5. Original SEVIS I-20 from Lewis University if requesting an F-1 (or an original IAP-66 if requesting a J-1)
  6. Original financial documentation (bank statement and letter of support) Submit financial documentation demonstrating support for twelve months of estimated expenses. Documentation may include:

    - Letter from bank/credit union verifying funds available in checking, savings, etc.

    - Letter from university demonstrating graduate assistantship, fellowship, scholarship, etc. and effective dates.

    - If submitting documentation from a sponsor, you must submit both the letter from their bank and a letter, with their signature, which verifies they will use these funds to sponsor you.

    PLEASE NOTE: Paycheck stubs are not acceptable as documentation. See the International Student Expense Estimate Sheet for current financial estimates.

  7. Admission letter to Lewis University or a letter from your department verifying full-time enrollment, your major, and expected date of graduation
  8. Two copies of current immigration documents:

    - Passport (page with picture, passport number, date of issue and expiration, visa stamp(s), and entry stamps

    - I-94(both sides)

    - Copies of current and all previous I-20’s, IAP-66s, I-797’s etc.

    - Other relevant documents

    - Dependent family member documentation of immigration status (same as above)
  9. Two copies of current immigration documents of the primary visa holder (if you are currently in a dependent status) or of your dependents if they will also be filing a change of status:

    - Passport (page with picture, passport number, date of issue and expiration, visa stamp(s), and entry stamps

    - I-94(both sides)

    - Copies of current and all previous I-20’s, IAP-66s, I-797’s etc.

    - Other relevant documents

After You Application is Ready to Be Sent

When your application is ready to be mailed, please make a copy of your completed application for your records, then mail the original application by certified mail (return receipt requested) to:

Northern Regional Service Center
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
P.O. Box 87539
Lincoln, NE 68501-7539

It may take several months for THE US CIS to respond to your request. Processing times vary. Please note that under new immigration rules you may not begin classes or employment if you are changing from B-2 status to F-1 status until the US CIS approves your application. When the change of status is approved, you are required to be a full time student within 60 days.