Change Status to F-1

There are two ways to change to F-1 status:

Change by Travel: travel outside the U.S. and re-enter the U.S. with a new "initial attendance I-20", or

Change by Mail: stay in the U.S. and request a Change of Status by application to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS); The standard processing time is 90 days.

Travel v.s. Mail
  Travel mail
Cost Plane ticket to home country, Visa application fee and I-901 SEVIS Fee: $200 USCIS Application Fee: $370 and I-901 SEVIS Fee: $200
Processing Time

Various from counties to countries.  See Visa Appointment and Wait Times

USCIS Processing Time: 90 days or more. See USCIS service center processing time information.  This processing length can change at any time and is not guaranteed.  You must register for a full-time course load (except B1/B2 and F2 visa holders)while the change of status application is pending.

Other Concerns It may be difficult to travel in the middle of the semester.  Students will not be eligible for F-1 benefits (On-Campus Employment) until they have obtained F1 visa and entered the U.S. in F-1 status

Once denied student must leave the U.S. immediately if his/her current status has expired

Change Status to F-1 by Travel

New Students

Submit the proof of finances and signed Financial Affidavit to International Admissions Office or Graduate Studies so you can receive an Initial Attendance I-20.  After receiving the I-20 you should:

  1. Pay a $200 SEVIS I-901 fee online and print the receipt.
  2. Return to your home country and apply for an F-1 Student visa.
  3. Come back to the U.S. with your I-20 and F-1 Student visa.
  4. Provide proof of your new F-1 status: bring your I-20 and passport and attend the F-1 student document check-in during the Mandatory International Student Orientation.
  5. Follow the F-1 regulation and maintain full-time status while you are in the U.S.

Current Students

You must request an initial attendance I-20 from OIP and return the U.S. with it.

  1. Request a new I-20: To request a new I-20, provide the following documents to OIP.
    • A signed I-20 Request Form (PDF, 202KB).
    • A signed Financial Affidavit (PDF, 185 KB).
    • A bank letter verifying you or your sponsor(s) have sufficient funds to support your study in the U.S. 

Include your full name and SF State student ID in your email to OIP.   An F-1 International Student Advisor will review your request and issue a new I-20 within 5 business days. 

  1. Pay a $200 SEVIS I-901 fee online and print the receipt.
  2. Return to your home country and apply for an F-1 Student visa.
  3. Come back to the U.S. with your I-20 and F-1 Student visa.
  4. Provide proof of your new F-1 status:  bring your passport and I-20 to an F-1 advisor at OIP during drop in advising hours.
  5. Follow the F-1 regulation and maintain full-time status while you are in the U.S.

Change Status to F-1 by Mail (New and Current Students)

Applying for Change of Status by mail is a two-step process.  Students should submit application materials to OIP to receive a Change of Status I-20.  After receiving the I-20, students should mail the application fee, I-20, and the application materials to USCIS.

Step 1

To request a Change of Status I-20, students must prepare all the application materials and schedule a 30-minute appointment for documents review.  To schedule an appointment, e-mail with “Request a Change of Status Appointment” in the subject line.  The e-mail should also include your full-name and SF State student ID number. 

Only schedule an appointment AFTER you have everything listed below:

  • Form I-539: Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status:  Complete and sign Form I-539.  Form I-539 is a fillable PDF form. We advise students to type the applicaiton instead of filling it out by hand.
  • Photocopy of the identification page(s) in your passport
  • I-94 Admissions Verification: Print the most recent I-94 at  If you entered the U.S. prior to April 30, 2013, provide a front and back copy of the I-94 card stapled to the passport
  • Proof of Current Immigration Status: Photocopies of current visa stamp and biographical page of your passport, or photocopies of USCIS approval of you current status
  • Dependent(s): If the Change of Status application involves dependents (spouse/children), include copies of dependent(s)’ passport biographical and visa pages, I-94 admissions verification or I-94 card, and proof of their relationship to the applicant (marriage certificate, birth certificates of children)
  • Letter of Explanation: the letter should be written by the applicant and should be addressed to the USCIS requesting the Change of Status and explaining applicant’s circumstances. The letter should include why (and the date) you entered the U.S. in your current status, why and how your intentions changed after your arrival in the U.S., the reasons why you have now decided to apply for a change to F-1 student status, and any other important information. Your letter should be written in as much detail as possible as this will be your only opportunity to explain your situation to the USCIS.  Download a Sample Change of Status Explanation Letter
  • Proof of Finances: you and/or your sponsor(s) must prove that you have the financial ability to pay for school costs plus living expenses for one academic year.  See Financial Affidavit for the minimum amount of funds you are required to have.  Photocopies are acceptable.
    • Acceptable types of proof: balance verification issued by the bank or Financial Guarantee/award letters issued by the scholarship organization.
    • The proof must be issued within the past 6 months.
    • If your sponsor(s) are overseas, you must provide a Sponsor’s Letter (Microsoft Word, 12.1KB) signed by your sponsor(s) along with the financial proof.
    • If your sponsor(s) are in the U.S., you must submit a I-134, "Affidavit of Support" completed and signed by your sponsor(s) along with the financial proof.
    • If the proof of financial support appears weak, USCIS may send applicants a Request of Evidence (RFE) letter to request additional documents.
  • Financial Affidavit (Required by SF State, not by USCIS): This form is required by SF State only.  Download the form here.  New student should to submit this form to International Admissions Office or Graduate Studies. Current students should submit this form to OIP with all the Change of Stats application materials.
  • Form G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance (PDF, 240 KB).  This form is optional.  If you would like to receive a receipt notification of your application electronically either via email or text, complete this form.

The Advisor will review all the documents you are going to submit to USCIS during the 30-minutes appointment. Leave all the documents (except your passport) with the advisor after the appointment.

Step 2

The advisor will issue you a Change of Status I-20 and an explanation letter.  Pick up the I-20, letter, and application materials within 5 business days (or follow advisor’s instruction).

Submit the application materials by certified mail to:
USCIS, P.O. Box 660166, Dallas, TX 75266.

For Express mail and courier deliveries:
USCIS, ATTN: I-539, 2501 S. State Highway 121, Business Suite 400, Lewisville, TX 75067

A completed Change of Status Application should have all the materials you picked up at OIP, plus the following items: 

  1. Application Fee: $370.  Money order or checkpayable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security”.
  2. $200 SEVIS I-901 Fee Payment Receipt: Pay $200 SEVIS I-901 fee online and print the receipt.  Include the receipt with your application.

We recommend you to make copies of the application package for yourself before you send it.

After You Submit the Application to USCIS

You should receive a Form I-797C, Notice of Action 3-4 weeks after you mailed your application. I-797C is the receipt letter and it indicates your receipt number.  You can check your application status by enter this number at USCIS’s website:  Call USCIS National Customer Service Center if you did not receive an I-797C.

After approval, USCIS will mail you an Approval Notice with I-94 card at the bottom. The new I-94 will have the F-1 designation and "Valid for Duration of Status" remarks on it.  Provide the proof of your F-1 status after you receive it by mail.  You may bring the approval notice OIP during drop in hours or scan the approval notice to OIP.

If you are planning to travel outside the U.S. after the approval, be sure to apply for an F-1 visa before you return to the U.S. You are responsible to follow the F-1 regulation and maintain full-time status while you are in the United States.

Special Notes

B Visitors

The regulations, at 8 CFR 214.2(b)(7), specifically prohibit study in the United States while in B-1 or B-2 status.  See Special Instructions for B-1/B-2 Visitors Who Want to Enroll in School on USCIS’s website.

H Temporary Workers

USCIS must receive your Change of Status application no later than the day you terminate your H-1 employment, as there is no "grace period" for those in H-1 status: your status as an H-1 terminates the day you leave your H-1 employer.  

A Foreign Goverment Officials and G Representatives to International Organization

Before filing for a Change of Status, you must first file Form I-566, Inter-agency Record of Request -- A, G or NATO Dependent Employment Authorization or Change/Adjustment to/from A, G or NATO Status.  Only after the I-566 has been approved and returned to you are you eligible to file a Change of Status application with the USCIS.  For more detailed information on I-566, read the instructions.

J Exchange Visitors

Certain J-1 exchange visitors are subject to a two-year home-country physical presence requirement which requires you to return to your home country for at least two years at the end of your exchange visitor program. This is also known as the foreign residence requirement under U.S. law, Immigration and Nationality Act, section 212(e).  J-1 exchange visitors are advised to consult their current sponsoring institution regarding their eligibility to change status to F-1.