Change Immigration Status
The information on this page is about applying to USCIS for a change of nonimmigrant visa status while in the US. Our office often recommends that students travel outside the US to apply for their new visa, then use it to reenter the US. If you have questions about which option is best for your specific situation, you can meet with your ISS advisor to discuss it.
After your change of status is approved, you must return to International Student Services in person with your Approval Notice.
The USCIS can take 10-14 months to process a change of status application. OU ISS will not support change of status applications less than 10 months prior to a new program start date.
If you wish to start a program in less than 10 months in F-1 status, we recommend that you do the following:
- Exit the US with the new I-20, successfully complete a consular interview, and reenter the US in F-1 status. You CANNOT return to the US in your F-1 status more than 30 days prior to your program start date. This is a US immigration regulation
- Plan for a later program start date.
Any nonimmigrant visa holder (except those holding C, D, K, or M visa status, or visa waiver status) can apply for a change of status to F-1 if s/he has maintained lawful non-immigrant status up to the time of application. A person in J status may apply for a change of status within the US only if not subject to the 2-year home residency requirement.
F-2 to F-1 changes of status cannot study full time until the USCIS approves change of status request.
- Complete the Change of Status form
- OU ISS will review your documents and prepare a Change of Status I-20 for you. This process takes 3 to 10 business days.
- OU ISS will email you when your I-20 is ready to be picked up.
- You may use eShip Global to obtain courier service for your documents so that they can be sent directly to you from our office.
- When you receive your I-20, sign it and include a copy of the signed original I-20 with your Change of Status application.
Change of status applicants changing to F-1 or J-1 with an “initial attendance” I-20 or DS-2019 must pay a one-time SEVIS fee. The fee can be paid online at www.fmjfee.com after issuance of a new I-20 or DS-2019. Print 2 copies of your payment confirmation. Include one with your application and keep one for yourself.
- Complete I-539 form:
Part 1. Enter the address where you would like your documents to be sent. You may use the OU ISS address if you would like your documents to be sent directly to our office.
Part 2. #1. Choose “b.” and indicate the status you are requesting (F-1 or F-2)
Part 3. #1. Enter “D/S” for Duration of Status.
Part 4. Must include a foreign address.
- Write a letter of explanation for the USCIS, explaining why you need to change status, and why you entered the US in one status and now wish to change to a new status. Include why a denial of the status change would cause hardship. This is a required part of the application.
- Gather the required information following the appropriate checklist (PDF).
- The application must be mailed to the appropriate USCIS Service Center for adjudication. Visit the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov/i-539 for the proper mailing address. We recommend you make a copy of your entire application and keep it for your records.
- USCIS will send a receipt notice to the address you indicated on your application.
- If the change of status is approved, you will receive a new I-94 card at the bottom of your Approval Notice from USCIS.
- If the USCIS sends the approval documents to your home address, you MUST bring your new documents to OU ISS within 10 days to allow us to register your change of status in SEVIS. Failure to do so will result in a termination of your new visa status.