Change of Visa Status

Requesting Change of Visa Status to F-1

Who can request a Change of Status with USCIS?

Non-immigrants in the United States who have maintained lawful status may request a change to an F-1 status if their primary purpose for being in the United States changes. Students who are interested in changing their status should read the information below and then make an appointment to meet with an international student advisor in the UF International Center.

Generally, non-immigrants who have filed a timely application for change of status to a different nonimmigrant status or have filed an application for extension of stay can remain in the United States while their application is being adjudicated by USCIS. This assumes that the person was in valid nonimmigrant status when he or she filed the application, and that the current nonimmigrant status of the applicant will continue to be valid up until the date that the new status is requested to begin.

A person who has been approved for a change of visa status while in the U.S., and intends to travel outside the U.S., must obtain a new entry visa from a U.S. Consulate or Embassy before returning to the United States.

Restrictions on Changing to F-1 Status

Certain non-immigrants are not permitted to change status to F-1 while in the United States. Such non-immigrants may still be eligible for F-1 status, but the only way they can get F-1 status is through obtaining an F-1 visa and re-entering the United States. The following non-immigrants are not permitted to change status to F-1 in the United States:

  • M-1 students
  • C, D, and K non-immigrants
  • J-1 physicians admitted to receive graduate medical education or training
  • J non-immigrants subject to the 212(e) 2-year foreign residence requirement
  • Aliens admitted as visitors under 8 C.F.R. § 212.1(e)
  • WT and WB visitors admitted under the Visa Waiver Program.

Note: A visitor that has a "prospective student" notation on his or her B-2 visa is able to request a change to F-1 status. A denial of the change would result in a notice from USCIS requesting the student to voluntarily depart the United States.

Cautions

If you are in a visa status that is not authorized for work/study (i.e., F-2), you may not be employed or enrolled for classes as an F-1 student until you receive notification from USCIS that your status has been officially changed. This process can be lengthy, so it is essential to apply for the change of status as soon as possible.

Change of Status OUTSIDE of the United States

For this option, once you are admitted to UF, an I-20 can be issued to allow you to travel home and request an F-1 visa. Once you are issued the F-1 visa and re-enter the U.S. with your I-20, you have effectively changed your non-immigrant status to F1. The “travel option” allows you to control when the change of status will be processed and will help you to ensure that you will have the legal ability to begin classes in the semester you are admitted. If you already intend to travel at some point before you begin your studies, you should talk to an International Student Advisor (ISA) about being issued an I-20 to change your status using this process. Please make an appointment to see an ISA.

When you re-enter the US as an F-1 student, you must come to UFIC and bring the I-20, passport, visa, and I-94 record.

Change of Status INSIDE the United States

For this option, you must submit a Change of Status (COS) application to US Citizenship and Immigration Services, and may remain in the U.S. while the application is pending. You must make an appointment to see an International Student Advisor (ISA) in order to assemble an application packet. When you attend the appointment, please bring all of materials indicated on the “Change of Status to F1” checklist linked below.

We advise that you make copies of all papers submitted before mailing the application. We recommend that you mail it via Certified Mail or Delivery Confirmation and keep the receipt. This procedure takes approximately 3 to 6 months. You may stay in the U.S. to await the results. In approximately 2-3 weeks you can expect to receive a “Notice of Action” document (acknowledgement of receipt).

Once the Change of Status has been APPROVED, you must bring the Approval Notice with attached I-94 to UFIC within 15 days of receipt.

Forms (for Change of Status applications INSIDE the US)

Requesting Change of Visa Status to F-2

Who can request a Change of Status to F-2?

A spouse or minor child (under age 21) of a student in valid F-1 status may request a change of status to F-2 to accompany the primary F-1.  The primary F-1 student should request that the dependent spouse or minor child be added to his/her I-20.  Upon receipt of the request, a new I-20 will be issued for both the F-1 student and the F-2 dependent. 
The dependent can apply for the F-2 visa either outside or inside of the United States.  When applying outside the U.S. contact the U.S. consulate or embassy where the dependent will apply for complete details about the application process and a list of all documents needed.  Once the F-2 visa is approved, the dependent will use the valid passport, visa and dependent I-20 to enter the U.S. in F-2 status.

When applying inside the U.S., please make an appointment to see an International Student Advisor (ISA) in order to obtain the updated I-20 and assemble the application packet.  Bring all of materials indicated on the “Change of Status to F2” checklist linked below.

We advise that you make copies of all papers submitted before mailing the application. We recommend that you mail it via Certified Mail or Delivery Confirmation and keep the receipt. This procedure takes approximately 3 to 6 months. You may stay in the U.S. to await the results. In approximately 2-3 weeks you can expect to receive a “Notice of Action” document (acknowledgement of receipt).  Once the Change of Status has been APPROVED, provide a copy of the Approval Notice to the ISA.

Forms (for Change of Status to F-2 applications INSIDE the US)

Requesting Change of Visa Status from a Dependent Visa Status

If you are currently the dependent child of a Primary visa holder, you must request a change of status prior to your 21st birthday. USCIS calls this “aging out”. You should apply for the change of status at least 4-6 months prior to your 21st birthday, preferably, prior to the semester in which you will turn 21.

All F1 students must register full time each fall and spring semester. Although the summer is considered the annual vacation period at UF, if your birthday is in the summer and you apply for a change of status during the summer term, you will be required to register full time in the particular summer in which you turn 21. If you do not wish to register full time in the summer, we recommend you apply for a change of status at the beginning of the preceding spring semester. 
If you do not apply for a change of status prior to your 21st birthday, you may not be able to apply for a change of status inside of the U.S. at all.