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Change of Status to F-1 or J-1 Student Visa

F-1 student status is suitable if the student intends to pursue full-time studies in the United States. In general, non-immigrants who are maintaining lawful status may apply to change their status to F-1. The most common non-visa types ISSS receives questions about are the following:

B (tourist) visa holders: You can maintain your tourist visa, but you will need to apply for an F-1 or J-1 visa in order to study at Drexel University.

F-2 visa holders: You will need to change your visa type to F-1 or J-1 visa in order to study at Drexel University. 

For all other visa types, you may be eligible to keep your status and to take classes either full time or part time, depending on your visa type.  If you have applied for permanent residency or are included in someone else's application for permanent residence, you may be considered ineligible for F-1 status. You should contact an immigration lawyer to discuss this situation.

Change of Status Procedure

A. Change by travel: You may change your status by leaving the United States and re-entering on F-1 status. In order to re-enter the United States on F-1 status, you must have a valid, unexpired F-1 entry visa.
If you do not have an F-1 entry visa or need a new one, you must apply for one at a U.S. consulate. Once you have obtained an F-1 entry visa, you should enter the United States prepared with your visa and your Drexel I-20, as well as all supporting documents, such as copies of your admission letter and your financial documentation.

Note: If you attempt to change your status by travel, but overstayed your previous visa, you must apply for a new F-1 visa in your home country; you cannot apply for an F-1 visa in a third country (such as Canada). If you overstayed your visa for more than 180 days, you may be prevented from returning to the United States for 3 years or more. Contact the ISSS for further assistance.

B. Change by application to the USCIS: You may also attempt to change your status by submitting a change of status application to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Your application for change of status must be received by USCIS during the period of 30 days before the program start date on your I-20 and no later than 30 days after the start date. In order to qualify for F-1 student status, you must be admitted to a full-time program of study at Drexel University and obtain an I-20 from the International Students and Scholars Services Office (ISSS). To obtain an I-20, students must make an appointment with an ISSS advisor and submit the following documents:

  • A completed and signed I-539 form in black ink 
  • A check or money order for $290 payable to “USCIS”
  • Proof of payment of the $200 SEVIS fee (www.fmjfee.com)
  • An original, initial I-20 from Drexel University
  • Copies of the financial documents you submitted to Drexel University to support your application for an I-20
  • Copy of your letter of admission to Drexel University
  • Copy of your I-94 printout
  • A letter explaining why you are requesting a change of visa status. Be aware that USCIS will deny change of visa status applications if you were not honest about your intentions when you applied for your current visa.

Special Considerations:
If you are in lawful status and decide to change to F-1 status by applying to the USCIS, you remain in lawful status until you receive your reply from the USCIS. However, you do not have the privileges of student status (enrolling in classes, working on campus, applying for practical training, etc.) until the change is approved. When USCIS has made a decision, they will send you an I-797 Notice of Action form. If your application is approved, the I-797 will include a new I-94 card(s) and the I-20 will be returned to you.

Note that the USCIS can take up to 6 months to process a change of status application. If you do not receive a reply within 6 months, contact ISSS for assistance.