F-1 student status is appropriate if you intend to pursue full-time studies in the United States. If you are currently in the United States as a temporary worker, diplomat, exchange visitor or any other non-immigrant classification except Visitor in WT or WB status and need to change to F-1 student status, follow the procedures indicated below. All USCIS forms are available online.
In general, non-immigrants who are maintaining lawful status may apply for change of status to F-1.
Non-immigrants subject to the Section 212 (e) two-year home residency requirement are ineligible to apply. Those in WT or WB are also ineligible. Those in F-2, B-1 or B-2 status are eligible to apply for a change of status but cannot enroll in classes until the change of status has been approved by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Change your status by one of the following methods
Change by travel
You may change your status by departing the United States and re-entering in F-1 status. In order to re-enter the United States in 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 in your home country. Once you have obtained an F-1 entry visa, you would then enter the United States with your visa and the following:
- Your Form I-20 from Mesa Community College
- Supporting documents such as copies of your admission letter and your financial documentation
Change by application to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Department (USCIS)
You may also attempt to change your status by submitting a change of status application to the USCIS. Though, if you are changing from a visitor status, this is not recommended. 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 to no later than 30 days after the start date. This option requires that you assemble the following materials:
Once completed, mail your application to the USCIS. Please note that you are responsible, or your lawyer is responsible, for this process, NOT the International Education staff. Photocopy your application and send it by certified mail with a return receipt requested or by courier service to the USCIS Dallas Lockbox facility.
- Form G-1145 - This form should be on the top of your application for USCIS to notify you by email and/or text message that they have accepted your application.
- a completed Form I-539
- Photocopies of both sides of your current I-94 card and photocopies of the I-94 cards of any dependents who are changing with you. If you don't have a paper I-94, you can get a copy of your I-94 here.
- Your new original Form I-20 from MCC, signed on the bottom of page 1. Your application will be delayed if you forget to sign the I-20.
- Copies of financial documents.
- Photocopy of your valid passport identification page - do not send your passport to USCIS.
- A bank check, money order, or personal check payable to Department of Homeland Security with "USCIS I-539" noted in the memo line for the required $290 fee. The USCIS does not accept cash. This fee includes any dependents who are changing status with you. Those in A-1, A-2 or G-1 through G-4 nonimmigrant status are not required to pay the fee.
- Proof of SEVIS fee payment. This fee can be paid online by completing Form I-901.
- A letter explaining why you are requesting the change of status. This is extremely important: your letter should clearly explain your current status, your plans for study at MCC, and your longer-term plans as well. Keep in mind that F-1 status is a NON-IMMIGRANT classification. This means that you must indicate, and in certain cases may be required to document, that you continue to maintain ties to your home country--whether in the form of a residence, an expected job offer, or continuing family ties. It is not unusual for the USCIS to request documentation regarding your ties to your home country, and you should be prepared to provide such documentation.
Your letter must include the following information if you are requesting a change of status from:
- H-1 or L-1 - You should give your dates of employment under H-1 or L-1 and request the date on which you want the F-1 status to be effective. For example, if your last day of employment is August 25, you should request your F-1 status be effective on August 26. Be aware that the F-1 effective date MUST be within 30 days of the program start date in item 5 on your I-20. If you plan to leave your employment more than 30 days before the program start date, you must depart the U.S. and apply for an F-1 entry visa at a U.S. Consulate.
- Any request for an effective date for F-1 status must be prominently stated in your letter of explanation for the change of status. You may also annotate the I-539 with your effective date request by clearly printing "Effective [date]" in Part 2. Application Type 1.b. under "The new status I am requesting is:__________"
- Also include a copy of the I-797, your 3 most recent pay stubs, and other documentation establishing that you were in and maintained valid H-1 or L-1 status. The USCIS must receive your change of status application no later than the day you terminate your H-1 or L-1 employment, as there is no "grace period" for those in H-1 or L-1 status: your status as an H-1 or L-1 terminates the day you leave your H-1 or L-1 employer.
- A or G - Before filing for a change of status, you must first file Form I-566 with either the Department of State or the Office of Host Country Affairs at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations within 10 days of the completion of your A or G employment. 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.
- J-1 or J-2 - You cannot change to F-1 in the U.S. if you are subject to Section 212(e), also known as the "two-year home residency requirement", unless you have received a recommendation for a waiver of the requirement from the Department of State.
- Once completed, mail your application to the USCIS. Photocopy your application and send it by certified mail with a return receipt requested or by courier service to the USCIS Dallas Lockbox facility.
F-2 status to F-1 status
If an F-1 students has a dependent in F-2 status (or another status) that would like to become an F-1 student, the process is much like it is described above. Please make an appointment to see an adviser to discuss status change by calling our office at 480-461-7756.