Applying for a Change of Visa Status Within the U.S.

General information about the process

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will process a request for changing status in about 4 months. To check the USCIS's current processing times, please go to the USCIS website.

Once the USCIS approves the change of status (COS), the I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for F-1 Student Status) will be marked "F-1 D/S." for duration of status, and the student will also be issued a new I-94 card with the same notation.

You will need to inform the Bechtel International Center of the approval of your change of status so that there is documented proof that you are now in F-1 status. This is extremely important for you to do, and you may submit directly to the I-Center a photocopy of the approval letter (Notice of Action letter) and a photocopy of your I-20 which reflects your change of status (COS) notations. (You may also fax this information to (650) 725-0886.)

NOTE: It is the student's responsibility to submit all COS paperwork in a timely manner to the USCIS for themselves and ALL dependents requiring change of status. For F-1/F-2 and J-1/J-2, having the new visa document (I-20/DS-2019) in hand is only the beginning of the process. Failure to submit all required documents in a timely manner for your COS application will result in delays and may jeopardize your legal immigration status in the U.S.


PROCEDURE FOR APPLYING FOR A CHANGE OF STATUS: WHAT TO SEND

H-1B to F-1

Send the following documents / photocopies to the USCIS: Go here for mailing instructions.

  1. Photocopy of I-20 for F-1 student (and F-2 dependents if applicable).
  2. I-94 card (showing H-1 status). You will be issued a new I-94 card once your change of status (COS) has been approved. (Please remember to make a photocopy of the H-1B I-94 card for your records.).
  3. Completed I-539 form from USCIS Immigration Forms website.
  4. Enclose a check for fee as noted in I-539 form instructions made payable to the Department of Homeland Security. Visit the USCIS website for current filing fees.
  5. Photocopies of passport pages showing visa and name, photo, birth date, expiration date of passport, etc. (of the dependent too if you have any). [Do NOT send original passport.]
  6. Photocopy of the Notice of Action letter (also called form I-797A) showing H-1B status information.
  7. Proof of funding (bank statements, letter from department, etc.) showing you have sufficient funds to support your studies and living expenses for an academic year. If you are using any personal funds, remember to include 4 recent bank statements. (If you get one bank statement every month, then include the bank statements for the last 4 months.)
  8. SEVIS fee proof of payment. An alien in the U.S. who is seeking a change of status to F-1 must now include proof of having paid the "SEVIS fee." Go here for detailed instructions on the SEVIS fee.
  9. Cover letter stating "To whom it may concern:" That you are including the aforementioned documents/ information "for consideration of my request to change status from H-1B to F-1 student status." Remember to mention your return address in this letter (the same address as on form I-539). It would also be important to re-affirm (only if it is true) that you have intentions to return to your home country after completing your degree. (The issue is that if it appears that you are just trying to stay longer in the U.S. by changing to a student visa, the immigration service may think you have "no ties" to your home country, and could deny your request for a change of status.)

Remember to mail all these documents by CERTIFIED MAIL WITH RETURN RECEIPT. Photocopy all the above documents before mailing them. The documents must be RECEIVED by the USCIS BEFORE the date of resignation from the job (if you are resigning before the end date of the H) or before the end date of the H, as indicated on the I-94 card. (NOTE: The USCIS may even ask to see the last “pay stub” to verify that you were still employed (and in legal status) at the time of the application.)

NOTE: For F-1 students, your H-1b status must be valid for at least 30 days before the program start date (report to school date)
mentioned on page 1, section 5 of the I-20. In the case of J-1 students, H-1b status must be valid at least 30 days before the
program begin date mentioned on page 1, section 3 of the DS-2019. If your H-1b status is not valid 30 days prior to the start date of your I-20 or DS-2019, your change of status will be denied because you have failed to maintain nonimmigrant status within 30 days of the program start date.

WARNING: You need to talk to your company regarding when to end your H-1B employment. The issue is that you will also not know when the COS will be approved, and so you may not continue employment after you have obtained F-1 status.

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PROCEDURE FOR APPLYING FOR A CHANGE OF STATUS: WHAT TO SEND

H-4 to F-1

Send the following documents / photocopies to the USCIS: Go here for mailing instructions.

  1. Photocopy of I-20 for F-1 student (and F-2 dependents if applicable).
  2. I-94 card showing your H-4 status, and photocopy of front and back of current H-1B's I-94 card.
  3. Completed I-539 form from the USCIS Immigration Forms website
  4. Enclose a check for fee as noted in I-539 form instructions made payable to the Department of Homeland Security. Visit the USCIS website for current filing fees.
  5. Photocopies of your passport pages showing visa and name, photo, birth date, expiration date of passport, etc.
  6. Photocopies of all I-797 documents (showing H status information). The issue here is that they are trying to determine if you have been legally in the U.S., so if the H-1B visa holder has been maintaining status, it is then assumed that the H-4 has maintained status too.
  7. Proof of funding (bank statements, award letters from university, letter from department, etc.) showing you have sufficient funds to support your studies and living expenses for an academic year. If you are using any personal funds, remember to include 4 recent bank statements. (If you get one bank statement every month, then include the bank statements for the last 4 months.)
  8. Photocopy of birth certificate. You may translate this yourself.
  9. SEVIS fee proof of payment. An alien in the U.S. who is seeking a change of status to F-1 must now include proof of having paid the "SEVIS fee." Go here for detailed instructions on the SEVIS fee.
  10. Cover letter stating, "To whom it may concern:" That you are including the aforementioned documents/ information "for consideration of my request to change status from H-4 to F-1 student status." Remember to mention your return address in this letter (the same address as on form I-539). It would also be important to re-affirm (only if it is true) that you have intentions to return to your home country after completing your degree. (If it appears that you are just trying to stay longer in the U.S. by changing to a student visa... the immigration service may think you have "no ties" to your home country, and could deny your request for a change of status.)

NOTE: If your family has an immigration attorney we strongly recommend you discuss with them your change of status from H-4 to F-1.

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PROCEDURE FOR APPLYING FOR A CHANGE OF STATUS: WHAT TO SEND

F-2 to F-1

Send the following documents / photocopies to the USCIS: Go here for mailing instructions.

  1. Photocopy of your new I-20 for F-1 status.
  2. I-94 card (showing F-2 status). You should also submit a photocopy (front and back) of the F-1's I-94 card.
  3. Completed I-539 form from the USCIS Immigration Forms website
  4. Enclose a check for fee as noted in I-539 form instructions made payable to the Department of Homeland Security. Visit the USCIS website for current filing fees.
  5. Photocopies of passport pages showing F-2 visa, name, photo, birth date, expiration date of passport. [Do NOT send original passport.]
  6. Photocopies of spouse's F-1 I-20(s) and photocopy (front and back) of I-94 card to show the immigration service that legal F-1 status has been maintained by principal visa holder.
  7. Proof of funding (bank statements, letter from department, etc.) showing you have sufficient funds to support your studies and living expenses for an academic year. If you are using any personal funds, remember to include 4 recent bank statements. (If you get one bank statement every month, then include the bank statements for the last 4 months.)
  8. SEVIS fee proof of payment. An alien in the U.S. who is seeking a change of status to F-1 must now include proof of having paid the "SEVIS fee." Go here for detailed instructions on the SEVIS fee.
  9. Cover letter stating "To whom it may concern:" That you are including the aforementioned documents/ information "for consideration of my request to change status from F-2 to F-1 student status." Remember to mention your return address in this letter (the same address as on form I-539). It would also be important to re-affirm (only if it is true) that you (and your spouse) have intentions to return to your home country after completing your degrees. (The issue is that if it appears that you are just trying to stay longer in the U.S. by changing to a student visa... the immigration service may think you have "no ties" to your home country, and could deny your request for a change of status.)

Remember to mail ail these documents by CERTIFIED MAIL WITH RETURN RECEIPT. Photocopy all the above documents before mailing them. The documents must be received by the USCIS early enough for the change of status to be approved prior to the quarter you are scheduled to begin your studies. As you know, F-2 visa holders may not attend school until F-1 status has been approved.

WARNING: You will not be allowed to attend Stanford University pending approval of your change of status, you may NOT work on-campus (or receive a Stanford issued Fellowship) until the change of status is complete.

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PROCEDURE FOR APPLYING FOR A CHANGE OF STATUS: WHAT TO SEND

*J-1 to F-1

(*without J-1 2 year requirement)

Send the following documents / photocopies to the USCIS: Go here for mailing instructions.

  1. Photocopy of I-20.
  2. I-94 card (showing current valid J-1 status). You will be issued a new I-94 card once your change of status (COS) has been approved. (Please remember to make a photocopy of the J-1 I-94 card for your records.)
  3. Completed I-539 form. Visit the USCIS Immigration Forms website or call 1-800-870-3676 to request the latest version of form I-539.
  4. Enclose a check for fee as noted in I-539 form instructions made payable to the Department of Homeland Security. Visit the USCIS website for current filing fees.
  5. Photocopies of passport pages showing visa and name, photo, birth date, expiration date of passport, etc. (of the dependent too if you have any). [Do NOT send original passport.]
  6. Photocopy of previous DS-2019(s). (Failure to include proof of having maintained legal status could be a reason for denying the change of status. So showing all copies of previous DS-2019 documents will help prove you were in status prior to submitting the request for a change of status.)
  7. Proof of funding (bank statements, letter from department, etc.) showing you have sufficient funds to support your studies and living expenses for an academic year. If you are using any personal funds, remember to include 4 recent bank statements. (If you get one bank statement every month, then include the bank statements for the last 4 months.)
  8. SEVIS fee proof of payment. An alien in the U.S. who is seeking a change of status to F-1 must now include proof of having paid the "SEVIS fee." Go here for detailed instructions on the SEVIS fee.
  9. Cover letter stating "To whom it may concern:" That you are including the aforementioned documents/ information "for consideration of my request to change status from J-1 to F-1 student status." Remember to mention your return address in this letter (the same address as on form I-539). It would also be important to re-affirm (only if it is true) that you have intentions to return to your home country after completing your degree. (The issue is that if it appears that you are just trying to stay longer in the U.S. by changing to a student visa... the immigration service may think you have "no ties" to your home country, and could deny your request for a change of status.)

Remember to mail ail these documents by CERTIFIED MAIL WITH RETURN RECEIPT. Photocopy all the above documents before mailing them. The documents must be RECEIVED by the USCIS BEFORE the expiration of your J-1 status. Ideally, you will submit the request prior to the expiration date of the DS-2019 (see the date on section #3, page 1).

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Mailing Instructions

Dallas Lockbox filing addresses for I-539:

For U.S. Postal Service (including US Postal Service Express mail):

USCIS
P.O. Box 660166
Dallas, TX 75266

For Express mail and courier deliveries
(e.g. UPS, Fed Ex, DHL, etc):

USCIS
ATTN: I-539
2501 S. State Highway 121 Business
Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067

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What Happens Next

Once your application has been received by the USCIS, you will get the Notice of Action letter within 2-4 weeks of having sent your application. This letter acknowledges formally that your application has been received. The Notice of Action letter will also contain the "WAC#" which is the receipt number issued by the USCIS. This 10 digit number is sometimes handwritten on your cancelled check (for processing form I-539).

If for some reason you do not receive the Notice of Action letter, you can trace the progress of your application by getting the WAC# from your returned check. If you do not receive your checks after they have been cashed, please contact your bank so that they can give you a photocopy of the cancelled check.

If you do not receive a copy of the Notice of Action letter within 4 weeks, contact the National Customer Service Center number 1-800-375-5283 (from 8am to 6pm, M-F).

Go to the USCIS home page for more information. ->

Go to USCIS for current processing times based on the "Received Date" on your Notice of Action letter. ->

Check the status of your case here. ->

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Other Important Information

  • Some students who need to obtain F-1 status quickly because they must be in F-1 status in order to work on-campus (or receive Stanford based funding), would be advised to consider returning home to obtain the F-1 visa stamp in their passport, and re-enter in F-1 status. If you were to travel outside the U.S. in order to obtain the change of status, you may only re-enter up to 30 days before the reporting (“start”) date on section #5 of your I-20.
  • WARNNG: If you travel out of the U.S. (even for emergency reasons) prior to the change of status being approved, you may violate your legal status. This is because the immigration service has stated that if you have a petition pending and depart that you have now "abandoned the request" for COS. Please contact staff at the I-Center regarding this issue.
  • Although you may apply for a change of status from your previous visa type to F within the U.S., the CSC will not be issuing you a "travel F-1 visa" in your passport. (Remember, a visa stamp may ONLY be obtained outside the U.S.) If you travel after your change of status has been approved, you would have to make sure you were able to obtain the F-1 visa in your passport in order to re-enter the U.S. Ideally, you would obtain the F-1 visa in your home country. (Remember to take proof of paying the SEVIS fee when you request the F-1 visa.)
  • WARNING: Although you will be allowed to attend Stanford University pending approval of your change of status (unless your are an F-2), you may NOT work on-campus (or receive a Stanford issued Fellowship) until the change of status is complete. You may also forfeit your ability to work off-campus (after your first academic year) if your change of status is approved late.
  • The Bechtel International Center has no means to expedite change of status requests with USCIS.
  • NOTE: If you will be receiving Stanford based funding, please remember to provide a photocopy of your new document to your department / employer. (This will prevent delays in receiving your research / teaching assistantship or fellowship monies.)
  • Attorney list web site: The I-Center does not endorse any of these attorneys and is not responsible for the outcome of your case.

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