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Changing Status

Students currently studying at Illinois State University in other nonimmigrant statuses may be eligible to change to F-1 student visa status. This page is designed to give students general guidance and should not be considered legal advice. ISSS encourages all students considering a change of status to consult with an experienced immigration attorney and refer to U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services and the U.S. Department of State for details regarding the application process and eligibility requirements.

Change of status can be accomplished in two ways:

  • Reentering the U.S. - by leaving the U.S., applying for an F-1 visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad, and reentering the U.S.

  • Remaining in the U.S. - by submitting an application to USCIS and remaining in the U.S. while the application is pending

Reentering the U.S.

Most students apply for a change of status by traveling and reentering the U.S. This option is usually much faster than remaining in the U.S. and applying for a change of status through USCIS. However, it is important to note that (as with any international travel) there is always risk involved. ISSS has noticed an increase in the number of visa denials reported by ISU students attempting to change status via travel. F-1 status is a nonimmigrant status, so you must be able to prove ties to your home country and residence abroad.

Application Process

STEP 1: Submit a Change of Status Request to ISSS via the ISSS Portal in order to obtain your new I-20. Make sure you sign and date your new document.

STEP 2: Pay the SEVIS fee online at and print your receipt

STEP 3: Depart the U.S. and use your new I-20 to apply for your F-1 visa. Visit the Department of State's Study & Exchange website for general instructions on how to apply for a F-1 student visa and locate the website of the U.S. embassy or consulate where you will apply for any specific requirements at that location. You can also review NAFSA's 10 Points to Remember When Applying for a Student Visa for further guidance.

STEP 4: After you have successfully entered the U.S. as an F-1 student, complete the International Student Document Collection process. Then visit your ISSS advisor during walk-in hours so that your SEVIS record can be activated.

Remaining in the U.S.

For some students, remaining in the U.S. while changing status is the better option. Change of status within the U.S. can take several months. You can find the most up-to-date processing time information on the USCIS website (select I-539 for the form type and the Vermont Service Center). You should consult with an immigration attorney prior to choosing this option.

There are several nonimmigrant statuses permitted to study in the U.S., but only certain statuses are permitted to apply for a change of status from within the U.S. Below are several resources that can help you determine whether you are eligible to change status from within the U.S. and what the process entails.

When applying for a change of status to F-1 from within the United States, individuals must prove:

  • they are eligible for F-1 status AND
  • they are eligible for a change of status in general.

The application must be filed in a timely manner. Applicants for a change of status to F-1 must be in a valid status at the time the application is filed.

  • IMPORTANT : If your application is not approved by your I-20 start date, your document will need to be deferred to avoid the system from auto-cancelling your record.
  • Please keep your ISSS Advisor updated regarding your change of status application and contact them if you need to defer your I-20 start date.

Application Process

STEP 1: Submit a Change of Status Request to ISSS via the ISSS Portal in order to obtain your new I-20. Make sure you sign and date your new document.

STEP 2: Pay the SEVIS fee online at and save a digital copy of your receipt.

STEP 3: Gather your Form I-539 application materials.

  1. Digital copy of a personal signed letter of explanation explaining why you would like to change your status
  2. Digital copy of your signed I-20 (make sure you have signed the I-20 document at the bottom of page 1)
  3. Digital copy of your passport, visa, and I-94
  4. Digital copy of your SEVIS fee receipt
  5. Digital copy of your admission letter
  6. Digital copy of your enrollment verification from the University Registrar
  7. Digital copy of your financial documentation (bank statements, GA contract, etc.)
  8. Evidence that you have maintained and will continue to maintain your current status. If you are currently in a dependent status, you should provide evidence that the primary visa holder has maintained and is currently maintaining his/her status.

STEP 4: Apply for your change of status through USCIS. To apply for the change of status, you will need to complete a Form I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status This form can now be filed online. You should visit the USCIS website for complete details and the most up-to-date instructions on how to apply.

STEP 5: After submitting your online application to USCIS, you should immediately receive a Receipt Notice. Upoad a copy of your USCIS Receipt Notice in Change of Status Receipt Notice Upload request. We will add this document to your file and make sure your record is updated to show the pending application. Once you have your Receipt Notice, you can check your case status on the USCIS website.

STEP 6: While your application is pending, you:

  • should NOT travel outside of the U.S. If you travel abroad while your change of status is pending, it may be seen as an abandonment of your application and could result in a denial of your case by USCIS.
  • should notify ISSS if you are not approved by the start date listed on your I-20. ISSS must continue to defer your start date until the approval comes through.
  • are NOT eligible for on-campus employment based upon F-1 status.

STEP 7: After you have received your Approval Notice from USCIS, notify ISSS so that your SEVIS record can be updated. If you receive a Request for Information or a Denial Notice, please contact ISSS immediately.