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Advising & Counseling

International Student FAQs: Visa Status Change Information

The International Student Services Representative is happy to help you with applying to the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) for a change of your non immigrant status to F-1 student.   An ISS advisor is available to advise you if changing your status is the right thing for you and about USCIS's requirements and procedures.

What is a change of status?
When you came to the United States you had a particular reason or purpose. Maybe you came in as a tourist, for business, or to accompany another family member. That purpose is called your "principal activity" or "status." When you arrived at the airport, the immigration inspector recorded your purpose (status) and a date to depart (or D/S) on a white card (Form I-94) that was stapled in your passport near your visa.

Now, your purpose for being here may have changed. Perhaps your aunt or friend told you that you should think about going to school here, or you completed your company's business and are thinking about getting a graduate degree. Or your "principal activity" may be ending because you are thinking about leaving your job and returning to school.

If your principal activity, reason or purpose for being in the US has changed or ended, and you want to stay in the US because you have a specific educational or professional objective you want to pursue full-time, you will need to change your status to F-1 student to remain here lawfully.

The Rules

  • You must have a status that the law allows you to change. US law does not allow persons who hold the following statuses to change: C, D, some J's, K, M, N, S, WB, WT. A and G statuses must first complete a Form I-566 and get approval from the Department of State before a change of status application can be sent to USCIS.
  • You must be here lawfully:
    • The date on your Form I-94 cannot have passed (unless you submitted another change of status or extension application before it expired). A late application will only be accepted if the lateness is to "extraordinary circumstances" which were beyond your control. Immigration's standard are very difficult to meet and every day of lateness make the application more difficult.
    • You must still be engaging in the activity that brought you to the US. Some applications will require evidence of this.
  • You must be accepted for a full course of study and have the financial ability to support the costs of living and studying in the US. For more information about the requirements for getting a Form I-20, stop by the office and ask for an "Application for a Form I-20."
  • B statuses (other than B-2 "Prospective Student") must show that they did not intentionally apply for the wrong visa or deliberately enter the US in the wrong status. If you knew that you were going to go to school when you applied for the visa, you will only need to change status if you said so on your visa application. ** Any evidence that you may have, that will prove to the Immigration Service that you were here as a tourist or business-person will be helpful to your application.
  • B-2's who did not obtain "Prospective Student" visas, should not apply for a change of status until after being in the US for at least three months. B-2's and F-2's can not start a course of study until receipt of approval of F-1 student status.

Please note that a change of status is NOT a visa!  You can only get a visa at the American embassy or consulate in your home country.

If USCIS approves your application, you may stay in the US and study as long as you follow the rules, like studying
full-time. The next time you want to go home you will need to get an F-1 visa to reenter the US.

To learn more or to apply...
Come see an international student advisor in the Student Enrollment Center if you want to know more or want to file an application. Or make an appointment by calling (908) 526-1200 x8330, x8336 or x8452 .We are here to help you.


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