Applying to Change Your Status in the U.S.

Change
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Before You Begin

If you are currently in the U.S. in another status and need to change to F-1 student status, you have two options:

  1. Apply for your I-20 and travel outside the U.S. to apply for an F-1 visa.
  2. Apply for a Change of Status with USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services)

We strongly recommend that you travel abroad to apply for your F-1 visa.

  • The processing time is at least 10 months and cannot be expedited. 
     
  • You must maintain a lawful status throughout the processing time. 

  • You are not in F-1 status until USCIS approves your application. Therefore, you are not eligible for any F-1 benefits, such as employment. 

  • If you leave the U.S. while your application is pending, USCIS will consider it “abandoned” and will deny it.

  • If your application is denied you may be considered unlawfully present in the U.S. 
     
  • USCIS may request additional information which will delay your application. 
     
  • If you are in B-1 or B-2 status you cannot enroll in classes until your application has been approved. 

 

If you are unable to travel and need to apply for a change of status with USCIS:

  • Contact an experienced immigration attorney
  • Apply for an I-20
  • Meet eligibility requirements
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Eligibility

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How to Apply for a Change of Status with USCIS

Step 1

Apply for your I-20

Follow our instructions for Applying for your I-20.

Step 2

Prepare required documents

Step 3

Mail by certified mail or by courier to:

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

Step 4

Email newintlstudent@columbia.edu 

Email your receipt number and a copy of your I-797 receipt.

Step 5

Attend your biometrics appointment

You will receive a notice from USCIS with the date, time and location of your appointment

Step 6

Update the ISSO

Notify us if you receive any other notices from USCIS or need to travel.

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Traveling Abroad

  • While application is pending: If you leave the U.S. while your application is pending with USCIS, it will be considered abandoned and you'll need to obtain a new I-20 from us. You will need to apply for an F-1 visa at a U.S. consulate to return.
     
  • After change of status is approved: If you travel after approval, you'll need to apply for an F-1 visa at a U.S. consulate to return.