Change of Status

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 tourist, temporary worker, diplomat, exchange visitor or any other kind of non-immigrant classification and need to change to F-1 student status, follow the procedures indicated below.

Eligibility – If you are in the United States unlawfully or have overstayed your current status, you are ineligible to apply for a change of status within the Unites States.


  1. Qualify for a Certificate of Visa Eligibility (Form SEVIS I-20 from Hostos Community College.)

    In order to qualify for F-1 student status, you must be admitted to a full-time program of study at Hostos Community College and obtain a SEVIS I-20 by submitting the following documents to the International Student Advisor:

    • Completed Confidential Declaration and Certification of Finance Form

    • Financial documentation showing that you have sufficient funds to cover the tuition, living expenses, and fees for a least one year.

  2. Change your status

    Once you obtain a SEVIS I-20 from Hostos Community College, you must change to F-1 student status either by traveling or by application to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.

  1. 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 F-1 visa. If you were previously in lawful F-1 status at another school in the United States and have an unexpired F-1 visa, you may continue to use the visa unless it was canceled, even if the visa was issued for your previous school.  If you do not have an F-1 visa, you must apply for one at the U.S. consulate in your home country or country of residence.  Once you have obtained an F-1 visa, you would then enter the United States with your visa and the following:

  • Your Form SEVIS I-20 from Hostos

  • Supporting documents such as copies of your admission letter and your financial documentation

  • Receipt of the SEVIS fee payment

Upon your arrival, you would request F-1 status.  The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services inspector at the port of entry will inspect your visa, your SEVIS I-20, and your supporting documents, and admit you in F-1 status by issuing you an I-94 card marked “F-1 D/S” (F-1 is your status, D/S stands for duration of status.)

  1. Change by application to the USCIS

    You may also attempt to change your status by submitting a change of status application to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  This requires that you assemble the following documents:

  • A completed Form I-539

  • Your original Form I-94 and the original Form I-94 of each person included in the application

  • Your original Form SEVIS I-20 from Hostos Community College signed on the bottom of page 1.

  • To request a change of status, you must submit documentation that demonstrates your ability to pay for your studies and support yourself while you are in the United States.

  • Photocopy of your passport’s identification page - do not send your passport to the USCIS.

A bank check or money order payable to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services for the required $370.00 fee.  A personal check is acceptable only if your name and address are preprinted on the front.  The USCIS does not accept cash.  This fee includes any dependents who are changing status with you.

A letter of explanation of 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 Hostos and your long-term plans.  Keep in mind that F-status is a NON-Immigrant classification.  This means that you 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.

Receipt of payment of SEVIS fee.


  • H-1 – You should give your dates of employment under H-1 and the date of registration at Hostos.  Also include a copy of the I-797 and other documentation establishing that you were in and maintained valid H-1 status.  The USCIS must receive your change of status application no later than you terminate your H-1 employment, as there is no “grace period” for those in H-1 status: your status as an H-1 terminates the day you leave your H-1 employer.

  • B-1 or B-2 – Remember that when you entered the United States, you told an USCIS officer your reason for coming to the U.S.  You should have a reasonable explanation for changing your intent from visiting the U.S to studying in the U.S.  Any suspicion that you misrepresented your intentions when you entered the U.S. could lead to a denial of your change of status application.

Please note, new rule as of April 2002, you will not be able to register for a course of study at a school in the U.S without a valid F1-status.

  • WT or WB – You cannot change your status in the United States if you entered the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program as a visitor for business or pleasure, as indicated by a “WT” or “WB” notation on your I-94 card.  You must change your status by travel.

  • 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 if you’re A or G employment.  Only after the I-566 has been approved and returned. You are eligible to file a change of status application with the USCIS.

  • J-1 or J2 – 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, return receipt requested, to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services that has jurisdiction over your place of residence.  For persons residing the New York area, mail your application to:

USCIS Vermont Service Center
38 River Road
Essex Junction, VT 05479-0001

When the USCIS receives your application, it will deposit your fee payment and mail you a Form I-797-Notice of Receipt with your assigned case number (EAC--). You can check the status of your application by calling the phone number on at the bottom of the I-797 and entering your case number or via the USCIS website.

The form will also tell you an approximate processing time.

Special Considerations

  • If you are in lawful status and decide to change to F-1 status by applying to USCIS, you remain in lawful status until you receive your reply from USCIS.  However, you do not have the privileges of student status—working on campus, applying for practical training, etc.—until the change is approved.

  • When USCIS has made a decision, they will send you a Form I-797-Notice of Action.  If your application is approved, the I-797 will include a new I-94 card(s) and pages 1 and 3 of the SEVIS I-20 will be returned to you.

  • f you are applying for a change of status from B-2 to F-1, please note that you must fulfill the USCIS requirement of being in a valid student status for 9 consecutive months before you are eligible to apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT).

  • Note that the USCIS can take up to 6 months to process a change of status application.  If you do not receive a reply within 6 months, contact the USCIS for assistance.

If you attempt to change your status by travel, but overstayed your previous visa, you must apply for a new F-1 visa in your home country; you cannot apply for an F-1 visa in a third country (such as Canada).  If you overstayed for more than 180 days, you may be prevented from returning to the United States for 10 years or more.

Need more info about admissions? Call (718) 319-7900 or Send us an e-mail