Changing to F-1 Status

Options to Obtain F-1 Status

To obtain F-1 status, you have 2 options

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

                                                Consular Processing vs USCIS

Comparison Table
Consular Processing (Travel) USCIS (Change of Status)

Cost

  • Plane ticket to return to home country
  • I-901 SEVIS fee
  • Visa application fee
  • Form I-539 application fee
  • Biometric Services fee for each application (including spouse or children)
  • I-901 SEVIS fee

Processing Time

 

  • Varies- length of time to obtain a visa appointment and the visa itself is U.S. Embassy/Consulate dependent
    • If flagged for security or background check, the processing time will be further delayed
  • You are only allowed to enter the U.S. up to 30 days prior to the program start date listed on your I-20
  • Overall faster process to obtain F-1 status compared to the change of status application process with USCIS
  • USCIS processing time can vary between 5-12 months. Go to USCIS Check Processing Times.
    • Factor in Biometrics appointment at local ASC center
  • If approved, you will not be issued an F-1 visa. A visa can only be granted by a US Embassy or Consulate abroad.
  • While your change of status application is pending with USCIS, you cannot leave the U.S. without USCIS considering your application abandoned. They will consequently deny your application.
  • If your application is not approved within 30 days of the program start date listed on your original Change of Status I-20, CIE is required to defer the program start date to the following

Employment

 

  • It is strongly recommended that you complete one academic year in F-1 status before seeking CPT or OPT
  • F-1 employment (on-campus, CPT and OPT) cannot be granted until the COS to F-1 is approved

Other Concerns

  • If is highly recommended that you apply for an F-1 visa in your home country. It may be difficult to obtain a visa in Canada or Mexico if you are not a citizen or resident of those countries
  • Due to the long processing times, a COS application is not recommended for students needing F-1 status to study full time
  • You must have an unexpired nonimmigrant status at the time of your change of status filing with USCIS

Consular Processing- Travel Outside the U.S.

If you are currently in the USA in another immigration status and would like to obtain F-1 status via travel, you will need to obtain an I-20 from our office. You must be admitted to or enrolled in a degree program before you are eligible for an I-20.

  1. Recommended: Schedule an appointment with an international student advisor using The Bay Advisor.
  2. Submit the necessary documents that are listed in the Change of Status to F-1 Handout
  3. Your I-20 will be created and emailed to you

Entering the USA as an F-1 student

After obtaining an F-1 visa, you may not enter the United States earlier than 30 days prior to the program start date listed in section 5 of the Initial I-20. The date you can enter is listed in the Program of Study section under "Earliest Admission Date". At the port of entry, you will have to present your F-1 visa, valid passport and your I-20 from our office. We also recommend carrying financial documents and your class schedule. Once you enter the USA in F-1, you will need to complete the "check in" procedure

I-20 Program Start Date

CIE will only issue an I-20 for the next available term start date. We do not issue I-20's with mid-semester program start dates. If you request an I-20 with a Summer term start date, you will be required to enroll full time during that Summer term. 

 

Employment Eligibility

Students who chose to depart the U.S. and re-enter as an F-1 student are strongly encouraged to complete one academic year in F-1 status before applying for CPT and OPT. If you choose to apply for CPT and/or OPT without completing one academic year in F-1 status, CIE is not responsible for any negative consequences related to any future applications you file with USCIS. In order to be eligible for off-campus employment, you must be in F-1 status at the time of your application and have completed at least 1 academic year (2 consecutive semesters) as a full time student immediately prior to your application. 

 

Change of Status with USCIS

Eligibility

  • Admitted or currently enrolled in a degree program at Cal State East Bay
  • You are not subject to the J-1 two year home residency requirement
  • Your most recent entry was not through the visa waiver program (ESTA)
  • Your current nonimmigrant status is unexpired at the time of filing the change of status to F-1 application with USCIS

How to Apply for a Change of Status with USCIS

  1. Recommended: Schedule an appointment with an international student advisor using The Bay Advisor.
  2. Submit the necessary documents that are listed in the Change of Status to F-1 Handout
  3. Your I-20 will be emailed to you from CIE.
  4. Mail or submit (online) your documents to USCIS- we recommend you keep a copy for your records
  5. Email cie@csueastbay.edu with a copy of your I-797 receipt
  6. Update CIE- Notify us if you receive any other notices from USCIS or need to travel.

Traveling Abroad

  • While your 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 the 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

Program Start Date

If the I-539 application is not adjudicated by the original start date on the I-20, the program start date will have to be amended to a later date. This may result in receiving multiple updated I-20s depending on how long your application is pending, and each will have to be attached to your application as an update.

Premium Processing

USCIS expanded premium processing for Form I-539 Application to Extend or Change Nonimmigrant Status. 

Premium processing is an optional program that allows eligible applicants or petitioners to request faster, more guaranteed processing times for eligible applications and petitions. Premium processing fees are in addition to the standard application or petition filing fees for the underlying benefit request. Premium processing is requested by filing Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service with the requisite premium processing fee.

Requesting premium processing sets the adjudication time frame to within 30 calendar days for change of status to F-1, F-2, M-1, M-2, J-1 or J-2.  Please see current fees for filing the I-907.

Employment Eligibility

  • Your full-time enrollment at CSU East Bay in your current visa status will count towards the 2 semesters of consecutive full-time enrollment requirement for off-campus employment

F-2 and B-1/B-2 Status

  • F-2 dependents cannot enroll full-time until COS to F-1 is approved. Enrolling full-time in F-2 status is a violation of your status. F-2 dependents may not engage in employment until COS to F-1 is approved.
  • If you are in B-1 or B-2 status, you cannot enroll for classes until your application is approved. This means you would have to reapply to a future term with the university

We recommend you consult an experienced immigration attorney if you wish to change your status.