A person of any non-immigrant status except C, D, K, or M (and in some cases J), and except those who entered the United States under the terms of the Visa Waiver Program, can apply for a change to F-1 status if they have maintained lawful non-immigrant status up to the time of application.
There are two ways to obtain F-1 status if you are already in the United States.
- You can submit an application to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
- When you receive an acceptance letter and (F-1) I-20 from Michigan Tech, you can leave the US and apply for an F-1 visa from your home country.
Option 1: File for a change of status while you are in the US
IPS recommends you to apply to USCIS well in advance because the application may take about 3-5 months to process, and your work and study may be delayed. You can begin your academic program only when your change of status has been approved and not before that. In that case, please contact IPS to have your I-20 deferred to the next semester.
Please note, J-visa holders who are subject to two-year home country residency requirement [212(e)] may not change status while staying in the U.S. unless a waiver has been granted. Non-immigrants in A, G, or NATO status must first complete Form I-566, and have it properly endorsed by the foreign mission to the U.S. and the Department of State.
Documents required to apply
- G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance.
- A cover letter (one page) requesting the change of status from your current status to F-1. This letter should include a brief explanation as why you wish to change to F-1 status. You should also provide a checklist of the documents you are including in your application.
- USCIS Form I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status, including application fee.
- Evidence of financial support (i.e., bank statement, assistantship letter, etc.). If you have been offered an assistantship from the department and therefore will need to start your on-campus job under F-1 employment authorization, you may want to request USCIS to expedite your change of status application. There is no guarantee that your application will be expedited, but there is no harm in asking. Please note that after your change of status to F-1 is approved, the earliest date you may start working on campus is 30 days before the first day of classes of your first term as an F-1 student.
- Copy of the admission letter from the university.
- Copy of your entire F-1 (i.e., new) I-20 (sign in “Student Attestation” section on page 1 of the form before making a copy). DO NOT send your original I-20. USCIS does not require the original and they will not return anything that you send.
- Copy of the receipt indicating payment of the SEVIS fee. Please note that the SEVIS fee is separate from the application fee; both fees must be paid.
- Copies of all of your previous immigration documents (e.g. DS-2019, F-2 I-20, I-797, Form I-94, valid passport, visa stamp, EAD card, etc, as applicable) showing that you are currently in lawful non-immigrant status.
- Copy of the waiver of the 212(e) Two-Year Foreign Residency Requirement (if you were previously in J-status and subject to the requirement), if applicable.
We recommend that you make a copy of this application for your own record.
Mailing address and where to file
It may take USCIS several months to adjudicate an I-539 request, and therefore you should use a return address that will be valid for many months. We do not recommend trying to change your I-539 mailing address once your application has been submitted to USCIS. If you know that you will be moving soon, we recommend using a friend or relative’s address in the U.S. If you select this strategy, make sure to include the name of your friend or relative on the line of the I-539 form that says “In care of.” Be sure to verify that their name is on their mailbox.
If you cannot use a friend/relative's address, you may use the IPS address:
C/O MTU IPS
1400 Townsend Drive,
Admin Building, Room 200,
Houghton, MI - 49931.
The address that you use on your I-539 will dictate to which USCIS Service Center you should mail your application. If the address you use is in Michigan, you should mail your application to one of the following.
For U.S. Postal Service (including US Postal Service Express mail):
P.O. Box 660166,
Dallas, TX 75266.
The U.S. Postal Service is the only service that delivers to a P.O. Box address. We recommend that you use a trackable mailing method so that you have delivery confirmation of your application. If you send your application with a method that requires a signature upon delivery, use the express mail and courier deliveries (e.g., UPS, FedEx, DHL, etc) use the address below:
USCIS ‐ Attn: I‐539
2501 S. State Highway 121 Business,
Lewisville, TX 75067.
While your change of status is being processed, you cannot travel outside the United
States. If you do,
your change of status will be automatically canceled.
Option 2: Leave the US, then return under F-1 status
What you need to do:
- Receive an acceptance letter and F-1 I-20 from Michigan Tech
- Return back to your home country
- Pay the SEVIS I-901 fee
- Apply for F-1 visa at a US embassy/consulate in your home country (not necessary if you are a Canadian citizen)
- Re-enter the US in F-1 status